May 29, 2020

Brian Durst: Chairman & CEO of Tribe 9 Foods

What do you do?

Chairman & CEO, Tribe 9 Foods

If you could share a meal with any 4 individuals, living or dead, who would they be?

Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Abraham Lincoln

What was your first job?

First official job was Sandwich Artist at Subway, but also spent a lot of summers working on my grandpa’s farm - good hard work!

Favorite Hoan/Nolen event?

Probably Kevin Conroy, Exact Sciences.  I love hearing about the various factors that came together to enable success.  Like a Harvard Business School case study.  What experiences did the protagonist bring, who were their team members, what was the business experiencing, how did they respond, etc.

Song you'd sing at Karaoke?

That’s a presumptive question.  What kind of tequila shots are you buying?

What's your favorite and least favorite part of your job?

Least favorite is easy - HR!!  It continues to shock me how much of my role/time is dedicated to HR.  It’s important, and I don’t feel particularly skilled at it.

What book or podcast are you listening or reading right now?

I love to read.  I can’t seem to prioritize time to do it, however.  Just makes me feel guilty that I’m not getting something else done for work or spending time with family.  I was an avid reader as a kid, will be a good retirement activity, like golf.  Generally, I don’t enjoy business books, surprisingly.

Biggest pet peeve?

People that are problem-focused, rather than solution-focused.

What’s the best way to start the day?

A cup of coffee reading the Wall Street Journal

What drew you to join Nolen?

I’ve never enjoyed networking, per se.  But I really love surrounding myself with people doing amazing things and then making friends.

What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?


What do you wish your brain was better at doing?

Remembering names and faces of people I meet briefly.  It feels like I need a good Bowl of Truth session, or at least a pretty substantial chat, to cement names and faces.

What are your hobbies, and how did you get into them?

I love skiing, both snow and water.  Biking.  Traveling.  I also really love cars.  I don’t know how to fix them, but I love driving them.  Concerts!  Before kids in Chicago, I’d see 2-3 shows/week.

What’s the best and worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Not sure if best ever, but I saw John Stewart on SGN last night.  He said, “Stop completing things and start living them.”  That struck a chord and felt like a good challenge.  The other saying that has always stuck with me is, “You work really hard, work really hard, work really hard, work really hard, and then become an overnight success.”  People talk about being lucky at moments in their careers, I think you prepare yourself to seize opportunity when it presents itself.

What was the last show you binge-watched?

It’s happening right now!  Homeland, Season 7.

What’s your "Death Row Meal?"

My favorite restaurant, which is now closed, is Sushi Wabi in Chicago.  They had this filet with a melted wasabi butter that was ridiculous.  And when I ate their sushi, I literally couldn’t stop myself from smiling.  When I worked at Goldman Sachs in Chicago (kind of like prison/last meal), I ordered from Sushi Wabi three nights/week.

What originally got you interested in your current field of work?

I’m really an investor by background.  I love investing.  Things as small as sitting down with my mother-in-law to talk about what she loves about TJMaxx, or whether she thinks the value-priced coffee at McDonald’s is any good are really fascinating to me.  I love taking information from many different places and sorting through it to form an investment thesis.  I think going from growing up poor in a small WI farm town to working on Wall St where senior bankers commuted into Manhattan on helicopters has helped me understand the dramatic range of household budgets and resulting decisions, and then assess whether companies truly meet the needs of consumers with their offerings.  My role at Tribe 9 Foods was born out of some strong convictions I developed over time about changes taking place in consumers’ lives, and who would win and lose in food based on that.  And then I surrounded myself with people who know how to actually address those changes.

What career advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t worry about outside measures of success.  Just find something you love, and excel at it.  And incorporate holistic life goals, not just career goals.

What was the first thing you wanted to be when you grew up?

Cowboy.  I just can’t believe it came true!

Favorite spot in Milwaukee/Madison

The Terrace in Madison, where I met my wife.  Probably Discovery World in Milwaukee, where we were married (David Caruso planned our wedding 12 years ago!)

What's your favorite board/card game?

We spent so many late nights playing “500” as a kid.  With my brothers, parents and grandparents.  A card game, but I’m not sure other people call it that, nobody ever knows what I’m talking about.  I also love to play euchre, and my wife and I enjoy playing cribbage.

When will you know you've "made it?”

I think I’m there.  I have an amazing family.  We take fun family vacations together.  I love going to work.  Working a few jobs that weren’t great matches for me helped me to re-prioritize my goals.  Lowering the bar is one way to “make it!”  In regard to Tribe 9 Foods, people trusted me with their capital when I raised a fund to purchase RP’s Pasta, Yumbutter and Ona, and combine them to form Tribe 9.  Way down the road, I’d really like to reward them for their trust and confidence.  Finally, I think my goals will evolve/expand as I have the ability to do so, widening “impact” broadly stated above and beyond the work we do at Tribe 9 as WI’s largest B Corp.  Also, I do wish my dogs were better behaved.

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