As the guiding force behind two major global hemp companies, Paul Benhaim knows where he wants to go, and how to get there.
In his landmark book “Good to Great,” Colorado management guru Jim Collins writes that building a great business is first of all about getting the right people on the bus. Then you can take that bus wherever you want to take it.
Paul Benhaim, founder and dual CEO of two of the world’s leading hemp enterprises, has driven his bus onto four continents loaded with passengers “keen to make a difference in the world, sustainably,” he said. “The key to making it work is choosing the best people you can.”
At stops along the way, Benhaim’s fast-moving bus has picked up team members who helped him propel first Hemp Foods Australia (HFA), the southern hemisphere’s biggest hemp food player, and later Elixinol, a U.S.-based CBD startup. HFA, which deals in hemp seeds, oil and protein, has expanded into four facilities in five years while Elixinol has established operations on four continents in just two.
Beyond passion, Benhaim looks for people who value the trust he has built up through 20 years in the business. “This is the foundation for bringing on new people and recruiting others who believe in our high quality, sustainable solutions,” he said. Of those already on board: “I love the people I work with and would do anything for them,” Benhaim said. “We do our best to create a family atmosphere where all employees are treated as really close friends.”
Emphasis on quality
Beyond his careful assembly of the right team, Benhaim stresses the importance of quality even as expansion keeps up a torrid pace. “We’re building our own new processing plants globally to ensure we tightly control quality — from the type of seed we use to how it is grown, processed, manufactured, packaged and delivered. Every piece is very important to us,” he said.
But that too, Benhaim notes, comes down to the people who help run his companies, and how they’re embraced by the corporate values and culture. “I was asked by some of our team members to meet on a Sunday recently. We spent five hours discussing needs and came out with excellent solutions as a team,” he said, noting the importance of employee access to, and involvement by management at the highest levels.
Pedal to the metal
For now, Benhaim is keeping his foot on the accelerator, expanding Elixinol operations in Colorado while about to break ground on a state-of-the-art food processing plant in Australia under a government grant HFA was awarded last year.
Dashing across five continents is a “challenge,” according to Benhaim who nonetheless confesses a love for travel. “I’m on my second trip around the world; a month in Colorado, a month in Europe, a month in Asia,” he said of his current pace. “I love sharing the same message through very different cultures,” he said of those destinations, where during down time he enjoys hiking — in the mountains of Colorado and the Himalayas, and in Wales and on the beach near his home in Australia.
“I love Australia for its space, freedom and diversity. I love Colorado for its gorgeous mountains, and for its entrepreneurial spirit,” he said.
No surprise that last bit. It’s Benhaim’s entrepreneurial spirit that’s powering his companies toward the lofty mission he’s set for them: “We’re held to our passion to be the best living example of who we can be, first,” he said. “This is our foundation as a business. It creates our future success.”