Our latest Bob's Red Mill employee-owner interview is with CEO Dennis Vaughn! Dennis joined the company in 1999 as Director of Operations. During his tenure, Vaughn successfully increased facility production by nearly ten times what it was 20 years ago. After advancing to the role of Senior Vice President of Operations and Chief Operating Officer in 2013, he was promoted to CEO in 2018—then he took some time out of his busy schedule to answer our interview questions. Read on to learn more about Dennis, and be sure to wish him a happy birthday this week!
Bob's Red Mill: Can you give us an overview of how you came to work at Bob’s Red Mill? What attracted you to the company, how many years have you worked here, what were your first interactions with Bob like?
Dennis Vaughn: Before I came to Bob’s I was working for an extremely large international company that printed magazines, computer manuals, telephone directories, etc. I was doing a lot of traveling for them, evaluating their other international locations and physical operations. I could see that print wasn’t a growing industry in 1999 and decided to look for other options.
One Saturday afternoon I got a call from someone named Bob. He said he owned a company called Bob’s Red Mill and would like to talk with me about coming to work for him. Well, I had never heard of BRM and mentioned it to my wife at the time, and she told me that we had some of their products in our pantry! So I think it was the next day on a Sunday that I had agreed to meet with Bob at the 5209 SE International Way facility. Bob and I talked for quite a while, and he showed me around the mill. I was very impressed with the business as a whole. We discussed pay, and when it didn’t look like we were going to be able to reach a deal, Bob said just sit down and we’ll figure it out. And we did!
BRM: Can you describe the overall path of your career? What were the goals you had when you started out, and how have they changed over the years?
DV: Well, I started my career with General Motors [as an Electrical Engineer], and then went to work for FMC Corporation. Then I took a job as an electrical engineer at a hospital. After a few years I moved to the Pacific Northwest and worked as an engineer at Great Western Malting (that’s where I got my grain processing experience), then left them to work for RR Donnelley & Sons, where I traveled a lot throughout Mexico and South America.
BRM: Who have been your mentors, and what are some important lessons they’ve taught you?
DV: Really it’s been three people. First my mother; she raised three kids on her own, she worked as a waitress, never missing work and always put her kids first, she taught me to be a good person, that nothing was free in life, and to work hard and success will come to you. The second was Marilou; she was the Director of IT with the print company I was working for. Marilou believed in me and taught me I could do anything I put my mind to. The third was Bob; he taught me the value of perseverance and not to be afraid of failure, to get up every morning and just keep moving forward.
BRM: What has changed at Bob’s Red Mill since you began? What has stayed the same?
DV: Certainly things have changed, what we did in sales in a year when I started we can now do in a week. That has required many more policies, procedures, new food safety rules, and just a whole different way of producing products in order to keep our food fresh and safe for our customers. What has stayed the same? I believe our commitment to our employees, our customers and our suppliers. To always try and do the right thing by all.
Bob's Red Mill: What values do you bring to the company?
DV: Maturity and experience from the ground up. I’ve swept floors and I’ve sat in boardrooms. Patience and good decision-making abilities. One thing that I’ve learned is that every decision does not have to be made right now, and sometimes the best decision is not to make one at all until you’ve slept on it and given it the full consideration it deserves.
BRM: What were your initial goals when you first became CEO, and what are your goals for the next 5-10 years?
DV: To remember who I work for—the employees of Bob's Red Mill—and to create value for them in the way of giving them a good place to work and increasing the value of their shares in BRM. To create an excitement about our brand domestically and worldwide. To create healthier products that reach more consumers. To examine all facets of our business and see where we could reduce waste and be more profitable. To build a plan that looks at where we are and what we have to do to compete in the marketplace five years from now and beyond, with steady growth.
DV: Steel Cut Oats! I love the consistency of them.
BRM: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?
DV: I like spending time with my Irish Doodle, Dash, playing golf and traveling to warm areas.
Our thanks to Dennis for the great interview! If you're interested in a career at Bob's Red Mill, be sure the visit our Careers page, which is updated regularly.