Ep. 364 – COO, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Michael Milam

In today’s episode of the Second in Command podcast, Cameron is joined by Michael Milam, COO of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. Michael shares insights into the company’s unique approach to leadership, emphasizing a conversational and inclusive style. He outlines the journey of Dr. Bronner’s from its modest beginnings to becoming a household name, highlighting the significance of the company’s commitment to ethical business practices, including its Fairtrade certification and dedication to ensuring all members of their value chain are treated with dignity and fairness. The discussion also touches on the operational challenges and successes Dr. Bronner’s has navigated, showcasing how they’ve maintained efficiency and growth through thoughtful leadership and strategic operational decisions.

Michael provides an in-depth look at the operational strategies that have enabled Dr. Bronner’s to thrive, including the importance of being a generalist rather than a specialist in leadership roles. He discusses the pivotal role of post-mortem in improving systems and processes within the company, allowing them to scale efficiently while maintaining a high level of quality and service. Moreover, Michael reflects on the company’s adaptability during challenging times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, underscoring the strength of their supply chain relationships and their commitment to keeping essential products available to consumers.

Michael also offers personal reflections and advice, emphasizing the value of trusting one’s instincts and the importance of embracing the unknown with confidence. He advocates for a leadership style that fosters creativity and innovation by not being afraid to start with a “terrifyingly white canvas.” His message to young professionals and leaders alike is to not shy away from carving their own paths and to trust that meticulous attention to detail in the micro will lead to remarkable outcomes on a macro scale. The conversation sheds light on the operational excellence of Dr. Bronner’s, and it offers valuable lessons on leadership, ethical business practices, and the power of a strong company culture.


In This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • How Dr. Bronner’s commitment to Fairtrade certification and ensuring all members of their supply chain are treated fairly has contributed to their operational success and brand loyalty. (11:27)
  • How Dr. Bronner’s has managed to grow its revenue while maintaining a relatively small increase in workforce, focusing on operational efficiency, the strategic use of capital expenditure, and a culture of long-term employee retention. (28:41)
  • The value of strong relationships with suppliers and the agility to shift operational strategies swiftly to meet consumer demand. (25:16)
  • Michael’s journey from a production manager to COO and how adopting a generalist approach and focusing on systemic thinking can lead to effective leadership in operations. (38:32)
  • The importance of not being afraid of the unknown and trusting in your ability to navigate and shape your path. (48:11)
  • Dr. Bronner’s unique company culture, including a 5-to-1 pay cap and how treating employees with respect and fairness contributes to the company’s high B Corp rating and success. (32:06)
  • How Dr. Bronner’s manages to stay true to its brand promise by insourcing and ensuring that business practices align with their core values and mission. (45:08)
  • And much more…


Connect with Michael: Website | LinkedIn

Connect with Cameron: Website | LinkedIn

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