At the Welcome Conference, Hamdi Ulukaya talked about everything from owning up to mistakes to asking tough questions about ethical farming practices.

Guests at this year’s Welcome Conference had the opportunity to learn about building and growing a successful, diverse business from Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya. The Turkish-American businessman sat across stage from journalist and Indian-ish author Priya Krishna and discussed some of his biggest takeaways from fourteen years of growing a massive Greek yogurt business in America.

Welcome Conference 2019
Credit: Evan Sung

1. Let your employees make mistakes.

“The work that I did on diversity, I never looked at it as work on diversity,” Ulukaya said. “People show up and whoever you are, that’s OK. If you let people truly be themselves, then they just don’t have to pretend. One of the first things I said when I started the company is the word ‘I don’t know.’ People were asking questions, and I said, ‘I don’t know,’ and I made it OK to say that.”

2. Don’t pretend.

“If you are trying to be someone you’re not that people are expecting you to be, then you’re pretending. If you erase that, you save 50% to 70% of your time.”

3. Build a human workforce that feels natural.

“Having your place [feel like] a representation of human life is extremely important.”

4. Value diversity in opinions.

“Having different opinions but finding how to work together and contribute to common goals is the simplest thing, but is extremely massive in the life of a company.”

5. Recognize your business’ potential for social impact.

“Business is an extremely powerful platform if it acts like it cares, not just checks the box of corporate social responsibility.”

6. Stay mindful of what matters to this generation of employees.

“Income inequality between the working class and the rich has never been this big. The new generations coming up are saying this is not a just world.”

7. Be aware of the environmental impact of your business.

You can say your tomatoes are organic, but the people picking them––how much are they paid, what conditions? Getting organic tomatoes do not mean the people who touch them are being treated humanely. We need to push everyone to pay attention to these conditions.”

8. Being profitable doesn’t mean being selfish.

“If you truly mean it, if you're truly for your community and employees and do right by the environment, it doesn't go against the fundamentals of business. It makes you more profitable.”

9. Don’t be so quick to shy away from politics.

“We need to have conversations about businesses and their roles in society; the political landscape is failing everywhere, and for that reason, I can’t see any other platforms other than businesses to step up.”

10. Remember to have some fun.

Yogurt is magic...You get a lot of cultures in yogurt!”