Bob’s Red Mill’s 89-Year-Old CEO Starts His Day With (Duh) Carbs

Bob’s Red Mill’s 89-Year-Old CEO Starts His Day With (Duh) Carbs

Lots of people struggle to get up early and eat the right (or any) breakfast to stay energized through the first half of a busy workday. I’ve faced many challenges as the CEO of Bob’s Red Mill, the Oregon-based whole-grain and cereal company I cofounded in 1978, but those two things have never been much trouble for me.

Here are a few of the daily routines and habits I’ve stuck with over the past 40 years to boost my own productivity and keep my business running smoothly.

Rise Early (With My Bedtime Reading)

I wake up every morning by 6 a.m., and sometimes a lot earlier. Actually, my 6 a.m. is your 5:50 a.m. because I set my clock ahead to gain a little time. As I often tell people, if you don’t think you have 10 minutes to eat a warm, nutritious breakfast, just set your alarm back and there you go!

About half of the time, I wake up in the morning with a book on my face. The other half, the book is in my lap or wherever it fell when I dozed off at night. I absolutely love reading, especially before going to sleep. I’m a nonfiction junkie, and my favorite topics include science, aviation, the evolution of the automobile, ancient history, and biographies of great leaders. I’m on a Churchill and FDR kick right now. Even in the middle of the night, if I’m awake, I read.

Reach For The Whole-Grain Carbs

I live just a few miles away from our mill. I like being close to the operations. When I get to work each morning, I eat a healthy whole-grain breakfast. It’s been the stabilizing influence of my life. I don’t eat doughnuts. Ever. Thick-cut rolled or steel cut oats–that’s what I like. I add a little skim milk, a little raw sugar, and some flax seed. That’s it. Whole grains. Been eating them that way since the mid-1960s.

Host A Breakfast Meeting

I always eat breakfast at work, but I don’t always eat it alone. Every Tuesday, about 40 of us from all different departments share a morning meal of one of our hot, whole-grain cereals together at the mill. We get started bright and early at 7 a.m. and talk about how the business is doing. We hear from our sales, quality assurance, and customer service teams as well as from our buyers. It’s not all business, though. Sometimes there are vacation pictures or personal stories.

On Thursdays, it’s breakfast with my executives. The eight of us gather around a table in my office for an hour of updates and uninterrupted enjoyment. (It helps that we like each other a lot.)

Get Up And Make The Rounds

I don’t spend time sitting at my desk. Our mill is 325,000 square feet, and I’m in it every day. People who walk with me say I walk very fast. When I was in the Army they called me “Rapid Robert.” I want to get places quickly! It’s not because I’m stressed, though. I’m just energized by the work we’re doing, and I never tire of seeing our millstones at work. Many of them are a century old. They can grind grains 24 hours a day, seven days a week. One hundred pounds of whole grains go in, 100 pounds of nutritious whole-grain flours and cereals come out, while those delightful, century-old stones keep turning and grinding.

With more than 600 employees, there’s often a celebration or someone who has something going on, so I always make a point to go around and say hi to our team members, recognizing them and all the responsibility and commitment they’re bringing to this company we own together. On my 81st birthday–I’m 89 now–we gave the company to the incredible, dedicated people who work here. Over the years, the business has attracted a lot of attention. We got big offers from big companies, but we believed strongly that the people worthy of owning the business were the people who built it. How could I sell it to anyone else?

[Photo: courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill]

Take A 20-Minute Musical Interlude

Downstairs we have two pianos, and I play every day. If my assistant Nancy comes to work and doesn’t see me in my office, she doesn’t bother to stop at her desk. She walks straight to the pianos. She plays beautifully, and we’ll play for 20 minutes or so in the morning, usually duets we both enjoy–jazz and old standards. The music mixes with the noise of the mill, and it lifts us all up. If tours are going through, I’ll play a song or two for the people visiting. Last week a local newscaster came and played alongside me. He wasn’t bad!

Keep Plugging Away

I’ve been working for 75 years. Retirement? I don’t even want to talk about it. I wake up every morning with so much work to do, and I’m as passionate as ever about getting it done. Bringing good, healthy food to people across the world remains my mission. The responsibility and hard work it takes to fulfill it keeps me feeling bright and vital–at least as much as any morning routine, however delicious.

Bob Moore is CEO of Bob’s Red Mill, which he cofounded with his wife Charlee Moore in 1978. The company became an employee-owned organization in 2010 through an employee stock-ownership plan.