My Interview with the Beverly Hills Weekly

Beverly Hills Weekly

Issue 835 – October 1-7, 2015

People & Profiles


Jon Gluck

Co-Founder & President of Beverly Hills Drink Company, home of 9OH2O


Tell us about your pathway to entrepreneurship.

I started my first business when I was 14. I started very young. I have an incredible Dad who exposed me to business from a very young age. He was the kind of Dad who was bringing me to board meetings when I was five and ten and exposing me to the world of business. Something sunk in, and when I was 14, I had the itch to dive into business for myself. That was the first time and I haven’t stopped since. Ever since 14, I’ve been building companies and I’ve been building brands. I really enjoy creating something that people can fall in love with and find value in and that can bring something special into their life. Over that journey, I’ve been in a number of different industries. I’ve been in everything from sports to technology to events to marketing and now, beverage. One of the keys to entrepreneurship is that you have to be comfortable with change and chaos – it’s just the way it is, there is no way around it, there is no shortcut.

Give us one of the most challenging aspects of being an entrepreneur.

I smile because there is so much that’s challenging about entrepreneurship. There’s a saying I really believe in that is, “Entrepreneurship is a nightmare disguised as a dream” – until you make it, until it becomes the actual dream. But that journey is an absolute nightmare. And that’s not unique to me and that’s not unique to first-time entrepreneurs. I’ve been fortunate enough to sit down with Fortune 500 executives and I make sure to actually carve out time out of every week where I’m either having calls or meetings or coffees with both novice entrepreneurs and very successful people. One of the things that’s consistent is that this entrepreneurial journey is just very challenging. [For instance,] balancing all of the different areas it takes to build a company – in one day, having to pay attention to sales, marketing, operations, employees, regulation, taxes, distribution, manufacturing. I don’t get to spend my entire day on marketing or my entire day on going out there and selling. When you’re in that start-up, chaotic phase, you’re literally balancing hundreds of things. So that is an incredibly challenging thing to do.

What’s one thing that went differently in your business plan than you expected?

Manufacturing has turned out to be a much greater challenge than I would have ever anticipated. Here is what I’ve figured out to be the challenge with manufacturing: the nature of manufacturing is volume. Bottling facilities and material suppliers are all about pumping as much volume, as quickly as possible, as many as possible. That comes in conflict when you’re trying to build a top-quality product. The reason that premium products and luxury products charge more is not just about a brand or an experience, it’s because the quality of the product is actually better. And that quality comes from the manufacturing of that product. We had such a clear vision of out-of-this-world quality we wanted from day one. What ended up happening is we ran up against every possible challenge you can think of in getting the manufacturing world to respond to our vision of a new level of quality. Fortunately, we’ve overcome that, but I can say there was a solid two years – prior to launch and just after launch – where manufacturing was a major challenge. Now we’re in an amazing place where we have the right manufacturing partners, we have the right systems, we have the right materials, and we’ve been able to maintain the quality that we set out to achieve.

What’s your response to people who say that water bottles are an unnecessary luxury?

People have to remember that bottled water started as a convenience factor. People wanted to stay hydrated and have access to water when they were on the go and there simply wasn’t convenient enough access. Once you leave your house, you no longer have access to the tap [water] at home. Municipalities and cities have never done a good enough job giving access to water. What ended up happening was that a bunch of entrepreneurs saw a problem and they came together and said, “Let’s provide a solution.” Even though bottled water has evolved – in some segments – to become a lifestyle product, an accessory and even a luxury, at its base, it has a very important convenience factor. In addition, here we are, decades after Evian and Fiji and Voss, and the consumer has had the opportunity to reject the concept of premium water and they haven’t. In fact, they’ve embraced the concept.

How did you get involved in local politics?

My roots are here in Beverly Hills and I’ve really enjoyed this City for many years. In 2011, I came across the City’s Team Beverly Hills program and I jumped on the opportunity, applied and was selected. That single experience sparked something within me, helping me fall even deeper in love with Beverly Hills and giving me a deeper appreciation for what it takes to run this incredible City. After that experience, I took a step back and thought ‘let’s get more involved, let’s see where I can help.’ I don’t want to be someone who’s constantly taking, I don’t want to be someone that is just cruising along in life. I want to be the guy that’s going above and beyond to deliver value every minute of every day. With those things in mind, I thought, ‘where can I contribute more?’ One of the things that came organically was getting involved in local campaigns and the first campaign that I worked on was [Board of Education member] Noah Margo’s 2011 campaign. My sister [Leslie] introduced me to Noah and mentioned that Noah doesn’t have a background in politics – this was in 2011 – and he’s just really passionate about getting involved and helping the City and the schools and he needs someone to help guide him on messaging and marketing and strategy. That was my first experience in campaigns and I’ve stayed involved ever since.

What advice do you give to other entrepreneurs?

Number one is following your passion. There are so many entrepreneurs that are chasing money and they’re chasing what they think is opportunity: money, fame, notoriety. All the wrong things. You can’t be driven by those things. You have to be driven by your passion. Business is simply too difficult to “make it” if you’re not obsessed with what you’re doing. If you’re not in love with what you’re doing, you simply will not be able to overcome the challenges and the barriers in your way. When you’re actually truly in love with something, you propel through those walls. If you’re not in love with something, those walls will really seem insurmountable.


Book Review: Discovering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

One of the most popular business books of the past few years is Discovering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (pronounced “shay”). It spent 27 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, turned the once shy Hsieh into an internationally sought-after speaker, and propelled online retailer Zappos into one of the most admired companies in the world. I hadn’t had a chance to read the book until now. As a longtime entrepreneur and a leader of organizations it struck a few big chords with me. It was also generally a very easy and enjoyable read.

Hsieh’s retelling of the early months and years of Zappos paints a vivid picture of what startup life is like. It’s scary, chaotic, unpredictable, and death-defying. And that’s best case scenario. It’s so crucial for budding entrepreneurs to learn about the common startup journey we all go through. It helps them gain perspective and realize that they’re not alone and that being on the brink of failure is far from actual failure. Imagine how comforting it is for a first-time entrepreneur to know that their having to lay off their one and only salesperson in order to regroup from unexpectedly lackluster sales is nothing compared to Zappos-sized setbacks. One example is the desperate round of layoffs Hsieh and his team had to do in 2000 as the dot-com bubble was bursting and Zappos was running on fumes. Just a few years later Zappos sold to Amazon in a mega deal worth $1.2 billion. Knowing this story may help that first-time entrepreneur realize that difficult times are just small chapters in the life of a company and better days are ahead if they just hang in there.

Every successful person and business great has gone through the early nightmares. Actually the nightmares never end no matter what stage of growth you’re at, but that’s for another time. Despite how special your parents made you feel growing up or how well-educated and well-financed you are you’ll be no exception. You will fail and you will fail a lot. It’s ok. There’s no other path to success so embrace it and get damn good at handling change and setbacks and disappointment.

This first big takeaway from Discovering Happiness is also great for everyday people to know. It helps consumers understand what it really takes to bring their favorite products and services to life and it helps employees appreciate how incredibly difficult it is to keep their paychecks coming. I wish more employees could empathize with the crippling anxiety their owners experience as they wonder if tomorrow will be the day the doors close for good. Similarly, I wish more consumers could understand the literally hundreds of moving parts that need to come together in order to create, fund, develop, produce, market, sell, distribute, service, and deliver that delicious hamburger to their table or that exciting video game to their home. Maybe they’d be more willing to pat a great store manager on the back or hold off on denouncing an entire company if their package shows up a day late. “If They Only Knew” would be a great title for a book about entrepreneurship.

Another poignant takeaway from the book is the importance of having a clear and compelling mission. Zappos decided early on that they weren’t just going to deliver the best selection of products but, much more visionary than that, they would deliver the best customer experience the online world had ever known. Mission accomplished. Just 15 years since founding, their customer service approach is legendary and a case study being taught in business schools everywhere.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, Delivering Happiness teaches us that company culture isn’t just essential, it’s everything. Your company’s culture is the foundation upon which everything else is built. For that reason, it needs to be seriously considered and solidified at the outset of a venture. Of course it will evolve over time but the beginnings of a strong culture should be present on day one. Too many startup entrepreneurs neglect culture and focus instead on other crucial early tasks like developing product, building team, and designing brand. All of those things are incredibly important but they all fall by the wayside without an environment that puts a premium on character, promotes positivity, rewards greatness, and helps people grow. What ends up happening in an environment like that is people fall in love with their jobs, extraordinary products get built, customers fall in love with your company, and the world around you gets inspired to be better. A strong company culture is nothing short of magical and has the ability to impact lives like nothing else. The thought alone sends chills down my spine.

There are other powerful takeaways from Delivering Happiness, but, understanding the startup environment, choosing a clear and compelling mission, and building a great company culture are in my opinion the three most powerful. Bravo to Tony Hsieh for leading an inspiring life and for giving us a glimpse of what it takes to achieve greatness.

I highly recommend Delivering Happiness to anyone in business, thinking about going into business, or just interested in a harrowing tale about one team’s dream to deliver happiness to the masses one shoe box at a time.

The Gluckmmandments of Business

In my over 15 years as an entrepreneur I’ve had the great fortune of being surrounded by incredible people and experiencing incredible things. I have the most extraordinary mentor in my Dad, Adrian Gluck, and I’ve learned other important lessons from the business greats like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Warren Buffett.

On my journey, business has shown me amazing successes and painful failures. I wouldn’t change any of it. As Winston Churchill said, “Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” My enthusiasm has never been greater and through it all I’ve evolved into the entrepreneur I am today – a thoughtful, confident, focused individual who is determined to change the world.

As I’ve benefited so tremendously from other people’s generosity in helping me grow, it’s only right that I pass it forward. I believe that one of the core responsibilities of an entrepreneur is to help others achieve their dreams as well. And so here I offer my fundamentals of business – some original and others adopted from the greats – that I’ve collected over the years and practice every day. They serve as my guiding light in the darkest of days and brightest of opportunities. I hope they can serve you too.


Follow your passion.


Be expert at what you do.


Chase perfection, catch excellence.


Exude passion.


Define a vision and don’t lose sight of it.


Be a master communicator.


Systematize everything.


Continuously improve.


Drive efficiency through technology.


Create a truly differentiated product.


Be patient.


Be a student of success.


Find the root cause of a problem and the solution will reveal itself.


Believe you can change the world.


Help improve society along the way.


Create a compelling story.


Give first.


Act with gravitas.


Be the leader they need you to be.


Make evidence-based decisions.


Build a dream team of complements.


Be generous with equity, perks, and rewards.


Give your team the tools they need to succeed.


Build a company culture that inspires.


Foster an atmosphere of trust.


Collaborate on everything.


Empower one ultimate decision maker.


Don’t let lawyers lead you astray.


Always be on the lookout for talent.


Organize, rinse, repeat.


Enjoy the journey.


Celebrate the wins.


Don’t ever lie, but don’t be a purist either.


Take vacation seriously.




Plan for things to take 2-3 times longer than they should.


Don’t let others’ incompetence hold you back.


Survive on cash flow, grow on profits.


Persist past the point of polite.


Have empathy.


Find the right balance in everything.


Be bold.


Stay focused.


Practice perspective.


Don’t let “reality” get in the way.


Embrace problems and master the art of solving them.


Pivot relentlessly.


Innovate always.


Protect your innovations.


Don’t “sell,” have a conversation.


Make the difference in the details.


Radiate positivity.


Praise often, correct immediately.


Hire slow, fire fast.


Market like you mean it.


Fall in love with failure.




Don’t Follow Mark Cuban, Follow Your Passion.

Dallas Mavericks owner and Internet billionaire Mark Cuban recently wrote a blog piece titled “Don’t Follow Your Passion, Follow Your Effort.” The gist of his advice is to work hard and find passion in what you do to make a living. His post was widely shared across the web with thousands of impressionable entrepreneurs accepting his advice as gospel.

Needless to say, we “passionistas” were shocked, shocked!

Sometimes Mark Cuban is right on the mark, but other times he’s bouncing around the court like a mad man. This is one of those times when I’m left scratching my head. Mark’s post about abandoning passion for the bitter embrace of a cubicle is one of the most irresponsible pieces of advice I’ve ever seen offered.

Contrary to Mark’s take, “follow your passion” is indisputably the best advice anyone can receive. I can only guess that what he was trying to get across is the harsh reality that making a living from your passion isn’t too realistic – a point well-taken. However, that reality doesn’t make following your passion any less legitimate a path to pursue.

People work ten times harder, faster, better when doing what they love to do. To Mark’s supposed point, the big unknown is whether that passion and drive can be turned into money.

To be sure, success through passion takes years, sometimes even decades. At some point you either reach the summit or have to retreat to the “real world.” The fundamental question for every dream-seeker is for how long to chase a passion.

Most frightening of all was Mark’s assertion that passion follows effort. That point of view is dangerously naive and just plain wrong. Taking a “real” job in hopes that one day passion will sprout up out of nowhere is not how it works. Mark Cuban’s own path proves that. It’s plainly obvious that he’s immensely passionate about technology, and he managed to turn that passion into billions. So why would Mark Cuban teach others to pursue a different path than he himself took? I couldn’t tell you.

Effort follows passion, plain and simple. Love something enough and the work will cascade out of you like a waterfall. What we need to hear from successful people like Mark Cuban is that the seemingly impossible is possible if you do what you love. If we end up having to settle for less then so be it, but not a moment before our dreams are given their fair shot at becoming realities.

Click here to see Mark Cuban’s original post.