Can Your Business Survive 200 Years?

What would it take for your business to run and operate for 200 years? How would you make that happen? Today’s guest is Craig Hagood,  CEO of House Autry Mills, which has been operating since 1812! You will pick up on some of Craig’s leadership techniques that help keep House Autry as relevant today as it was 200 years ago! 

Craig has worked at House-Autry Mills in Four Oaks NC since 2001 serving in various roles prior to assuming role of president and CEO in 2010. Previously he worked in Food industry for Cargill, Inc., Con Agra, and Southeastern Mills in various roles of operations, quality, and product development. Craig served in the US Army, using the GI Bill to put himself through college after completion of his service. He serves as co-founder along with his wife, Kelly, of the OAKS Initiative looks to help make a difference for others who also may need grace and a second chance.

With a history dating back to 1812, House-Autry Mills is known for producing delicious breaders and mixes, using time-honored milling techniques. House-Autry has nearly three dozen unique products for consumers to use at home, available in more than 30,000 food retailers nationwide. Its products are also served through foodservice distributors, restaurants and restaurant chains throughout the U.S.

If you are ready to talk about franchising your business you can schedule your free, no-obligation, franchise consultation online at: or by calling Big Sky Franchise Team at: 855-824-4759.     

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:02):

You’ve worked hard to build your business. And now it’s time to grow. Welcome to the Multiply Your Success podcast. I’m your host, Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team and a serial entrepreneur.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:15):

As we get started on today’s podcast, I’m wondering what it would take for your business to stay alive for 200 years. What would it take for your business to survive during that time period, two centuries, and to be a thriving business 200 years from now? Well, our guest Craig Hagood is the CEO and president of House-Autry Mills, which has been operating since 1812. Pretty incredible, 200 years. This company has figured out a way to stay relevant and alive and as present and current today, as it has been for the last 200 years.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:59):

Craig is the president of House-Autry. And House-Autry Mills, just to give you an idea of what this is, it’s really neat. And especially for our clients who are listening in or someone who’s in the food business or tied to the food business, House-Autry’s best known for its breads and mixes and milling techniques. They have over three dozen product lines and it’s available at over 30,000 food retailers nationwide. So if you do grocery shopping at Publix or Kroger or at a Walmart, chances are you may very well have purchased or use their products in the past.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:38):

In addition to that, they’re also a major supplier for the food service business, so for restaurants, and they supply through companies like US Foods and Sysco purchase their products to distribute commercially to commercial restaurants and food service providers. So Craig, by the way, has been in the food industry for many, many, many years. So prior to taking the helm as the CEO of House-Autry mills, which has been at the company since 2001, he’s previously worked in the food industry at Cargill, Conagra, Southeastern Mills and a whole bunch of other various capacities. And he’s also served in the US army. So thank you Craig, for that. Craig serves on a whole bunch of boards that he’s involved with, and he and his wife started a foundation in their local community where they’re passionate about grace and giving people second chances. So it’s a really, really cool way that they’re giving back in their community.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (02:44):

There’s one other point I’d like to make for our audience and listeners, especially in the restaurant business. If you’ve been looking to private label your own mixes, sauces or seasonings, House-Autry’s going to be a great, great company for you to take a look at. They can private label for you. So Craig didn’t put me up to this, but it’s just something I know that our clients very often are looking for, and so you may want to reach out to them, their website is It’s

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (03:18):

And now let’s go ahead and jump into my interview with Craig Hagood.

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (03:22):

I’m Craig Hagood, president and CEO of House-Autry Mills. We’re in Four Oaks, North Carolina. House-Autry Mills is a producer of coating mixes, seafood breading, chicken breading, hush puppy mix, biscuit mix, cornmeal, grits. We also manufacture distribute sauces, tartar, cocktail, hot sauce, products like that.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (03:57):

Wow, that is quite a product mix. And I’d have to imagine for our listeners that are tuning in, they very well may be a customer of yours and not even know it. So talk a little bit about that and the broad cross-section of industries that you’re touching and different types of businesses you’re working with.

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (04:17):

Absolutely, yes. So House-Autry Mills, we distribute both in retail and food service. So if you’re in a Publix or a Kroger or Walmart, you’ll see our products. But also, we have a big presence in food service. So in a lot of restaurants, you’ll actually be tasting House-Autry chicken breading, fish breading, hush puppies, or gravies and biscuits.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (04:49):

Wow. Wow. I’m curious in how this works. So are you supplying then directly to the restaurants or directly to food suppliers?

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (05:03):

Yeah. For the most part, we go through distributors. So when you see US Foods, PFG or Sysco trucks on the road, pulling into to a restaurant, they’ll have our products as well as a multitude of other products, as they take care of that restaurateur.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (05:26):

That’s really, really interesting. And this whole idea of just food production, food manufacturing with what you’re involved with, to me it’s really interesting. And I know I’ve shared this with you. My first job I worked on a farm. I de-tasseled corn for a summer job one year. I don’t know, I was 14 or 15. And so that’s been about my max experience in this food farming industry here. How did you into this? What led you to getting into the food business?

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (06:03):

It goes back several decades, unfortunately, I guess. So my father passed away when I was very young, but one of the things he told me before he passed was, and again, this was 12 years old. He says, “Do whatever you want to Craig, but I would recommend you work in the food industry, because people will always have to eat.” And so that started me thinking down that path. And then when I got out of high school, I went in the military for a brief period, so I could use the GI bill to go to college and went to college. And as I, as so many do, changed my major several times and remembered what dad said, and so I got a degree in food science. So that launched me down the food manufacturing.

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (07:04):

And so I worked for several different companies. The biggest and probably the one that I learned the most from was Cargill. And Cargill is in the food industry from farm to table, and all over the world. And so you’ll see Cargill silos in soybeans fields, corn fields, wheat. I was in the grain portion as far as primarily in the wheat and flour milling, but then they have facilities all over the world and they’d distribute outside the United States actually branded products. And so you get to experience a lot of the whole food processing, again from farm to table.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (07:56):

Wow. Well, one of the reasons I was excited to have you on as a guest is just because to me, this idea of farming to harvesting and then you’ve got to move the raw goods and then transporting producing, manufacturing, everything that’s involved, it’s so intricate and it literally impacts everyone’s life. I mean, every person is impacted by this in the United States and really globally with the American farming and food production community. So it’s really impressive and incredible to me.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (08:34):

So when you talk about Cargill, just as an example, and what you’re doing now with the number of products that are being manufactured, would you mind sharing just in terms of the size, rough numbers or ballpark, the size of Cargill for our audience that maybe I have no idea about the impact that this type of an organization has?

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (08:58):

Oh, they’re certainly, if not the largest, they’re one of the largest privately held companies in the United States. They are huge. And again, they have a footprint that covers the entire world, from chocolate to wheat, corn, starch. I don’t know. I mean, it’s amazing. Like when you’re in Brazil, they have all kinds of products that they’re producing in Brazil. You go to Europe and they have products all over Europe. They have manufacturing facilities, Liverpool, Bergen op Zoom. It’s just amazing the breadth of… And this company is headquartered in Minneapolis and started as a single grain elevator over a hundred years ago.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (09:59):

Wow. That’s amazing. Well, I think we certainly in our line of business with what we do, work with a lot of restaurant companies and food organizations that they’re buying from, like you had mentioned a lot of large suppliers or distributors like Sysco or US Foods. But they’ve got to get their product from somewhere. And so that whole movement is so incredible to me. Craig, as you are now the CEO and president here with your company and you have just a decorated career with everything that you’ve gone through, one of the things we always like to ask each guest as they come in as a series of questions to get this idea of misses makes multipliers, to learn from some of the things that you’ve gone through.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (10:51):

You’ve already shared a great nugget with the wisdom from your dad. I love that. And thank you for sharing that. Would you mind sharing? We start with a miss first. Sometimes we learn some of our best lessons from something that maybe didn’t go as planned. Would you mind sharing something with us and what you learned from it?

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (11:09):

Sure. As far as misses, actually that’s the easy one. You got so many misses. Let me touch on two. One is just micromanagement. The first time I had the opportunity to run multiple facilities, all of a sudden, I got captured into this where I knew how to run my facility, but all of a sudden when I had four reporting to me, I can’t try and run all four. Well, you can’t do that. It’s a great way to learn how to delegate because quickly will burn up if you don’t.

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (11:56):

At the same time, another miss was the fact that when you get caught up in the whole career development world and how you want to grow your career, you got to keep your priorities focused. You got to remember what’s important. Family comes first. It’s easy to say that, but you get caught up in that and sometimes you lose sight of what’s important.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (12:25):

That’s great. Thank you for sharing that, Craig. That’s great points, great points, especially on the micromanagement level. Would you mind talking a little bit more about that? I’m just curious. A lot of our audience, they’re entrepreneurs, business owners, maybe they have one or two businesses of whatever they have. And now they’re thinking about scaling. Or they are franchising, and now they don’t have that hands-on, day-to-day control over what’s going on. So when you went through that transition, I’d be curious to know, when you started delegating and going through that process. Would you mind sharing some things that you did or learned from along the way?

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (13:06):

Yeah. Ultimately, what it comes down to is people development, team development, and to ensure that you’re doing what you can to give those guys that are working for you, the skills they need so they can be successful. You’re not going to be successful until you get that those that report to you to be more successful, and to teach them the skills they need so that you can let go of the reins and let them handle it. And so that was something that it took me a while to learn. And my boss at the time watched me do that rather than tell me to do it, because the actual experience ingrained it into me as I grew into my career.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (13:57):

So he was maybe being a hands-off leader at that point to let you get your own battle wounds?

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (14:05):

Absolutely, yes. And we joked about it later, but at the time it was a little bit painful.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (14:13):

I understand that. I can relate. Well, Craig let’s turn it the other way. Let’s talk about a make or two that you’d like to share and that you’ve had along the way.

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (14:25):

Yeah. So I’ll touch on a couple. And this is on the personal side. You can do anything you want to, if you set your mind to it. It’s all about mental attitude. I’m a fairly big guy, so I’m not born to be a runner, but I decided I wanted to run the Boston Marathon. So I qualified and ran the Boston Marathon several times and got the fever on that. And so I ended up completing several Iron Man triathlons and qualifying and racing in the world championship. And so it’s a mental game, it’s not a physical game at the end of the day. And so you transfer that to work and all of a sudden it’s the same thing. As you develop your team, you’ve got to develop the mental attitude, the positive attitude. We’re going to face obstacles. This year has been a great example of how you face obstacles. And then with a proper mental attitude, you can work through that and be successful.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (15:39):

Yeah, that’s great. I know we had talked briefly about the long distance racing, but what prompted you to decide to want to run? That’s an interesting thing. Was there anything in particular that led you that direction?

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (16:00):

Not really. I went in the military, did the military thing and was very much into exercise because that’s the thing you do. You’re in the infantry, you’re moving all the time. So then I got out and went to college and got sedentary there for a while. And so I realized I needed to get myself back in shape, and so started running and then just got hooked on that adrenaline that comes from racing and then realized, well, let’s go ahead and set some goals and achieve those goals. And so ran Boston a couple of times and then moved on to, okay, what’s the next goal?

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (16:45):

Great. Well, thank you for sharing that. And in terms of the idea of a multiplier here, everyone comes at it from a little bit of a different angle. Is there any multiplier that you’ve had come along the way that you’d like to share, or that you’ve used in your career or personally that’s been helpful?

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (17:06):

Yeah. For me, the multiplier is your team. And so if you’ve got your team in the room with you and you’re the smartest guy in the room, you’re in the wrong room. You’re not going to be successful if you’re the smartest guy on your team. You’ve got to have a team that you have confidence in, that you can use their expertise to drive success. And so, particularly for House-Autry, the fact that we have been able to develop such a good team, a first tier and second tier team, so that I can count on them to do and deliver on their jobs, so that can look at acquisitions and continued growth geographical, as well as expanding into other products, we couldn’t do that if I didn’t have the team under me to support that effort.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (18:02):

Interesting. Well, I appreciate that. And just to add on this idea of acquisitions, we’ve had a few other guests talk about this idea of acquiring companies or even client lists, if you’re in a service related business. So would you mind sharing, I don’t know if you have a formula or a process that you go through or some things you’ve found to be successful when you’ve gone through that in the past?

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (18:31):

I guess the one takeaway that I’ve learned from going through acquisitions is don’t fall in love with it. You get infatuated with the situation and you want to go ahead and close the deal, but you got to remember, once the deal is closed, it’s still got to be an ongoing business, and your goal is to grow your company. And the constant that I keep reminding myself as we go through these opportunities is, so many don’t succeed because as you join the two cultures, how do they fit? Or it seemed like a good fit, but you get caught into it, and all of a sudden, it’s not a good fit. And now you’ve invested all this money, you’ve got all this goodwill, and it doesn’t work. So don’t fall in love with with it until… And makes sure it works for you. The due diligence is critical.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:34):

That is fantastic advice. Fantastic advice. and you’re right. Once the deal’s done, you’re stuck with it. The contract’s signed, the deal is underway, that acquisition, it’s with you.

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (19:49):

That’s right. That’s right.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:50):

Wow. Well, Craig, we always like to ask every guest before we go, the final question is what does success mean to you?

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (20:00):

For me, and it continues to evolve, but certainly in this last year, success to me has been family. And family is not so much, while it is critical, my wife and three children and grandchildren, but family is also House-Autry and our family, and making sure that we’re all taken care of. It’s been a challenging year and I’m sure no one has had it easy. And so for my team and my family, House-Autry to be taken care of, if I can continue to help them navigate the obstacles of the day and the time ahead of them, then that’s success for me.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (20:53):

Wow. I like how you mentioned that it’s always evolving, this idea that it’s always adjusting and moving. As we come to a close here, Craig, is there anything you maybe wanted to make sure you got across to the audience while you were here? Any points or notes you took that you’d like to make sure you were able to communicate?

Craig Hagood, House-Autry Mills (21:14):

I touched on it briefly, but I think it’s all in your attitude. With a positive mental attitude, you can be successful. You can achieve whatever you put in front of you. If you don’t try it, you’re never going to be successful. If you talk yourself out of it, you’ll never achieve what you really were designed to achieve, your purpose.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:45):

Well, Craig, thank you so much again for being here and for your time and the wisdom that you shared with us. So let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways. So takeaway number one that Craig shared with us is, learn how to delegate. I thought he shared a great story when he was first getting into his management career about micromanaging. I think especially as an entrepreneur, as a business owner or business leader, it’s a very easy thing to fall into to that micromanagement. So learn how to delegate and really trust your team.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (22:22):

Number two is to have a positive mental attitude and go into things with that positive attitude, that can-do attitude. And Craig shared a great example about when he decided to just go run, train and start running long distance races and running the Boston Marathon. That’s quite an accomplishment. Very few folks I’m sure can say that they have. Craig, I know you said you weren’t a runner, but I’m sure to qualify for that race is no easy feat. So that’s a big deal.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (22:55):

And number three, he said, “Don’t fall in love with the acquisition.” And so he was referring to when you go to buy a company or buy a business or maybe even make an investment here, don’t fall in love with it. And I know we’ve all fallen victim to this. This is very easy to do. It’s very easy to see something and get that emotional attachment. But Craig shares a good reminder that once you make that purchase, make that acquisition, it’s yours. And it’s got to be able to survive and thrive and fit in with your culture and what you’re doing. So that could be an acquisition, that could be maybe hiring a key leader at your company. In the franchise business it very well, maybe bringing in a new franchisee. Is it the right person to be bringing into your franchise system?

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:45):

And now it’s time for today’s win-win. So today’s win-win that Craig said is, “If you don’t try, it won’t happen.” If you don’t try it won’t happen. And I’m paraphrasing what he was saying there, but the idea being, hey, it’s never going to go if you don’t do it. So stop waiting, stop thinking, go out and do it. And so that’s today’s win-win.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (24:14):

So thanks again for being here today, folks. By the way, if you have been thinking about franchising your business or in need of growing your business, or just looking for some support for your franchise system, give us a call, check us out at Thanks again for being here today, folks. Have a great week and we’ll see you back here next week.

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