There are a few things you don’t know about the President and COO of CRN Member Cypress Systems
Steve Jobs once said: “Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.” It’s perhaps a fitting observation to describe how someone with an artistic background eventually becomes the COO of a mineral ingredients company.
If graphic design teaches one to understand clients’ needs and to be able to summarize complex issues in succinct and strategic visuals, then it turns out Michelle Martin, the President and COO of Cypress Systems, came to her current job with a lot of applicable experience under her belt. For roughly the last 20 years, she’s been in creative roles, cutting her teeth as a graphic designer before working as a senior art director, a creative director, and a marketing manager. It’s a background she says has helped her see problems and challenges through “a creative, rather than just a typical business lens.”
Just a quick chat with Martin, and you know there is nothing typical about her. Although she never saw herself in the halls of a B-school or in the C-suite, for that matter, her creative side wasn’t her only superpower. She also learned a lot running her own design consultancy for several years, as a road manager for a band, and as a serial house-flipper.
“And having experiences like that, you learn how to work with people, sell and think quickly on your feet,” Martin says. “These are all things that you have to do in business as well, it’s just a different medium.”
Martin was running her design consultancy while working full-time for a lighting company, when she was introduced to Cypress’ founder and CEO, Paul Willis, through another person Martin had met while the two were volunteering at the same non-profit. Although she had more client work than she could handle at the time, she was intrigued by the industry and project Willis asked her to help him with: the launch of Cypress’ chelated minerals line. She only worked on the project for a short time, but her work apparently left an impression on Willis, who offered her the COO position at Cypress.
“It has been an amazing ride…It took someone like Paul just saying to me, ‘I love your outside perspective, and I think you’re the right person for the job.”
Martin has been the “right person for the job” for the last two and a half years, shepherding the company through the pandemic and the supply chain disruptions that followed. She credits Willis for “being gracious and very helpful” as she learned the ins and outs of the supply-side of the industry and for believing in her abilities to handle the various tasks that came with the job. “He pushed me into the deep end and said, ‘You got this.’”
And when she doesn’t get it, she relies on a talented team of people with whom she has surrounded herself. And what are some priorities for Martin and her team that perhaps transcend the industry?
She explains that product quality and helping to educate consumers, including the medical industry, about the benefits of supplementation, are two of the things she and her team focus on when contributing to the improvement of the overall sector.
“We’re trying to educate our customers so they can then, in turn, educate theirs. While, at the same time, keeping that standard of quality to the absolute highest it can be.”
In addition to her role at Cypress, Michelle is the Chair of Engagement for Women in Nutraceuticals, a new non-profit dedicated to empowering women to unlock their personal and professional potential, with a vision of achieving economic and societal equity to change the global nutraceutical industry, and is active in advancing Cypress Systems' non-profit A Thousand Plus. Connect with Michelle on LinkedIn.