Todd Fitts

MBA '02

Founder and CEO
Improv'eat, LLC

What do you do professionally?

Essentially I am a contrarian value investor focused on organizations that produce or serve needs as a profession utilizing "disruptive innovations." Currently I am the President and majority owner of Improveat where The Pure Wraps coconut wraps were created and developed. I split time between the U.S. and the Philippines where The Pure Wraps are produced under a published patent I own.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

Learning and being able to apply it. I know anything is possible and life is a puzzle (and a test and a trust as well) whereby everything is interconnected. The knowledge and pieces to the puzzle exist, and I truly enjoy connecting what others don't believe is interconnected. There is much value available in the world to serve others, but ignorance is pervasive and a stumbling block to almost everybody; however, this also breeds opportunity which is an entry for contrarian value investors.

What is the biggest challenge you face?

Finding those who believe anything is possible and trusting them to be wise and have an eternal perspective. However, it could be that I am a poor communicator of the truth that anything is possible and why contrarian strategies can be very valuable and rewarding.

What sorts of interesting places has your position taken you? Do you have a favorite?

I have been to many coconut-producing nations, however, I settled on the Philippines. General Carlos Garcia Island in the Philippines is simply beautiful when under proper stewardship. It is a very small, remote island that has few visitors from the outside. Access is by pump boat only, unless you have your own creative solution. Sleeping there in pitch black darkness with no city lights nearby in an open-air hut and hearing the ocean crash against the shore was very peaceful. This was more delightful than trekking in a remote Philippines forest in search of bat manure to fertilize coconut palms. Manure + Bats - me = Good.

What is the best professional advice you have received?

It is hard to rank the best so here are my top three: 1) Follow your God-given passion and purpose and serve like a professional instead of selling like a businessman. 2) Know what you know, know what you don't know and, most importantly, know that you don't know what you don't know. 3) Never give up when you know what you are doing is right, needed and of service to others, even when people or companies attack you out of ignorance, fear or greed because the world needs people who are passionately following their purpose.

Aside from your current role, what is your dream job?

To have my proper role in a company with others who believe anything is possible (though not highly probable), who will adhere to a servant model and be willing to accept their God-given strengths, skillsets and purpose to be wise. This company will hold each other accountable, challenge each other and when needed encourage each other to take on what NEEDS to be done to serve the needs of others, even though most or none believe it is possible. Unfortunately until I prove myself worthy, I doubt such a group of people would accept me into such a company!

What do you like to do outside of work?

My faith is most important to me and takes a good bit of my time. Since I believe everything is interconnected, my faith is part of my work, therefore, technically not outside of it. On the physical side, I enjoy high-intensity training, surfing (water and snow), mountain biking, kayaking and shooting pool. Just about anything related to nature is something I enjoy, or reading as well.

What is the most important thing that you learned at Fuqua?

By far the most important thing I learned was that a multi-disciplinary approach, proper leadership, right incentive and long-term view is needed to effectively implement disruptive innovations and solve many problems in this world. Clay Christensen's class (CCMBA 2002 in Frankfurt Germany and based upon his book, The Innovator's Dilemma) was probably the first time ever I sat in the front row of a class and engaged often with a professor. When you meet somebody who believes the "radical and contrarian" thoughts you believe, it is exciting. Coming from institutional investment management where I spent time as an analyst and portfolio manager among other positions, it became apparent to me that companies put too much emphasis on customers' current needs and short-term profits instead of anticipating future needs and focusing on the long term (preferably eternal). During this class I already had "disruptive innovation" ideas and was longing to learn more about applying them based upon research, and he had it. The Pure Wraps coconut wraps are one application of the book and class principles because coconut wraps are completely innovative without using gluten, gums, eggs or other traditional binders and contain only two simple and pure ingredients of coconut and salt. Many "experts" in the culinary arts said a tortilla alternative could not be made from only coconut and salt. Their lack of believing anything was possible meant they didn't know what they didn't know. People look forward for technology and/or settle on what is taught to them by "experts" which is limiting, yet I tend to look back for ancient wisdom lost or forgotten not just in the Bible but other sources as well, along with questioning "experts." That isn't to say I don't learn from talented people today. In fact I have had several interns from Fuqua and the Nicholas School of Environment recently who possess various talents and experiences that helped me further drive disruptive innovation into many areas of my company including processing. Recently, a team visited the Philippines and viewed our process of making The Pure Wraps from hand-harvesting coconuts to packing The Pure Wraps in non-GMO cellulose made out of trees. Their analysis and report is a critical part of applying further innovation into my company. I am thankful for the talent Duke University produces across many schools and disciplines.

Who was your favorite professor?

Clay Christensen as noted above but there were many other very good professors.

What is your favorite Fuqua memory?

I enjoy learning as noted above and especially from those in other cultures. Fuqua brought together talented and experienced people from many cultures, and I enjoyed learning from them. It would be tough to say which person was the most interesting because I believe something can be learned from anybody.

What does team Fuqua mean to you?

I see the results as exponential when there is an attitude of serving as a team instead of desiring individual recognition and selfishness. In order to accomplish great feats, one must adhere to a multi-disciplinary approach and work together. This has been my experience with interns from Duke University.