Geoff

Previous key positions: President/CEO Krombacher USA 2010-2012, President/CEO Warsteiner Importers Agency 2006-2010, Corporate Director of Malt Beverages Glazer's 1999-2006, Regional Sales Manager Gambrinus 1996-1998, VP Marketing and Distribution Texas Brewing Co. 1996, President Distributor Investment Group 1991-1995, General Manager Coast Distributors (Columbia) 1988-1990, Distributor Development Manager Coors Brewing Co. 1987, President Texas Beers Inc., 1981-1987, Executive VP and GM Coors of Kansas 1978-1981, VP Sales Coors NE 1976-1978, others were sales manager Mid-State Beers, District Mgr. Lone Star Brewing Co and route sales Willowbrook. Active member of many industry associations such as NBWA, WBDT, Oregon Beer, Washington Beer, Utah Beer, Kansas Beer and Louisana Beer assoc. Nominated or won: Inner Circle, Founders, Proud Lion and other awards. Named industry expert in US Bankrupcy, Federal and many state courts.

Aug 142018
 

Decades ago, when a major beer distributor sold out, the distributorship was typically composed of only one brand. Likewise, the distributor’s supplier was only focused on two issues: first, how much equity was in the new company and second, how much experience the new owner had in the beer industry.  If the new company had unencumbered equity of 25% or more and the new owner/manager had an executive background in beer, approval was almost certain.

In 1980, during the purchase of the Schlitz operation in south Texas, acquiring Schlitz’s approval was a simple task of following their internal procedures and interviews.  The other two breweries, Pabst and Pearl, likewise, rubber-stamped the deal based upon Schlitz’s approval.  Thirty years ago, there were rarely issues in ensuring a breweries’ approval.  The procedure was simple.

Fast-forward to today’s beer industry and one will find that a stand-alone independent sale of a beer distributorship is rare.  With the magnitude of consolidations over the decades, suppliers now demand their brands be aligned to certain houses.  The recent sale of Skokie Valley in Chicago is a good example of a supplier moving their brand to a house of their choosing.  In the big picture, the seller leaves that decision to the brewery.  Brand evaluations are made prior to the selling of the company thus ensuring the seller obtains their desired value regardless of whom the brand is eventually sold.

Bonanza Beverage of Las Vegas, a legacy Miller operation, decided to sell to Southern Glazer.  And as also reported, Southern Glazer is not the typical W&S operation in that their beer portfolio includes Constellation Brands and other major imports and crafts.

About 10 years ago, Bonanza was Warsteiner’s distributor in Vegas.  Warsteiner’s volume was not obtained from on-premise accounts and certainly had no distribution in the top casinos.  As an international brand which was sold across Europe and South America, Warsteiner asked Southern to purchase their portfolio from Bonanza.  Bonanza followed through and sold the Warsteiner brands to Southern.  In a very short time, Warsteiner had on-premise distribution in multiple major casinos and bars while still maintaining their distribution status in liquor stores and grocery stores.  In fact, Southern could place Warsteiner almost anywhere on the strip as targeted.  Sales spiked during those years simply from the act of moving into a house where a vendor could take maximum advantage of a distributor’s strengths.

With the growth of the Modelo brands, it was only a matter of time before Southern’s c-store delivery process would increase.  Realistically Southern could not compete with the AB house or Bonanza, even with Modelo in this channel, however, the opposite was true for the casino/hotel business.

Bonanza has now decided to sell its business to Southern Glazers, but MolsonCoors wants the brands to go to Breakthru Beverage who is negotiating to merge with Republic National.  This complicates the sale.  It seems that MC would allow Southern Glazers to buy Bonanza while persuading Breakthru to sell Coors to Southern Glazers, thus taking advantage of SG’s strength, combining Miller and Coors, and not dealing with Republic National.

The 800 lb. elephant is Constellation Brands.  Does MC really want to be in a house that is dominated by Constellation, a brand that is on fire in a highly dynamic on-premise market?  About two-thirds of MC houses have Constellation Brands but here is a chance that MC can avoid Constellation.

In the future, one might expect more beer brands to avoid Constellation houses.  The culmination of the Bonanza and Southern Glazers deal will illustrate the future of buy-sells in the industry.

If we open a quarrel between the past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Aug 072018
 

 

Editor’s note:  This post first ran on September 4, 2012.  Recent discussions merit a re-post.

There is a great deal of talk concerning the upcoming price increases and their effects on the market. I have received e-mails from several of you regarding this round of increases as Nielsen All Channel scans show volumes are flat, but pricing is up 2.7%. In fact, volumes have dropped from +1.2% to flat over the last year. Note too, that the amount of beer sold on promotion is down. A prelude to the upcoming price increases?

In the mid 70’s, Coors Brewing Company was reprimanded and placed under a two-year moratorium regarding price discussions when a conversation between the brewery and a wholesaler was recorded by the later. From that point forward, the talks on pricing between wholesalers and vendors always included the words “recommended” or “suggested” in the discussions, and all price letters to wholesalers had the language “we recognize your right as an independent wholesaler” and “businesses to set your prices accordingly.”

Leegin Creative Leather Products, Inc. v. PSKS, Inc. 551 U.S. 877 (2007), is a US antitrust case in which the United States Supreme Court reversed the 96-year-old doctrine that vertical price restraints were illegal per se under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.  The aforementioned case replaced the older doctrine with the rule of reason. Resale price maintenance (RPM) is the practice whereby a manufacturer and its distributors agree that the distributors will sell the manufacturer’s product at certain prices: at or above a price floor, or, at or below a price ceiling. If a reseller (distributor) refuses to maintain prices, either openly or covertly, the manufacturer may stop doing business with the said wholesaler. This marked a dramatic shift in how attorneys and enforcement agencies addressed the legality of contractual minimum pricing and essentially allowed the reestablishment of resale price maintenance in the U.S. in most commercial situations.

It is safe to say that the courts will weigh in on this topic in the future. Actually, it is somewhat surprising that this has not been a topic of discussion between all parties given the aggressive pricing in recent years. Perhaps the recession put this on the back burner. Wholesalers, in almost every situation, made sure they communicated their “minimum” GP. From the vendor’s perspective, pricing models today are usually worked backward by working off the markets’ chain leader(s) and their pricing, adding in the wholesalers GP, and then, if there is a profit, that, too, is included. All taxes, freight, etc. are included.  At Warsteiner, we analyzed each wholesaler’s contribution to our overall financial success. If the PTR was non-competitive then our numbers were negative. In all cases, profitability was volume driven.  So is it better to sell 10 cases at 30% or 1,000 cases at 24%? This brings me back to our case.

How the major breweries approach pricing will probably be still considered antitrust, which would still be illegal. With the smaller breweries, however, such discussion could be considered anticompetitive. This changes the dynamics of the discussion. Either way, Leegin Creative Leather Products, Inc. v. PSKS, Inc. has changed the pricing paradigm. Get ready. Remember though, if your price point for beer is so high no one will purchase your product. So what good does it do you?

Alliances and partnerships produce stability when they reflect realities and interests.

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Jul 312018
 

A number of years ago, during a transition period in my career within the beer industry, my wife remarked that this profession seemed quite volatile and perhaps not the most secure place to build a career.  She had a good point.  A mental review of my life in the beer industry, and the companies in which I was involved, revealed a great deal of change.

Willowbrook (Coors in Dallas) – Sold to Barry Andrews and is now a part of Andrews Distributing.

Bridges Distributing (Falstaff in Austin) – Sold years ago.

Lone Star Brewing Co. – Sold a number of times but is now part of Pabst Brewing Co., a virtual brewery.

Mid-State Beer of Alexandria, La. – One of the largest Schlitz distributors and part of Shreveport Beverage, sold out to Glazer’s years ago along with their liquor/wine house.

Orbit Corporation (Coors NE of San Antonio) – One of four San Antonio Coors distributors who, over the years, sold 13 times and is now a part of Glazer’s Beer Co.

Coors of Kansas, Inc. – Once one of the largest Coors distributors in the U.S, sold to Larry Fleming and still, after 38 years, is part of LDF.

Texas Beers Inc. – The seventh largest Schlitz distributor in the U.S., and also a Pabst, Pearl and import house, sold at least three times and is now a part of Glazer’s Beer Co.

Coors Brewing Co. – Now MolsonCoors.  Enough said.

Coast Distributors – One of the largest volume distributors in the late 1980s, was sold after 100 years of ownership to Dick Lytle and became Mt. Hood Beverage, which later became part of Columbia.

Texas Brewing Co. – Lasted only one year.

The Gambrinus Co. – Still around, minus the Modelo Products.

Glazer’s – Now named Southern Glazer’s, but without the beer.  The Glazer family still owns the beer division.

Warsteiner Importers – Still around, but hanging by a thread

Krombacher U.S.A. – I have no idea.

Without knowledge of how the beer industry works, someone outside the business would recognize the uncertainty of a career in beer.  A number of the above companies, Schlitz for example, were victims of a lack of leadership, while other companies were simply in existence during a time when the brand struggled to find a market. The Coors operation in South Texas is a perfect example of a company who struggled to find a market.  For some, it was all about the money, as was the case with Coast Distributors in Oregon.  Although for others, their failure was a result of poor decision making which cost the company any chance of success.

It seems every week an industry pub announces another brewery has been sold, joined a holding company, merged, or closed their doors, just like the companies noted in this post.  This could mean that the instability of the past, is the reality for the current model and we should expect such instability to continue into the future.  So the question should be: Is instability the nature of the beer industry?  From the outsider’s perspective, it clearly is!

The older you get…the better you were….

 

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Jul 242018
 

In the collectible car world, the term “restomod” is used to describe a vintage car that has been updated or modernized.  Unless the classic car is highly desirable or very rare, it seems logical to modernize the vehicle by updating the brake system, frame, suspension, interior, air conditioner, stereo, etc., in order to create a vintage car for everyday usage. Today, there are many types of restomods in the world.

The beer industries term for restomod is “retro brand.”  In today’s beer industry there are a number of retro brands that have become restomods.

Narragansett is an example of a beer restomod.  In the late 1960s, Narragansett was the largest selling beer in the New England area.  Like many other regional brands of that ear, Narragansett sold out and quickly fell to the onslaught of AB, Miller, Schlitz, and Coors.

The brand was re-purchased from Falstaff in 2005 and became a restomod beer.  In addition to their longtime Lager beer, Narragansett also offers an IPA, a Light, a Shandy, and a Coffee Milk Stout along with other brands.  The Lager, a true retro beer, is for those who remember the beer from the 1970s, while the restomod brands are for younger drinkers.  The restomod has proven successful and today Narragansett has returned.

Another retro beer, Shiner, has also become a restomod beer.  Shiner Bock, the flavor that saved the Shiner brewery and the Shiner name, is a longtime leader in the Texas crafts industry.  For decades Shiner has offered multiple line extensions including a Blonde, a Light, and a Black Lager.  Moving into the restomod version of the beer world, Shiner announced a new hazy and unfiltered IPA and another sessional ale.  Shiner is keeping up with the competition.

Voters in California legalized recreational cannabis by 57% and as a result, the hospitality industry is now embracing legal weed.  The Desert Hot Springs Inn in the Coachella Valley is advertising itself as “cannabis friendly.”  The hotel permits weed smoking by the pool or guests can heat up a vaporizer in the rooms.  Surprisingly, the hotel’s business has increased by 50%, with guests predominantly composed of pot-smoking upper-income baby boomers. This seems logical given that most boomers have disposable income, are retired or will most likely not be drug tested at their place of employment.

Look for the next generation of restomod beers to be cannabis-infused.  Will breweries use established brands or resurrect a long-failed name? Perhaps Zima Cannabis or Tequiza Cannabis will emerge?  Or even a Bud Light Golden Wheat Cannabis?  If consumers are moving toward cannabis, the breweries are going pursue them.  This is simply the next restomod evolution in the industry.

Reincarnation occurs because we decided that we have not learned the lesson…

 

 

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Jul 172018
 

This post begins the seventh year of Beer Business Unplugged. As has been typical, I will comment on past posts and the beer industry in general. 

This year, there are three topics in the industry that continue to be of importance.  The first is the continued decline of the overall industry volume. Second, is Constellation’s transformation from leadership under Bill Hackett to today’s company in which wholesalers are intently watching Constellation determine how the company will work with its distributors.  And third is the rapid rise of cannabis and how this plant will not only affect overall beer sales, but also a discussion around the most profitable method for the beer industry to ensure a foothold in the growing industry. Each blog brought a number of comments, making the above three topics the most responded to blogs of the past year. 

The post, Whatever Happened To? however, was the blog that brought the highest number of responses.  A surprising phenomenon for me.  It seems Krombacher is trying to reverse its scorched earth U.S. policy of the last six years!  I wish them the best of luck! The news of Warsteiner’s recent fines by the TTB was very disturbing, but to some degree, not unexpected given the challenges importers and brewers are facing in growing their brands.  Expect more of the same in 2019.

I always enjoy receiving the responses from readers. Although the majority of responses come directly to me, some are posted on the blog.  The number of subscribers, all of whom are in the beer industry, continues to increase into the thousands, this year surpassing 125,000 reads. Thank you all for your interest and loyalty.

 

As always, I will continue to write weekly throughout the year.  Going forward I will cover industry topics based upon your continued interests.  Thank you for all your kind comments and feedback.  They are fun and informative.  And now, year seven begins……

 Beer Fodder:

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Jul 102018
 

Bill Hackett of Constellation Brands has long advocated that the beer industry is all about the brand building which, in his opinion, is lacking from suppliers. For decades, the industry has followed the line extensions model as this has been the path of least resistance.

Light beers were the first line extensions and were by far, the most successful of all with the major selling brands being Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light.  Budweiser, Coors, and Miller are, of course, still viable selling brands in and of themselves.  Bud Light continues to expand on their light extension with additional extensions: Bud Light Platinum, Bud Light Lime, and Bud Light Orange.  Only the future will reveal the next extension from Bud Light.

Years ago, AB tested Michelob Ultra, a line extension from Michelob, and, as they say, the rest is history.  That line extension is now THE brand.  Ask any AB wholesaler today and they will tell you Michelob Ultra is on fire.  While other brands with the same wholesalers are losing ground and struggling, Ultra continues its remarkable growth by staying true to its branding. Ultra, like Bud Light, has its own line extensions: Ultra Lime Cactus, and recently, Pure Gold.  Both extensions are growing by feeding off the mother brand.

In the 1970s, Miller Lite, which was originally dismissed by most breweries as a viable brand, soon hit pay-dirt with consumers.  Shortly thereafter, both AB and Coors followed Miller’s lead with their respective light beers.  Although other breweries produced their own light beers, they had little to no success.  The two biggest failures were Schlitz, with at least three light beer efforts, and Pabst.  Neither brewery could establish a light brand.  The same story was true for the regional beers. No brewery could establish a light challenger.

In the past year, the industry has seen two challengers to Ultra’s dominance. The first was Amstel X Light, a line extension of Amstel.  Soon thereafter Corona Premier followed.  Both these extension lines are the produce of major importers. As predicted by this blog, Amstel’s X Light, once a Heineken Light offering, would not become a viable brand.  X Light is now hanging on for life as many key retailers are discontinuing this SKU during their summer resets.  Unless something unexpected is occurs, X Light will become just like its predecessor, Amstel, a brand of the past.

Corona Premier, a line extension of Corona, targeted directly at Ultra with low carbs and calories, has become a viable new product making the top lists of new products.  Corona Premier’s scan numbers continue to grow.  Constellation Brands and Corona appear to be stepping up to be Ultra’s main competitor.

Heineken’s major mistake was to use Amstel as the line extension instead of using Heineken.  Corona Premier has major support behind it, and with its initial success, expect Constellation to step up its spending against the brand.  Corona has Corona Light and Corona Premier pitted against Ultra. Heineken, however, has only a somewhat successful Light in Heineken Light.  Heineken’s new CEO, an American, has her work cut out for her and it will be interesting to see how she addresses this segment.

Rest assured that the other majors including MC will soon attack Ultra with their own offering of low carbs.  Miller Lite experienced success with their low carb campaign but eliminated that campaign some time ago.  The next 18 months will be interesting.

Every great brand is like a great story…

Editor’s note:  It was reported yesterday that Scott DeMartine of Columbia Distributing passed away recently.  I was fortunate to have worked with Scott when he headed up Star Brands.  He will be missed.

 

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Jul 032018
 

The evolution of the beer industry is quite remarkable. While the industry itself has changed a great deal, perhaps nothing has evolved more in the industry than the beer wholesaler.

From the end of WW II, until perhaps the late 60s/early 70s, the industry remained consistent.  Small wholesalers, one brand, a limited number of packages, very little discounting, simple one-bay trucks…life in the beer business was good.  Things then started to change.

First, was the push to add new or carry an increased number of brands. For example, an AB or Schlitz wholesaler would carry Bud, Michelob, and maybe Busch.  Schlitz wholesalers carried Schlitz, Schlitz Malt, and Old Milwaukee.  Bigger trucks than came next first with eight bays than on to 16 bays along with shelving in bays.  Bulk trucks still are used today.  Next came pre-selling, followed by orders that were built-by-account, and then the addition of shrink-wrapped pallets which were delivered to the retailer.  Warehouses became digital using, UPC codes, and packages are now moved thru scanning and conveyor belts. Salespeople went from handhelds, to computers, to iPads; portfolios exploded with new brands and packages; and brand management is now the title-de-jour for in-house managing of current and upcoming new vendors. All this, yet the overall beer sales in the U.S. continue to decline.

We all have heard the many assumptions from the pundits as to why beer sales continue to slide, but perhaps the statement by Bill Hackett of Constellation Brands frames it best.  When discussing the lack of brand building, Bill says “this (lack of brand building) will be the death knell of this industry, we have to focus on building brands.”  From the supplier side, no truer words have been spoken.

Lacking extensive and effective brand building, today’s distributors are looking past their suppliers to ways to survive the future, and they may have found the survival tool: cannabis.

Just like the Oklahoma land rush of the 1800s, there is a mad rush to determine who and how legalized cannabis will get to market and ultimately to the consumer.  State beer wholesaler organizations are rallying and lobbying their local legislatures to use the wholesalers’ distribution system for cannabis. On the surface, this seems to be the logical way for states to proceed since beer wholesalers are federally and state licensed.  Owners need to be approved by the TTB to obtain a federal permit. Wholesalers can even act as the tax collector for cannabis just as they do for beer.

It would seem that very little needs to be changed or added to legalized wholesalers to enable cannabis distribution to become a reality. In fact, it might even be easier for beer wholesalers to become the cannabis wholesaler than to up-end their current model in an attempt to provide a more effective sales and marketing program for beer. Perhaps beer distributors should leave it up to the suppliers to improve beer sales.

No one will know the total impact of legalized cannabis sales for years, but now is the time for beer wholesalers to act.  Truth be told, the current beer suppliers (those not tied to cannabis) are probably not very happy.  Maybe they should be spending more on the brand building then they would not have to worry.

Business is constantly changing, constantly evolving.

 

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Jun 262018
 

Many distributors would rue the day they turned down the opportunity to distribute Modelo products in the early to mid-1980s.  In fact, once Corona became a viable import, many of the distributors who had once declined the offer, made a quick reversal and aggressively pursued the brand.  Some distributors were successful, but many were not, as those distributors who had taken on the brand were reaping the potential benefits of Corona.

As has been discussed in past posts, I acquired Corona through an acquisition when I owned Texas Beers. At that point in time, the beer was in a brown bottle, and because my distributorship was on the US-Mexican border, the packaging made sense.  Once Corona switched to the clear, long neck bottle, the brand’s sales jumped.

Bill Hackett, who was then the sales manager for Barton Beers, and I spent hours discussing the potential of Corona.  As with many current and past wholesalers, Bill has always maintained great relationships with the distributors.

By the mid to late 90s, it was clear that for Corona to continue its growth, the brand’s distribution needed to increase. Both Barton and Gambrinus introduced Corona 12 packs and soon other package extensions were also presented.  One by one, many of the wine and spirit houses, including the Julius Schepps Co. in Dallas, sold the Modelo distribution rights to the beer network.  Even in those days, the case multiples, which seemed so high, are now considered a joke when looking back at the brand’s unbelievable success.

Most of the current Modelo distributors are in the blue network, but there are many distributors who are not in the blue or red network that do have Modelo. One could make the case that without the Modelo portfolio these houses would have sold out years ago.  Because of Corona’s success, many distributors hung in there long enough enabling them to sign many upstart crafts who today are established and important beers.

As the sales manager, and later President of Barton and Constellation Beers, Bill Hackett knew that for Corona to become a viable brand, it was important to establish strong relationships with the wholesalers.  Bill, probably more so than anyone in recent years, was the leader at relationships.

Constellations recent decision to move their portfolio from their long-established wholesaler, Markstein in San Diego, to Reyes, caught the industry by surprise.  The move by Constellation, however, should not surprise anyone who has been in the industry for any length of time.  It is simple, Bill Hackett knew that Barton needed the wholesalers more than the wholesalers need Barton.  Today, it is just the opposite, given the recent trends of AB and MC, the Modelo wholesalers need Constellation more than Constellation needs them.

Constellation is doing exactly what a highly successful brewer does:  line extensions, new beers, buying multiple forms of media, sponsoring all types of professional sports, staffing up, chain domination, and on and on to include wholesaler realignment if they believe they can benefit from a change.  Tighten your seat belt, more is yet to come.

We built a business on relationships, and that’s what matters to us…

 

 

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Jun 192018
 

When Catherina Cramer took the leadership role at Warsteiner, she was the ninth generation of Cramer’s to lead the brewery, but the first female in this prominent position.  The brewery had been run by males for eight generations dating back to the early 1700s.

Catherina had always questioned why Warsteiner Importers Agency did not employ more female employees.  Warsteiner’s pay scale was such that when a qualified female was hired, trained and placed in the marketplace, in most cases, the employee would be pouched by a competitor.  Inevitably, the competitor could pay a higher salary, give larger bonuses, and had superior, bonus programs, benefits, and typically a car.  It was very frustrating and expensive for Warsteiner.

Decades ago the beer industry was male-dominated.  The only females in the business were widows of husbands who had owned distributorships.  It was not until I got to Coors of Kansas in the late 70s that we started to recruit women.  Breweries were the same way.

The first brewery to really utilize females was Boston Beers, whose sales director was Ronda Kallman.  By design, the sales force of Jim Koch and Ronda Kalman sales was predominately female.  Boston Beers’ success with females did not go unnoticed by other breweries.  A change was underway.

In today’s beer industry, women play a major role. Many craft breweries are run and owned by women.  Perhaps the best known is Kim Jordan of New Belgium who founded the company over 25 years ago.  New Belgium is one of the largest crafts in the country now.

No woman has led a major U.S. brewery or importer. Last week, however, Heineken appointed Maggie Timoney CEO of their U.S. business.  This appointment goes beyond gender, Maggie is the first American to lead Heineken in years.

Heineken has been in catch-up mode since Corona flew past Heineken as the number one import beer.  The acquisition of importing rights years ago, combined with Heineken’s transfer of their distribution from a predominately wine and spirits system to the beer network made an impact on their sales.

Heineken’s packaging changes, coupled with the long neck bottle, did little to help, and their media programming was questionable at best.  Many, if not most, of these decisions, were driven by Heineken leaders from Holland.

The story is the same and, unfortunately, frequently repeats itself: the new leader, not knowing the inner-workings of the U.S. market, initially visits the major wholesalers and gets an ear-full.  He then visits key retailers and attains feedback.  And, of course, the agency visits are part of the initiation process.  The U.S. learning curve is typically about five years.  Before this five-year window ends, the CEO is replaced with another CEO and either moved to the home office or is off to “pursue other interests.”

The industry will be following Maggie Timoney very closely, not because of her gender, but because of what is riding on Heineken’s brands.  Many of Heineken’s wholesalers are gold wholesalers, and given what Constellation is doing, Heineken’s time is running short.

As usual, behind every great woman is an idiot…

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Jun 122018
 

In past posts, when the topic has covered facets that make the beer industry so great, the answer has always been centered on the people. The people in this industry are what make it outstanding.  When discussing the beer industry, there never seems to be any middle road. One either loves this business intensely or dislikes it.  When speaking to college students one of the key points I make is that the beer industry is not a 40-hour-a-week job.  The reality is that the beer business is 24/7, and that may not be for everyone. Just ask those in the craft industry.

In January of 1976, three months before we were targeted to open the San Antonio Coors market, we began interviewing for the sales positions.  Since former astronaut, Charlie Duke was the owner, and with the Vietnam War drawing to a close, we also made an effort to recruit former military veterans along with experienced beer salesmen.  Sales were all DSD with only one product and just a few SKUs.  As planned, we ended up with a mix of both veterans and beer people in our sales force.

One of the veterans that were hired was a young man named Rudy who was from San Antonio.  Rudy had joined the army right out of high school and served in Vietnam.  After his discharge, he took advantage of the GI Bill by enrolling at Southwest Texas State (now Texas State University). When Charlie and I met Rudy, he had just graduated from college.

Rudy saw working at Coors as a path to a solid career. Because he had just spent four years in college in San Marcos, we assigned Rudy that surrounding territory.  At the time, the distributorship in Austin had not yet opened and Rudy’s territory backed up to the Austin region.  As a result, Rudy’s sales were inflated because the consumers were driving south from Austin into the San Marcos area to buy Coors.  Unfortunately for Rudy, that perk quickly ended with the opening of the Austin market.  Rudy, however, continued to do well and Coors became a major-selling brand in San Marcos.

Not long afterwards, Charlie sold the Coors operation to the Azar family from El Paso. Rudy left and applied for a State Farm Insurance franchise.  Not surprisingly, he was awarded the business.

In the early 1980s, I dropped in to see Rudy and check on his new career. Now in his fourth year at State Farm, Rudy mentioned that his first year had been tough, but the ensuing years were getting less difficult and he was doing well and was quite happy.

Just last summer, 35 years later, I received a phone call from out of nowhere. It was Rudy! We had a great conversation, catching up on life since he had left Coors.  Rudy had recently retired from State Farm as a very successful agent and his wife, too, had retired from USAA after 30+ years.  Both of Rudy’s sons were completing college and all was well with Rudy and his family.

As we were ending the conversation Rudy said he really called to simply thank me for helping him get started in the business world.  He wanted me to know he appreciated my honesty and the fact that I treated him with respect.  Even after all those years, Rudy never forgot.

I have been fortunate to work with countless great professionals, many of whom I have maintained friendships with throughout years, however, the call from Rudy was especially meaningful.

If fortunate, we all have someone who made an impact on our careers.  The same goes for my career as well, but that story will be for another post.

One is never too young or too old to be a mentor…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 6:00 am