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…