The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2014

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90  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2014 But he isn't afraid to give credit where it's due. "I'm a product of the people that I work for—if it wasn't for them, I would never be where I am today." He continues, "It starts at the top. When you work for people like Michael Jahn and Tom Boyle, you learn from the best of the best." The last piece to the puzzle is Director of Marketing Mike Reina, who started in 2006. At the time, the company was on the verge of substan- tial growth and they didn't have anyone in a marketing position. Reina was able to create a marketing world from scratch for SWS of AZ. He says, "As I was growing my role in the company and the community, we had all these new brands come in, so it was a really exciting time." That growth resulted in the addition of about one-third of the sales team, brand new offices, warehouse space and SWS becoming a big player in the Arizona market. That growth, explained Jahn, was due to two things. "First, we created a winning culture, which permeates throughout all of SWS of America. Secondly, we find the best talent that the market has to offer and we give these talented people the opportunity to grow and flourish." Across the board, these five gentle- men seem to agree on most aspects of doing business, but when discussing the employees of SWS of AZ, all of them agreed emphatically with Jahn. Ratner used adjectives such as "self- motivated," "honest" and "hardwork- ing." Boyle said he looked for what you can't teach: "work ethic, drive, a fire in the belly and the will to win." Without a doubt, the customer is the number one priority for this team. Not once during the interview was an account or brand mentioned over any other. When it came to discussing the relationship with the accounts, once again, everyone was on the same page. Paulsen says, "We need to be in there—we should be beverage consultants, not just salespeople." Boyle agreed and cited three principles to their customer service: "First, share market knowledge with the accounts by sharing trends, not just in the state, but in the neighborhood. Secondly, continuing education and staff training. Lastly, will-calling the bottle they need for the weekend. Be those guys they know they can call." So what is it that makes the team at SWS of AZ so unique? Is it the on-site Direct Warehouse Store (DWS)—the only one in the state—that allows accounts to come pick up what they need from the warehouse? Is it the consistency across the board from the five team members on the way busi- ness is to be done? Is it the thoughtful customer service offered to clients? Well, it's all of the above, explains Jahn, and then some. "We've discussed the micro, but the macro of how we are—the way we are—comes back to Southern Wine & Spirits of America and its ownership. We have an expan- sive footprint across 35 markets. We learned to serve the national account arena in both the on-premise and retail trade channels unlike any other. We have secured and follow a strategy that brings tremendous value for the suppli- ers who operate with us in a multi-state fashion. If there is a key to the door of success, for SWS, this strategy is unlocking the door." Rich Paulsen, General Manager On-Premise. Paul Ratner, Off-Premise Sales Manager, says "When you work for people like Michael Jahn and Tom Boyle, you learn from the best of the best."

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