Ep #44 | Trust Your Instinct

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Andrew Lorimer is currently the director of marketing for Eagle Rock Distributing Company. ERDC is the top beverage distributor in Atlanta, where he gets to market the top breweries in the world. When Andrew joined ERDC he felt it was important to learn all aspects of the business, knowing this was a long-term career move. Andrew worked on everything from the logistics side of the business (merchandising and delivery)...to the sales side as an account manager….until the role he is in now. Marketing beer, wine, spirits and non-alcohol brands they sell is an honor. He graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Marketing. Andrew's been able to truly use his education and degree towards his career which is not something most people can say. On the personal side, Andrew and his wonderful and supportive wife have been married for 11 years. They have three kids under the age of 8. It’s total chaos and a lot of fun!

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Shantel: Hey, Andrew. Welcome to the Imagine More Podcast. 

Andrew: Hey there. How you doing? 

Shantel: I'm great. Thanks so much for being on the show.

Andrew: My pleasure. I look forward to doing it.

Shantel: We are excited to learn more about Eagle Rock Distributing Company and how you've grown in your role. I suppose to kick things off can you tell our listeners a little bit about the company? 

Andrew: Sure. Sure. Eagle Rock Distributing is a family owned business. We are a total beverage distributor. I'd like to think we're one of the best around. We have a wonderful portfolio of products ranging from some of the largest breweries in the world to some of the smallest breweries in the world, as well as wine and spirits portfolio that is growing like crazy with some new and exciting items, and a non-alcohol portfolio with waters and juices and milks that really round out our portfolio.

Shantel: Nice. How did you get into the distributing field? 

| A FAMILY FULL OF ENTREPRENEURS |

Andrew: Yeah. So I have always had a thing for brand loyalty and have always been a fan ever since the age I was able to. I was old enough to start drinking and I have been a fan of Anheuser Busch and their brands for a long time. I kind of grew up with a family that owns a company and was a little bit brainwashed in a good way with the brands. When I got out of school, had a marketing degree and what better way to put the things I love together with the things I love to market. Just kind of worked out to where I came aboard. 

Shantel: Nice. You mentioned a little bit brainwashed at the beginning in a good way. Is this a family run business? 

Andrew: It is. It's a family-owned business. They are a family full of entrepreneurs. There are four brothers that are currently running the show. I'm very involved in the business. Great to work for. They really trust their employees to manage the brands that we work and work for and market to try to sell every single day. They trust the employees to be their own entrepreneurs, which I know is a highlight for everybody that works here. But they're always working for ways to create and grow and change our business while maintaining a real steady environment and staying true to the core values that they have and that we also have.

Shantel: I love that. You mentioned that they encourage everyone to be entrepreneurial. So inside the business kind of think entrepreneurial, like think as an entrepreneur or explore side projects? 

Andrew: Inside the business. So they kind of give us the freedom to do what we think is right, and that really opens the door for not only me but for everybody that works for Eagle Rock to kind of be their own boss and they really just trust you to make the right decisions. There's a time and place where everybody needs to get involved to make a decision, but there's also a time and place where you need to make the decision on your own and move forward and be confident in that. That's kind of how they allow you to be your own entrepreneur with inside the distributing company. 

Shantel: I love that. So did you ...

Andrew: I did not. In this business, it's extremely important or at least I thought it was extremely important to kind of see all aspects of the company. So when I came on, I really wanted to learn from the ground up. I kind of saw all aspects from the logistics and delivery side, which is merchandising and delivery, to the sale side. Was an account manager for a number of years working on two different routes. Loved every minute of both of those roles, but thought it was extremely important to kind of get that underneath my feet before getting a chance to move up into the role that I currently am in. 

Shantel: That's great. Well, I imagine your days changed quite a bit from when you first started. What does a typical day look like for you right now? 

Andrew: Yeah. So the beer business is in full swing before most people's alarms even go off. I mean, it's a very early rising business. The most successful part of our day really comes between the hours of 5:30 in the morning to 9:00 a.m. I feel like we get so much done between those hours, not that the rest of the day isn't important, but those are extremely crucial. That's when our fleet is moving, our sales team is selling, they're out in the field. Our shift team is meeting daily to run down programming and planning. Then the other part of our week includes promotions that run at night. What most people think as the fun part of the beer business on premise accounts, meeting restaurants and bars, weekend events, everyone's favorite beer festivals that take place on the weekend. So my day's kind of all over the place. I also get the chance to meet with sales managers and their accounts managers to make sure they fully understand the marketing strategies. Then I also get to meet with the company such as yourself and radio to ensure that our brands are marketed in a way that backs up the high standards that we have here at Eagle Rock for not only the company but the breweries and the beverages that we market and sell. 

Shantel: So I mean, I'm still stuck I think on that 5:30 mark so you're in the office at 5:30? 

Andrew: You get used to it. 5:30 to 7:00, absolutely. I think the majority of our sales team, we've got phenomenal sales team, is at their first account at 5:30 in the morning, no if, and's, or but's. Yeah, so we have once or twice a week 7:00 a.m. manager meetings where we're a prompt business. If you're a minute late, they get on you, that's for sure in a good way. But yeah, we like to get up moving in the morning. That's when the majority of the business takes place. Yeah, some people it's not for, and the beer business is not as glorious as everybody thinks it is. Yeah. Yeah. You do get to do that. But not all the time. 

Shantel: I imagine everyone just kind of thinks like, "Oh, just sipping beer." That's what I'm saying. Yeah. Well, I was super excited to have you on the show one because we come from a similar background in marketing and have had the opportunity to work together on some fun events through Imagine Media. But we get asked so often on the show from the entrepreneurs on the show and the other guests just about marketing and how that tends to be kind of one of the bottom things on the list but a big pain point. Have you ever struggled, I guess, with explaining the value to the four brothers of some of the marketing efforts you're doing and perhaps have you seen your marketing shift in any way over the past couple of years? 

| THE EVOLUTION OF MARKETING |

Andrew: For sure. That's a great question. I feel like marketing is changing all the time. The right way to market to the right demographic, to the right group is constantly changing and it's interesting to have conversations with different demographics and different age groups and find out what they think works and then looking at the studies and seeing what actually comes back as working. The four brothers father who started the company is one of those guys that comes to mind when I love sitting down and chatting with him and talking about current 2018 marketing strategies versus what he saw work back in his time. It's awesome to hear because we've got some of the same beliefs and some of the same ideas just kind of changed into current marketing strategies. Obviously the use of social media has drastically changed the way that beer is marketed to the consumer. Back in the day it was all radio, radio remotes, outdoor and TV. Those were basically your three mediums. These days that is still the case in some manners, but for the most part social media has really taken over. It gives a chance for the breweries to kind of use their own social media platforms. We, here at Eagle Rock, have social media platforms that we like to use as well, and really gets to the consumer in an effective manner. 

Shantel: Yeah. Yeah. It's always such a fun challenge to talk to some people that aren't as familiar with social media and the value because it certainly where people need to be right now. That data can certainly be helpful. Do you have anyone else on the marketing team? 

Andrew: Yeah. Here at Eagle Rock, the marketing team isn't huge. We've got five employees. Well, six employees that encompass the team. We've got a special events manager, a special events coordinator who does a phenomenal job with all the weekend events. He's the guy that is making sure that beer fest is set up on the weekends and that all the orders are put in and loaded and delivered on time for that festival to run successfully. He's been doing it for a long time, and he's a huge part of the company. Couldn't do it really without him. We've got a point of sale manager who in terms of marketing beer on the floor and accounts. Grocery stores, package stores. He's in charge of getting those display pieces, those neon's that you see out there every day. The point of sale that is cardboard base wrap, case card signage. Making sure that those get to the accounts when they're supposed to be there after the account is sold. Then we've got a phenomenal graphics department. The graphics department consists of four very, very strong graphics designers that are in charge of all of our paper point of sale. Paper point sale is something that is kind of taken for granted when it comes to marketing our brands. But they are producing upwards of over 100 work orders, which could be 300 to 400 signs a day to go out into the Atlanta market in convenience stores, package stores, restaurants, bars. You have it. It's a team of six people that really make it go for Eagle Rock when it comes to marketing. 

Shantel: Wow. So the brands that you're representing, they typically don't come with those graphics or they're not producing them in house? 

Andrew: That's a good question. So they are some lines that are produced in house by breweries, but for the most part when we partner up with a brewery, they kind of open up the book to their graphics libraries and trust us to come up with current pricing in the market, specials that we're able to sell into an account for us to print ourselves. I mean, it's a lot for the breweries to kind of be able to do that for every account and every market. That's really the best part about distribution and being hooked up to a beer distributor is the fact that we're able to take these things to our market that we know best and print what we think is needed for our accounts and for the consumer. Yeah. Absolutely. 

Shantel: Okay. Gotcha. Are you actively involved in hiring all of those teams? 

Andrew: Great question. I think that what's most important when it comes to sales and marketing especially in our business obviously someone ...

Shantel: What do you look for most in a new teammate? 

Andrew: ... that's talents but more importantly someone that's passionate about the business, passionate about beer brands, passionate about just brands in general. It's easy to take someone that is that way and kind of get them in the right position and find out what their strengths are and use them to the best of their ability. Once we know they have that passion for marketing and selling top quality brands. That's a good question ...

Shantel: Are there any questions that come to mind that you typically ask that you try to determine if they are passionate or not about the industry? 

Andrew: I don't think there's a question that comes to mind. I just kind of use myself as the base line. I'm extremely passionate, as I mentioned in the beginning of the conversation. I'm extremely passionate about the brands that we market and sell. So I kind of pit the potential candidate against myself and just see if I feel like they have that same fire about what we're trying to sell and what we're trying to market that I do. 

Shantel: Okay. Yeah. That's great. I was wondering if you ever had any experiences of people coming in with ... What is that app? Actually it's blanking me. I think there's an app to track the different types of breweries that ... Maybe it's Tapped, yeah. 

Andrew: There's a bunch of them out there. Yeah, go ahead, but I think know where you're going. It's funny. That happens all the time.

Shantel: Yeah. Well, I mean I think it'd be interesting if any candidates come in and say like, "Look at all the beers I've tried or this is my favorite." 

Andrew: But going back to our early in the morning start conversation. I got some people come in thinking that the beer business is all a sampling and having a good time. Again, that's part of it but there's also a very serious part of the business that is very time consuming and blue collar. We all take pride in that. That's just the way it is. But yeah, so during interviews you hear it all the time. You ask the question what's their favorite beer? It's funny to hear some of the answers because the majority of the candidates that come to interview for the role or familiar with the brand that you market and sale, but there are literally thousands of skews that we carry. It's very difficult for potential candidates to know every single one of them. So when they answer that question with a brand that's competition, it's always kind of funny, but you can't really hold it against them because there's so many good beers out there these days and that's bound to happen with the candidates answer. 

Shantel: Mm-hmm. So at the beginning you talked a lot about you've always had this brand loyalty and definitely the passion, but do you find that consumers these days are not as loyal to brands because there are so many options, or has that ... Are you finding that people are leaning towards the micro-breweries and the local things as opposed to some of these larger brands, and some of the larger brands are having to try to keep up with that or are there any trends around brand loyalty that you're seeing?

Andrew: There's no question that the consumer these days wants to try new beer. No question about it. The consumer these days are walking into an account to a store or a restaurant and wanting to see what's the latest and greatest and what they have not tried. So brand loyalties I don't think are nearly as strong as they used to be, but that's kind of the fun part of it. It's changed a lot over the years. It's amazing to see people come together over their love for brewing, and it's something that has spanned across the globe. Generation after generation. Everywhere you go, you can see a local brewer from an area and I love just getting a feel for the culture by sampling what's on tap. These brewers are extremely prideful and the person is brewing beer on his weekend in his basement over the weekend all the way up to strong global brands like Anheuser-Busch, everyone is extremely passionate about what they do and they love to share high-quality product. But brand loyalty, yeah, you still have your loyal Bud Light drinkers that'll drink nothing but Bud Light, but I think it's changed in the fact that whatever's new, whatever's latest and greatest is something that I don't see going away and people are going to want to continue to want to try new beers. Mm-hmm. 

Shantel: Yeah. I was just reflecting a little bit on the bigger brands and what people may associate with the bigger brands. Like I think the Bud Lights and the Anheuser I think football and Super Bowl. Then you think of the weekend type of things and that's maybe where you try the local to experiment a little bit. I do think it's interesting how things are shifting and I imagine that keeps your job in marketing pretty fun. 

| IT'S NOT JUST THE BIG BRANDS |

Andrew: No question about it. You've seen a shift for sure. In special events, which you mentioned over the weekends, breweries that were not investing in these special events in the past are now stepping up to the plate and realizing the importance of their brands being in front of thousands of people on a Saturday and are jumping in. You're right. It's not just the big brands. It's all over. That's the beauty of being in the business these days. There's always something going on and there's so many different breweries, beers that just makes it fun and exciting. Well, I think you have to be inspired these days given the amount of beers that are out there and given the amount of people that you're working with. I mean, it's ...

Shantel: How do you stay inspired? 

Andrew: It's awesome to be around these breweries. It's just infectious and infectious to see what they're like and how they feel about their brands. Like I said, you've got guys that are brewing beers in their basement. You've got global brands that have extremely high standards when it comes to brewing. Just being around both sides of the fence is something that makes me excited to want to take their brands to the shelf, want to take the brands to consumers hands. You have to be inspired by these entrepreneurs and they're definitely doing a good job. I mean, our role is essential in taking the product that people have poured their time and their soul into and making sure it's available to population to share in the experience because that's what they want. 

Shantel: Mm-hmm. I'm thinking with the multiple brands that you represent, even in the wine and spirits and water and juices, do you have to have separate marketing plans or a strategy for each of the brands that you represent if they are targeting different personas and customers for ... Do you think about it a little bit more holistically and just group all of them? 

Andrew: No. For sure. Everyone has their own way of wanting to market their brands. It's great to be able to sit down and make time for each supplier. So that goes for a juice company, a milk company, a water company. It's great to be able to sit down and collaborate with them because they have their own way of thinking that their brand will be represented in the market. It's nice to be able to throw our two cents in too and say, "Here's what we see working in our markets specifically." Trying to be the market experts for our territory and either tweaking what they have in terms of marketing material or rolling with what they have. It just depends. But you cannot go with one holistic approach when you have that many suppliers and that many brands that you're trying to market. Each brand has a story behind it, and that story needs to be told the right way for your market. It's a lot different than the late 2000s when we were an exclusive, large brewery or wholesaler only. They had a lot of brands, but it was literally working with one supplier. Now we have hundreds of suppliers ...

Shantel: Yeah. That's a lot. 

Andrew: That we're working with. Have to change your approach, but it all comes down to the basics and it's a lot of fun. Sure. The most valuable piece of advice I've ever received. Probably ...

Shantel: Nice. Well, Andrew, I only have a couple more questions for you. The first is do you have a memory of maybe the most valuable piece of advice you've ever received? 

| TRUST YOUR INSTINCT |

Andrew: have a couple. But I guess knowing when to trust your instinct to make a decision and when to bring it in counsel. That's a very valuable piece of advice that I always try to stick to. We all have to make difficult decisions. I mentioned earlier, every day sometimes that means trusting yourself, being confident to do it, but then there's other times when talking to people and hearing other points of view will lead you to the productive answer. I love our team. I love the different personalities that work here. We all work very well together. I have a ton of respect for their knowledge. The people that have been in the business for a very long time up to the people who have been in the business for six months. I really believe that diversity, that these ideas bring all ... Will lead to the strongest outcome. So I guess that would be one. Then a very simple one that I always try to follow is just staying true to your values and doing the right thing every time. 

Shantel: Mm-hmm. 

Andrew: Absolutely. Eagle Rock, as we've mentioned, is a family-owned business. The family that runs the company has extremely ...

Shantel: I love that. Does Eagle Rock have core values as well that the team reiterates and talks through on a daily/monthly basis? 

Andrew: Strong values to the core, and it's something that is infectious to the entire company. Bleeds all the way to the low level of the company. It's something that is kind of unspoken, but we know it is there. So their core values end up being our core values, which we feel is what's best for the suppliers that we represent. Favorite type of beer. So yeah, we market and represent so many beers so I don't want to leave anybody out. 

Shantel: Okay. That's great. Last question, and I know this may be tough and I know it may be like you're trying to choose a favorite baby so I'll make it a little bit more broad. But do you have a favorite type of beer? 

Andrew: I've always been a Budweiser drinker for the longest time. So I love that true American lager. It is still my favorite beer and probably always will be. But if I were to pick something that's caught my eye over the last couple of months would probably be an IPA from Seattle actually. The breweries called Elysian Brewery and the IPA is called Space Dust IPA. It's phenomenal. It's getting up there in alcohol content, but it's a big West Coast IPA. It's doing really well in our market and definitely have a six pack in my fridge at all times. Yeah. I mean, honestly, I like all styles of beer. There are very few styles that I don't like, which makes it good for me being in the business. But yeah, I mean, there's rarely something I try that I don't like. 

Shantel: Nice. Well, thanks for being so honest. I thought you would just be like lager or IPA, but you went right into it. 

Andrew: Oh yeah, absolutely. We've got some great ... No, no. Absolutely. That's a very hot and popular style right now. Good news for us, we've got some of the best breweries in the world that specialize in sour so we get to try the freshest, the latest, and the greatest sours on the market. 

Shantel: I've been really into these sours lately. is that how you say ...

Andrew: All the time and that's a treat. 

Shantel: Mm-hmm. 

Andrew: Absolutely. Thanks for having me. Yeah. No problem at all. Yeah, so our website will direct you to all of our breweries that we represent and all the suppliers that we represent. 

Shantel: Nice. Well, Andrew, thanks so much for spending some time with us and talking about your journey. We can't wait to stay in touch. 

Andrew: The website address is www.EagleRocks.com. That's Eagle Rocks with an s .com. 

Shantel: Oh, Andrew, Andrew, how can people get in touch with you. Sorry. I almost forgot. If they want to learn more about Eagle Rock. 

Andrew: We're kind of the face behind the brands. The brands are what we care about and on the website you can see links to all the breweries that carry all the wonderful brands that we sell. My pleasure. 

Shantel: Great. Well, thanks again, Andrew.