Monday, July 7, 2014

Route Changes Are Rough

I haven't been making videos or doing much of anything creative lately because I've gone through yet another route change. Route changes in the beer business are pretty rough. You get really close to your accounts, seeing them sometimes twice weekly. You know where everything is and what everyone's quirks are. You build a rapport and a mutual trust. Then all that dissolves, and you're learning a whole new set of things, locations, and people. Everything takes twice as long, takes twice as much thought, and causes twice as much stress.

It is exhilarating, though; route changes freshen up the atmosphere and keep you on your toes. But I've heard most people change routes only once every four to five years; I've changed routes three times this year so far and four times in two years. I've had five routes in total.

First it was for the sake of efficiency. A director told me the single most effective tool to making money in the distribution business, especially when one wholesaler buys another, is a massive reroute. That makes perfect sense to me: the biggest expenses in this business are gasoline and manpower, so you make more efficient use of those two assets from the warehouse to the salesmen, and you've got a more profitable business. You can reassign vehicles and people between warehouses, and you can quit burning fuel to go to just one or two locations.

The second reroute was easier. We found out my friend, Dave Lafy, was leaving to work for Three Brothers Brewing. Dave and I team-sold most of Harrisonburg so someone could sell his accounts after he left. Meanwhile, I gave up Lexington and Waynesboro but kept Staunton. Dave sold Waynesboro on his own during that time, but I helped as much as I could. This was a stressful time because we were all uncertain about the way everything would shake out, and we knew we'd be a man down when Dave left. I miss working with Dave. He was with VA Eagle for 11 years(!) but he landed well with a great brewery. It's weird not having him around though. I still call him with questions about this side of the business from time to time.

The last one was best. I took over Harrisonburg. That's it. It's a good route filled with interesting accounts and people. I've been training our new guy, Kris, who's a good salesman thrown into this crazy beer business getting baptized by fire like all of us when we start. Now that he's finding his bearings, I'm able to concentrate on my own route more assiduously and start making it look like mine. My accounts are getting used to me, and I'm getting used to them. There's a trust and respect you have to build in this business to be successful, and that's starting to happen in Harrisonburg for me. You have to make your territory your own. It's an exciting time to be this age in this business in this part of the world.

Anyway, now that the real whirlwind has settled down a bit, I'm starting to work on creative projects again.
Hooray for beer.

No comments: