2017 Next Generation Success in Leadership Conference | NBWA: America's Beer Distributors


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Blog| Aug 15, 2017

It was a record-shattering year at NBWA’s Fifth Annual Next Generation Success in Leadership Conference! More than 200 Next Generation leaders – including 73 first-time attendees – were part of the event held in Boston, Massachusetts, from August 6-8. The NBWA Next Generation Group allows future leaders in the beer distribution industry to meet their peers, learn more about the beer industry and get more involved with NBWA.


Next Generation Group Chairman Bud Dunn kicked off the conference and welcomed all attendees. “If you are interested in diving our industry’s issues, the future of your business and work on your own personal development, then you have come to the right place,” Dunn said to the group. “The energy in this room and the excitement of this group should give all of us promise for the future. It’s been exciting to watch this group grow to more than 400 people in just five short years since it started. This is the best opportunity all year to connect with the future leaders of the beer distribution industry and learn, plan and brainstorm together.”


Dunn also recognized and thanked the five sponsors of the conference: Fintech, Northwestern Mutual, Paragon Beverage Advisors, PDC and VIP.


The Next Generation Group heard from two keynote speakers this year: Curt Cronin, a former Navy SEAL, and Benj Steinman, president of Beer Marketer’s INSIGHTS and Senior Editor of Craft Brew News.

Cronin, who served 16 years as a Navy SEAL, was deployed 13 times and went on to lead the nation’s premier SEAL assault force. Cronin believes in the power of unique and unlikely alliances – in fact, he believes the power of an aligned team is more important than information and technology for giving an organization its competitive edge. Cronin encouraged the next gen leaders to build unbeatable teams: attempting the absurd and achieving the impossible. He walked the group through the three requirements for peak performance and explained how purpose and possibility can change performance.


Steinman’s “Changing Landscape of Beer and Beer Distribution” presentation provided a historical perspective on the beer industry and his take on where its headed. He provided a deep dive on trends and details of every part of the American beer business. Steinman also shared headlines his father wrote forty years ago, proving sometimes the more things change the more they stay the same. Beer Marketer’s INSIGHTS is a family business, now in its third generation, and Steinman and his family have written about beer distributors for 50 years. The third generation, David Steinman, shared his thoughts on craft beer sales trends and future performance.



Next generation leaders chose from several workshops focused on honing their leadership skills. 

Joe and Wes Verno of Verno Consulting, LLC are a father-son team with vast beverage wholesaler business knowledge. During the “Building a Formal Career Development Plan” workshop, reiterated the need for a formal development plan that develops the next gen to be fully competent at running a distributor and capable of being approved as successor or equity manager by major supplier partners. The Vernos covered the details of the plan development process, as well as “kisses of death” and continued development outside of the company.


In the popular workshop “How Wholesalers Make Money and Manage Profit”, the Vernos shared tips on how sales, margin and expenses can individually and collectively impact profit and how to make decisions based on profitability. Attendees were highly engaged and learned profit and loss basics, the breakeven concept, and the importance of managing gross profit margin and cost per stop.

David P. Ransburg, Jr., a senior consultant with The Family Business Consulting Group, presented a workshop on “An Uncommon Thread of Success in Family Business”, defining what is essential to sustained success in any system and applying that to family businesses. Ransburg helped attendees assess the strength of the “thread” at their businesses and then suggested tools to build them. He also led a workshop on “Navigating the Complexity of Human Resources In a Family Business” which explored tools and strategies for managing the performance of family members and non-family members within a family business. Ransburg identified challenges (the 5 P’s) and how to minimize them while reaping rewards: professionalism, preparation, performance, participation and pay.



The conference also offered next generation breakout sessions focused on practical issues they face in their warehouses and business operations.

Howard Mavity, a partner in Fisher & Phillips LLP’s Atlanta office, lead two operational breakouts. In his first session, he ticked off 10 common employment law concerns for distributors, including problems with employee handbooks and policies, pay arrangements and disciplinary issues, as well as managing potential harassment, discrimination and disability claims. Mavity’s second session underscored the importance of OSHA and safety for the beer distributor. He covered fundamental safety practices for every distributor, an update on OSHA’s approach to beer distributor ergonomic issues and how the Obama Administration’s new electronic recordkeeping, drug testing and other rules are being applied by the Trump Administration.


Heather Burnett and Katie Choquette of VIP led a panel of next generation leaders showcasing how technology can help distributors take sales execution to the next level. Attendees learned from their peers how to arm their sales reps with the right tools and data to win at retail.


Greg Ellis of PDC and a panel of next generation leaders discussed how they used innovative processes to address warehouse overtime costs, pic errors and employee retention with a pay for performance system.


Randy Jozwiakowski and Mark Hall of Paragon Beverage Advisors, LLC and Adam Vitale of G&M Distributors highlighted the complicated issues that large, public companies encounter that also impact private distributors. They focused on how independent distributors can confidently and comfortably manage complicated business issues (acquisitions, financing, strategic and succession planning) and manage professional relationships with fellow wholesalers and professional service providers.


Jim Kallies of Fintech partnered with NBWA Chief Economist Lester Jones to lead a discussion on how new and existing beer industry data can present a fresh outlook on trends that are shaping the industry today.


The conference also featured presentations led by NBWA senior staff and association leaders that discussed the importance of being an informed advocate and engaged NBWA member, the value of political participation, and a review of the history of the three-tier system. NBWA CFO Kimberly McKinnish led a panel discussion with NBWA’s elected officers who talked about the value and purpose of the association; their experiences serving on NBWA’s Board; and what the next generation looks like at their businesses. NBWA VP, State Affairs Dave Christman presented a state legislative update, discussing activity and potential law changes in state capitols across the country. Lester Jones shared the economic and demographic events that are influencing the beer markets in many different states. NBWA SVP, Communications and Public Affairs Rebecca Spicer led a discussion on How beer distributors can move beyond selling beer to selling their story. NBWA SVP, Industry Affairs & General Counsel Paul Pisano presented “Alcohol 101” to help next generation leaders better understand the state-based alcohol regulatory system.


The conference kicked off on Sunday evening to the tunes of the Next Generation Jam Band, which was back by popular demand after its debut performance last year. To enjoyment of all in the audience, several next generation leaders and NBWA’s Lester Jones opened the conference on a high note!


On Monday night, New Belgium Brewing hosted an evening extravaganza exclusively for the Next Generation Group where attendees sampled the brewer’s newest sour beers along with other small batch beers, enjoyed delicious food and an array of entertainment, and had a chance to chat with Eric Salazar, New Belgium’s wood cellar manager.


The conference in Beantown was packed with fun, music and valuable information for the next generation of beer distributors.

Be sure to join the group’s next event! Save the date for the Next Generation Group’s networking event on October 8, being held at NBWA’s 80th Annual Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas.

For more information or to join the Next Generation Group, please contact NBWA Manager, Member Programs and Meetings Maggie Moreland