Next Generation of Beer Distribution Industry Leaders Gather at NBWA’s Fourth Annual Success in Leadership Conference | NBWA: America's Beer Distributors

Media Contact: ERIN DONAR

EDONAR@NBWA.ORG; (703) 229-3702

Blog| Aug 11, 2016

Nearly 150 “next generation” beer distributors attended NBWA’s Fourth Annual Next Generation Success in Leadership Conference August 7 – 9 in Nashville, Tennessee. The NBWA Next Generation Group brings together future leaders in the beer distribution industry and helps members learn more about the beer business, get more involved with the association and network with other distributors from all areas of the country representing all brands.

2016 NBWA Next Generation Conference Attendees Group Photo

Next Generation Group Chairman Bud Dunn welcomed the group and recognized first-time attendees, noting that this year’s conference grew by more than 25 new participants.

Dunn highlighted the networking opportunities at the conference, including a beer tasting and tour of Tennessee Brew Works and dinner and music at Tequila Cowboy, saying, “Our group’s success has grown out of the personal relationships we have built together, and we need to keep that going.”

Dunn alluded to the many crises the world is confronting today and challenged the group to consider crisis the way it is written in the Chinese language with two characters – danger and opportunity.

“We have many headwinds in our future, and in those headwinds there is danger and opportunity. I believe this group and our generation can work with crisis by minimizing danger and maximizing opportunity,” he said.

NBWA President & CEO Craig Purser talked about the association’s priorities, including leadership for the independent beer distribution industry and advocating before government and the public for the system.

Haydn Shaw, a senior consultant for FranklinCovey and leading researcher on generational differences, was the keynote speaker for the conference. Because the beer business is demanding, and trying to excel in a family-owned business adds its own challenges, Shaw discussed tactics that next generation leaders can employ to excel at work and still have time for life outside of work.

Shaw talked about how to identify where time is spent, how to organize life roles to be “present” no matter what, the secret to decompression and overcoming the barriers to delegating the work that leaders know they should not be doing.

Haydn Shaw

Jeff Quasarano of Eastown Distributors in Highland Park, Michigan, noted that trying to be connected and balance business and family is a challenge with two young children at home. “I have a whole sheet of things I’m taking back to try to implement.”

Quasarano added that, beyond what he learned in seminars, networking with peers is part of the reason he returned to the conference for a second year.

“Everyone here is in a similar boat to you,” he said. “They’re dealing with the same challenges in a different a city or a different state. Just bouncing ideas off of each other … it’s an amazing wealth of information.”

Leadership Skills

Next generation beer distributors were able to choose between several break-out workshops focused on honing their leadership skills. Stephanie Brun de Pontet, a senior consultant of The Family Business Consulting Group, Inc. and expert advisor to family enterprises, led a workshop on the “Five Characteristics of a Dysfunctional Team and How to Resolve Them.” Drawing from Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, she explored the causes and cures for absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment and inattention to results. Brun de Pontet also presented a session, “It’s All Relative: Siblings, Cousins and the Family Business,” which addressed the power of effective governance and fun family interactions. She also offered practical solutions on how to set boundaries, deal with assumptions, get aligned and invest in sibling/cousin relationships.

Steve Lytle, a principal of Clearpath Family Advisors, led a workshop, “Principles of an Effective Family Business Culture,” which focused on family culture, communication and cohesion for multi-generational family business success. Another session, “Building Financial, Social and Human Capital Across the Business System,” focused on how three critical forms of “capital” can collectively impact and define sustainable organizational success.

Tools for Operational Excellence

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

Greg Ellis of PDC tackled warehousing issues facing distributors of all sizes, while Wendy Turk of Fintech led a panel of next generation distributors who discussed how to better meet the payment and data needs of customers.

Katie LaMantia of BevCap Management discussed insurance practices that can improve safety and cut costs.

Katie LaMantia

Heather Burnett of Vermont Information Processing led a panel of next generation distributors who discussed solutions they have implemented to take their warehouses to the next level.

VIP and Next Gen Panel

Mary Jones of Wandering Boots Beverage Distribution in Houston, Texas, was a first-time attendee representing a company that has been in the distribution business for a little less than a year. As a new distributor, Jones said learning about best practices and issues that affect warehouses was especially valuable.

“Seeing some of the challenges around racking and refrigeration and laying out your facility I’m in that position where we’re still early enough on that we can make some informed, and intelligent decisions and hopefully avoid some of that cost down the road,” Jones said.

Best Practices From Association and Distributor Leaders

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 antitrust laws that are relevant to beer distribution businesses.

Purser moderated a panel of NBWA leaders who talked about what the next generation looks like at their businesses.

NBWA CFO Kim McKinnish led a panel discussion with next generation beer distributors about their experiences serving on the Board of Directors for NBWA, as well as their respective state associations.

Next Generation Beer Distributors Panel

First-time attendee Madalyn Martin of Martin Distributing Company in Martinsburg, West Virginia, said she appreciated hearing from other leaders in the industry.  “It makes me a better leader because I’m able to speak with other leaders and see how they lead … education is key, so that’s what I’m here for,” Martin said.

In a “Tales From the States” session, Tennessee Malt Beverage Association Rich Foge joined NBWA staff to talk about the 21st Amendment’s role in granting states the primary authority to regulate alcohol and how distributors have worked to preserve and strengthen effective regulation at the state level.

Next Generation Group member Mike Hopkins, Jr. of Mike Hopkins Distributing Co.  led a session describing lessons he’s learned along the way about establishing contact with elected leaders and the value of building meaningful relationships with them over time. He shared practical tips for preparing for meetings with legislators and candidates, as well as different types of events distributors can host for elected officials.

NBWA Senior Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs Rebecca Spicer led a discussion on how beer distributors can move beyond selling beer to selling their story to the media. She was joined by WKRN-TV News Producer Karen Brown and Michael Cass, speechwriter/communications advisor to Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and former reporter for The Tennessean. Next gen distributors learned what gets a journalist’s attention and what it takes to earn positive coverage on the evening news or in the local newspaper.

NBWA Chief Economist Lester Jones led a session on NBWA’s Compensations and Benefits Study, which allows beer distributors to compare their compensation levels and benefits policies with similar distributors, and the Distributor Productivity Report, which includes quality data that can be used to educate various audiences on the explosive growth in the number of products that independent distributors carry; the number of retail accounts serviced by distributors; and the investments distributors make to store, refrigerate, transport, deliver and promote a wide variety of beer brands.

He explained how beer distributors can utilize these reports to capitalize on industry and economic data to help better understand the dynamics of the beer market and grow their business.

The conference wrapped up in Music City on a high note, with the first-ever performance of the “Next Gen Jam Band.” After a full day of educational sessions, Next Gen leaders got together to play some country, blues and rock.

The Next Generation Group will be hosting its next networking event at NBWA’s 79th Annual Convention in Chicago.

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