Glen Case’s story goes well beyond Kristoff Cigars and its brands. As a leader of a successful boutique cigar company that continues to see growth, Case has valuable insight into what it takes for any tobacco business to thrive. It should be no surprise that much of his advice is founded on lessons learned while working in the financial industry—from how to handle any profits made to how to scale a business wisely. The foundation for all of his advice and lessons learned during his time spent working with cigars comes down to one simple word: passion.
BUILD YOUR BRAND
When Case first started Kristoff, it was just him—and the brand he created was different from what exists today. In late 2004, Case launched Exclusive Cigars, which is still the legal entity of the company he runs today. The first successful blend, the Kristoff Original Criollo, put the company on the map and led to the decision to rebrand it as Kristoff Cigars. While the company now consists of 14 employees, Case remains front and center as the face of the Kristoff brand.
“Reinvesting back into your business is absolutely critical.”
Case personally makes appearances at events to promote the Kristoff brand, and his face can often be seen in various advertising campaigns promoting the brands. He’s also worked with his team to bring focus to the quality, consistency and availability of the Kristoff product. In another move to control the brand and ensure consistency and availability, Kristoff established its own warehousing and logistics company, Exclusive Cigars Imports. With this company, Kristoff is able to handle his business’s warehousing and logistics needs and also to provide similar services to other cigar manufacturers. All of these moves have helped Case build a strong brand and business model.
“Reinvesting back into your business is absolutely critical,” explains Case. “It is analogous to the stock market: You need to be investing in it to make money, but knowing where to invest, or not to, is critical to your success.”
CALCULATE YOUR GROWTH
In order for a business to grow, Case says you need to have a plan for growth. Larger manufacturers can rely on scalability to spark growth.
“I absolutely embrace the boutique manufacturer philosophy, but that does not mean we won’t continue to grow the Kristoff brand,” Case explains. “I believe we can continue to grow and still hold onto the things that define us as a boutique manufacturer. We will uphold the strongest quality control standards, draw testing every cigar, double and triple fermenting the finest tobacco available, [ensuring] optimal aging of our cigars and more.”
Another part of growth is expanding your team. When choosing a new person to join the Kristoff team, Case looks for experience and expertise. If he’s hiring a new sales representative, Case looks for someone who has sales experience and understands the demands of a sales position—but they do not necessarily need to have experience with the cigar industry.
In order to get more shelf space within retail stores, Case describes the role of the sales representative as that of a problem solver. It’s the job of the sales representative to understand the concern or objection a retailer may have toward bringing in certain products and offer a solution. “If you knock down the barriers and stand behind the product, you can generally overcome most objections,” Case explains.
For example, Kristoff sales representatives are often asked what products are new by retailers and consumers. While the company may not have anything that’s necessarily new, it’s rare for a retailer to carry every blend the company has to offer. This gives the sales representatives something “new” to sell. Kristoff’s Original Maduro is the company’s second blend and is also the company’s top-selling product. For any retailer looking for a Kristoff product to start with, this blend is a product that could help expand the Kristoff footprint within a retail space.
For Kristoff and Glen Case, the goal moving forward is simple—the brand will continue to grow beyond market rates and expand nationally and internationally. Achieving these goals, Case says, will come down to the three key elements of growth: quality, consistency and availability of product. In addition to managing the economics of your business and reinvesting in areas that will give you a great return, Case urges his industry peers to get out and start selling as the face of the company. He offers four tips (see sidebar) that can help anyone find success and viability in today’s competitive marketplace.
– Story by Antoine Reid
This story first appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.