Every successful tobacco business knows that its products and brands are nothing without an effective team to help promote it. Selling any tobacco product–whether it be pipe tobacco, premium tobacco or cutting-edge next generation products–takes a certain finesse and style that only a handful of professionals can effectively pull off.
The question though is what makes a great team? Different companies and brands have different approaches and answers to this complex question. For some, a seasoned industry vet with years of experience is the key ingredient to effectively push that brand into a target market. For others, someone with a fresh new take and approach to marketing and the industry can breathe new life into established products and brands. While there is no right approach to building a solid team, there are some tips you can take to build a team that will take your brand and its products into new territory.
1. Get an Outside Opinion
The old approach to hiring and team building is that industry-specific experience is priceless. Today, many companies are looking outside the industry to bring new perspectives into their teams and effectively pushing its products in unexpected, and often times profitable, new directions. Leonard Wortzel, Vice President, Marketing and Product Development – Scandinavian Tobacco Group – Lane, a fresh perspective can be more appealing than tobacco industry experience. “The first rule is to hire somebody smarter than you,” he explains. “I won’t say that we’ve gravitated away from hiring people with a tobacco background but we certainly expect a good marketer who can bring a fresh look to the categories. “It’s good to have somebody who hasn’t had that initial exposure to tobacco as a market who can come in and look at it as a consumer good and be able to look at it in a different way. Beyond all of the other things you’d generally want in an employee, a lot of it is somebody who can knock our company out of its complacency in the way we’re used to looking at things.”
2. Seek Out Good Listeners
Good ideas often come from collaboration and the sharing of ideas and those ideas can’t be effectively implemented if they aren’t even heard. At Oettinger Davidoff AG, known for its wide range of premium cigar products, its Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Charles Awad, curiosity and the ability to listen outweighs industry experience. “I look for people who are curious and who listen because at the end of the day, I’m not a heavy cigar smoker. It’s better to have a completely objective point of view rather than a subjective one which would be yours.”
3. A Shared Vision
Does everyone on your team have the same vision for your company and its brands? If not, you can’t expect your team to be effective and as a result, your brands will struggle on the market. Warped Cigars’ Kyle Gellis team is comprised of individuals who have the same mentality as him. “This isn’t a “job” for them it’s a way of existence, if they don’t have the same vision as I do for the brand, then it won’t work. If they aren’t obsessed with the quality and consistency of our cigars for our customers then it won’t work. The team we have here at Warped are here because they are the best at what they do and it shows,” he says.
As a bonus tip to any business when it comes to expanding or hiring a new team member, remember that any hire shouldn’t be an expense but should add great value to your team and your brand. “When you hire the right people you really get a return on investment,” explains Sean Knutsen, President and CEO of Boveda, Inc. “We hired people and got rid of people that weren’t as efficient as we needed them to be and slowly we learned over time that when you hire the best and pay them very well, then you can start building that momentum because of the productivity and the quality of their work starts to pay dividends and it no longer becomes an expense when you hire the right people.”
– Story by Antoine Reid, an editor and digital content director for Tobacco Business Magazine. You can follow him on Instagram @editor.reid