“He was engaging from the start and captured our vision better than anyone,” says Bush. “Because of his passion, it was easy for our team to develop a relationship with him, which worked for us over time.”
Being a smaller company, the team behind Emperors Cut knew they would have to put in the work if they really wanted to compete within an already established market like that of the cigar industry. For the past three years, the company has engaged in what it calls “ground the pound.” Different members of Emperors Cut’s team will fly into a different U.S. city and work the local market until achieving a certain conversion rate with the city’s retailers. They will then hold meet and greets with customers in that local area to engage with them and thank them in person for supporting the Emperors Cut brand.
“We invest our time following up with potential customers across the country,” says Redmond. “The key to competing with the bigger brands is understanding what your value is with your customers and playing to that strength.”
So far, the team has enjoyed a high level of acceptance for Emperors Cut among retailers across the country. To this day, the team spends a lot of time building business relationships with its current and future retail partners.
“Myself and my partners are engaging potential customers daily so we can expose them to our business concept and the cigar brand,” says Bush. “We take a long-term approach to building relationships with our customers. We work on getting to know the owners and their business model before we attempt to sell cigars.”
When it comes to working with retailers to move product, the team first sets out to understand a retailer’s business model. Once they better understand each retailer’s business, goals are set around sales volume for that retail location. The month-over-month performance is then measured in an effort to identify buying trends. With a combined 60 years of retail, operations, marketing and IT experience, the Emperors Cut team can offer retailers expert consultancy to help move their products within stores.
“We share with our customers trend analysis and cost-saving opportunities to improve margins,” says Bush. “This helps us strengthen our relations with our customers along with having skin in the game.”
Tenets of Business
The mission of Emperors Cut is to “build a cigar that the everyday man can enjoy while letting our customer service set us apart from the rest.” Its mission, Bush explains, hinges on being able to reach its customers no matter where they are. That means listening to them, enjoying a cigar with them and sharing the team’s business acumen with them.
“What inspires us most about staying the course in our business is the passion and energy we garner from others in this industry,” says Bush. “Cigars unite us, and we enjoy the unity with each other, our customers and our communities. Each of these areas inspires us, but the seeds of our inspiration rest in the enjoyment and feedback we get from our customers.”
While Emperors Cut may be a smaller business, it is in it for the long haul. Each partner at Emperors Cut is encouraged to keep up with all of the latest regulations and legal requirements of having a business based in cigars. There has been significant litigation in the past year concerning the implementation of parts of the FDA’s deeming rule. With an attorney who practices government and healthcare law being a partner and team member at Emperors Cut, the brand stands ready to handle regulatory and compliance issues as they arise in an effort to ensure its business remains undisrupted.
“We have robust discussions during our regular partners meetings to make sure that the company stays on track with regulatory and compliance issues,” Bush explains. “Robert [Howard, esq.] researches regulatory and compliance questions that the team has and forwards guidance and updates to the team that have been published by the FDA, trade organizations and trade magazines. He also provides the team with updates about how the outcomes of recent litigation may affect our business.”
The partners and team behind Emperors Cut are also constantly working toward evolving the original vision that inspired the brand and its different cigar lines. They understand that to create a cigar that inspires the smoker’s inner being one draw at a time, they must first go the extra mile in all the tenets that drive their business: quality, service, experience and community. Most important of all is the tenet of innovation. At Emperors Cut, innovation is defined as the spirit that drives the company’s passion each and every day. It’s the idea that seven people, together, can create and define fresh perspectives and ways to develop the business with an open sense of creativity.
This story first appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.
– Story by Antoine Reid, senior editor and digital director for Tobacco Business Magazine. You can follow him on Instagram @editor.reid.