Trey: How long have you been with Left Hand?
Jason: It’ll be 10 years in May.
What were you doing before you got to Left Hand?
Since I graduated from college, I have worked in either the alcohol beverage world or the sports world, and kind of fluctuated back and forth between the two. My first job out of college was working in the front office of the Atlanta Braves, and also on that side of business, I’ve done some work for MLB.com and sports talk radio. Back on the beer side of things, I’ve worked for a distributor here in Georgia, worked for a couple of other breweries, and then been with Left Hand now for just shy of 10 years.
Do you know what your annual barrelage was when you joined Left Hand? How much have you grown in those 10 years?
When I started we were at about 18,000 barrels. 82,000 is the highest we’ve gotten to. I’m not sure where we’ll finish this year.
Now you’re the national sales director. Did you start as a rep? How did you move up the ranks?
Yeah, I started as a southeast sales manager here in Atlanta covering six states as one of the first out-of-state sales reps that Left Hand had. Since that time, as we’ve added barrelage and added folks to our team, my role has changed a couple of different times. I moved into what was known as the east regional manager role – we were developing that as I started. I was one of the first regional managers and that encompassed covering the east coast. Then when we created the national sales manager role and national sales director role, I moved into that about four years ago.
When you were a rep what kind of challenges did you guys face managing a dispersed team? And now that you’re the sales director managing people all over the country, how do you keep track of the progress and make sure everyone’s on the same page?
Lilypad is a big part of that. When I first started I didn’t have services like Lilypad or VIP where you could see inventories or depletions. Basically, from a distributor standpoint you were hoping you’d get inventory whenever you either A) asked for it or B) had a daily/weekly email given to you. But with most distributors, those were few and far between. Effectively you’d get a monthly depletion report. So the inability to track progress, see where your accounts existed, or see where you were in relation to the rest of the brand made everything very, very difficult.
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In turn, that made it very, very challenging for internal communication among the rest of the brewery. You were very isolated. We’re a Colorado brewery and I’m covering my six states here in the southeast and, you know, I really only have one or two direct points of contact back at the brewery. Since I didn’t have the ability to travel out there much I was really isolated and on my own. So when I was planning a market visit to Florida, for example, I was working off of old spreadsheets from when my boss Chris had opened that market several years before. I just had some notes that he took and that was really all I had to go on. So you can imagine how – especially in the on-premise world with how quickly everything changes and managers change and distributor reps change – how difficult it was to keep things together in the beginning.
That being said, it was also a really fantastic time to be starting in the craft beer business. Craft was growing and there was an insatiable thirst for all kinds of unique beers – beers from Colorado specifically because Colorado is such a strong region. This enthusiasm for craft beer was kind of an added boost to your efforts.