Customer Focus Brews Beer Sales and Careers

MillerCoors CEO Leo Kiely

Working for a beer company would be fun, and that impression was confirmed by the guy at the top of MillerCoors who spoke yesterday at the Executives’ Club of Chicago.  I sat at the table next to several employees who confirmed that CEO Leo Kiely makes the beer company a fun place to work. 

Coors merged with Miller three years ago, and last year moved their headquarters from Denver and Milwaukee to Chicago–one of the highest beer consumption cities in the U.S.  Kiely told the story about the merger and promoted the full range of brew offerings ranging from the leaders–Miller Lite and Coors Light–to Blue Moon, Foster’s, Linenkugel and others. 

Kiely described what makes the company successful:  “People make it happen.”  When confronted with a company issue or project, Kiely said, “I simply decide who’s the best talent in my company that I can put on this problem and let them go about solving it.” 

Kiely isn’t a believer in traditional organizational structures.  “It’s a good way to build a pyramid, but not a company.”  Instead, he prefers to operate with a bulls-eye approach where the customer is dead center and the surrounding rings expand out with those closest to customers being nearer the bulls eye.  Kiely’s focus on the customer and those serving them was evident from his casual references to distributors and ad agency executives in the audience.

The customer-centric focus of MillerCoors provides an important insight for anyone in or entering the PR profession:  Demonstrate your knowledge of customers/clients and your ability to influence them and your career is golden–just like a good bottle of beer. 

Some interesting factoids from Kiely’s speech:  Light beers account for 50% of the U.S. beer market; craft and imports represent 15% of sales and are growing faster than other categories.  Wisconsin residents consume five gallons more beer per capita each year than those of us living in Illinois.  The company also has one of the most socially responsible websites I’ve ever visited–you must be 21 to enter. 

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