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You ever wonder how you take a. Great brand and make it global and keep giving it more and. More appeal a great brand like Jack the annuals which is truly iconic well you're gonna love the interview I just had with Paul Barca who is absolutely fantastic as a CEO and one. Of the best marketers I know he's just doing a. Great job taking that great family of brands they have at brown-forman and taking them around the world and growing them and take him to new heights he's got great insights on leadership great insights on people and I know you're gonna enjoy hearing his story hello everybody I'm Ashley Butler and you're listening to the olga lead podcast our mission. Is to make the world a better place by developing better leaders your hosts today is my dad David Novak founder of Ogle lead and. Former chairman and CEO of Yum Brands if you don't know what Yum Brands is that's KFC Taco Bell and Pizza. Hut three brands I'm sure you've heard of so dad who are we gonna learn from. Today well thanks a lot Ashley today's guest is Paul Varga the chairman and CEO of brown-forman now many of you may not have heard ground Forman but I know you've heard of some Jack Daniels and other spirits that they happen to make the thing I learned from Paul. It's how important it is to be an avid learner. And I know you're gonna learn a lot by listening to him so let's get going well I have to tell you it's a real honor to. Have the opportunity to be with not only a great leader but a great person that I admire and in every respect just a terrific individual it's just such. An honor to be able to have Paul Varga the chairman and CEO of brown-forman with us today so thank you very much Paul for being on thank you. David thanks for having me you know Paul I always like to start out at the beginning can you tell us a little bit about your upbringing well sure very interesting to what I do today I grew up in Louisville Kentucky which is where the headquarters of brown-forman is and I grew up the son of a. Physician in a large Catholic family which was pretty common in Louisville Kentucky big Catholic community here and so three brothers two sisters and all close in age so it created the environment as you can imagine of competitiveness and we are all driven and grew up through. That Catholic parochial school system which was I kind of I considered a high achieving system and stok some of that competitiveness as well it was a story about you know how that really influenced you as oh yeah yeah I mean for sure the family you grow up in the activities you pursue it was for my there was a. Real fun story of we were all athletic kids and my mom and dad having six of us at some point I'm sure they said enough of this trying to get six kids to all these different activities so my dad and. Some of his doctor buddies invested in the Louisville Tennis Club and then what they went and did was bought a bunch of tennis racquets and said you all play this and so as a result of that frankly we all concentrated in tennis. And became pretty accomplished tennis family over the years and you know knocking around with each other competing and you know raising the standard of performance and there's no doubt that the size of my family the proximity. The way we were raised the sport we played definitely imparted a lot of who I became now I know you went on to the University of Kentucky. And you played tennis I did yeah you know what's the big life lesson you learned from playing tennis itself. I didn't know it at the time and as I've thought back about it particularly as it relates to success in business I mean there are so many lessons from athletics generally but also in this case it was what I'll call individual sports tennis being much more an individual sport than a team sport when you grow up playing it and. So there's this sense of accountability that comes for the. Mistakes you make I mean you couldn't turn to somebody and say hey hey you should have passed me the ball or something like that I mean it was your accounting if somebody beat the tar out of you it was. On you and so I always felt like that gave people who came from that particular sort of sense accountability I'll tell you the other thing that I didn't. Realize until much later because of the nature I think this is true of all athletics but it was particularly. True of the tennis experience I had you're making during the course of a match so many individual decisions. And then by the time you get through 10 15 years of competition and you walk into a corporate environment and people are taking a lot to make decisions the first thing I had to learn. Was patience I mean I was here you know I was geared to be competitive you made a hundred. Decisions a minute you know where to hit the ball where to run all these kinds of things and you get in and you just look around and see people talk and they said well we'll. Get to that tomorrow and it just felt like it was so slow and so and I had you. Know if like a lot of kids who would have been grown. Up and being very competitive I had a hot temper I had all those things and so all of the positive things that gave me you know under particularly under stress in an environment it can cause negative things and so you have to kind of tame it and so there's I'm sure you know this I mean you have. To be very competitive but also tame that competitive spirit of time and then throttle down your enthusiasm for. You know in terms of the pacing and there were all kinds of things that I learned through that experience well I know you're a homo guy but tell us about your biggest victory at tennis the biggest victory was beating up on my brothers no we. Were we were a very competitive family no I think one of the. Things I'm proudest of was that I had an older brother who was two years older than her brother it was two years younger and over a six-year span we all went through the University of Kentucky tennis program when it was the last in the SEC all of us became the captain of the tennis team all of us had. Very distinguished and accomplished you know records there for a long time almost 30 years I held the record for the most career victories at the University of Kentucky and tennis was something I was really proud of the greatest thing that happened though in. The ensuing say 25 30 years the program elevated itself to being a top 10 top 15 in the country tennis team and so I feel like we played a really important role in building the foundation of success at that at that school for tennis and today we still have great relationships back with. The with the school and the tennis program that's fantastic you tell us a story that you like to tell the most that really would tell us the most about. What kind of person you are what kind of person I am well I'll tell you I think here later in life I really do think I've. Been a different person at different stages of my life gym a lot of it just being maturation but I'm probably the most important thing is I really was raised by my parents to be a caring and respectful person I mean is. Everything from man's story about your parents how they taught you that absolutely I mean you know I've already referenced growing up in an environment of tennis there were when we would misbehave on the tennis court and I know there were several. Times particularly during my. High school tennis career where I might take advantage of the fact that I was angry and throw a racket or break a racquet and there were consequences for it and again this is the thing that teaches you accountability you would be pulled from everything from the regional tennis tournament to other things so. I mean again having an influence in your life like parents who gave you rules and regulations and accountability was really really important and so I know you know taming that temper and taking some of that competitive spirit early in my life was really an important piece you've done a great job of it. I would never see you as a hothead that's hard for me to imagine you know some of my family you should know I know you went on to get your MBA at Purdue after graduating from Kentucky and you actually started out as an intern at brown-forman tell us how that. Happened yeah in the mid 80s I was up and looked at the career board one day near the end of my first year it was a two-year program. Getting my masters and there was a you know sort of a prospect for being an intern down here at brown-forman I came down it was a really funny story my dad who was a prominent physician in town everybody was always coming up to my brothers and. Sisters and saying how much they appreciated my dad because he would they typically were a patient and I came down here and I had had a much older great-uncle who had worked here for years who had passed away and I wasn't very close. To him so everybody was talking to me and I'd been away at school for a year and saying how much they appreciated my dad and how much how sad they were that he passed away and of course. I was like mom didn't tell me they were actually talking about another man named Varga and so but I will. Tell you it was very interesting it opened up the door the fact that a great uncle had worked here generations before and had that name recognition opened up the door to an internship for me and. So I came down here and worked that summer. And then took the job but when I finished up my second year a year later you go from a summer intern yeah and to becoming CEO of the largest distilling company in the world at 39 yeah how did that happen how were. You able to move up the corporate. Ladder so fast I'll tell you what happened I I was willing to go do the early work to learn I felt because there were I had offers coming out of business school that we're probably in a short-term basis look preferable training development programs that very nice companies and I liked the. Idea of being able to go up what I thought I could go up fast here I mean I was that was an ambition but I knew I would need to go learn the business so I. Traveled around and went live in Chicago in LA and then moved to Nashville and the move to Nashville was a move from the sales function into the marketing so I was learning another function my undergraduate. Study and masters had also included finance so I was. Very curious about how the money got made how the money got spent so I felt I. Was doing getting a really well-rounded experience early on and then that that opportunity in Tennessee was to work on Jack Daniels which is our most you know important brand and is I mean such an incredible learning experience to go play any kind of stewardship role in that and because of that it. Gave me exposure to the chairman and CEO and president of the company who frequently came and spent time with Jack Daniels because of its importance so that almost happened Stan's created the opportunity for me to present to them be around them and a few years later they asked me to actually come. Do something pretty unconventional which was to be their chief of staff and the chief of staff at brown-forman back in those days was sort of a ringside seat to how the company got run and you did a lot of staff work but you wrote position papers you did a. Lot of communicating and for the most part I didn't know it at the time you got it. You got an opportunity to. See if you were gonna like the kind of job I ended up getting and I know for a lot of people to see that kind of breadth and intensity of pressure etc it's not for everybody and so I didn't know at that time that I would even have an. Opportunity to take on that kind of role but that was a very important career move for me and then I later went back into the organization to sort of help owls Lee Brown and Bill Street who were the leaders at. The time to really globalize the company something you know very well and what followed that were several years of really setting up the infrastructure for Brown. Foreman's globalization on a brand front on a distribution front learning. The ropes seeing how to staff knowing how to sell all of those kinds of things and then several years later after taking on the role of the chief marketing officer it did surprise me at the young age that I was that they tapped me on the shoulder and said. We at the time Bill Street was turning 65 and so he was the head of our beverage operations they asked me to run that while owlsley remains CEO of. The company so you've been CEO for now. 16 years I ought to be going in yeah this fall it will be and in terms of the CEO responsibilities for this particular company we have today he'll be going into its 16th year yeah that's fantastic that's a great right now I know that you're well-known and famous marketing person alive you're really known for being. A great marketer and I saw your eyes light up when you even mention Jack Daniels exactly right and it's not 6 o'clock so tell me how do you build iconic brand like like Jack Daniels I mean I know you can't do that in one minute but I mean what's what was the big key to. That brand taken off I'll tell you what it was so it had already of course by the time. I had any opportunity to work on it it was already so prominent in popular culture and had been so well marketed by the people who. Had been the stewards of it prior to my arrival for sure so part I was I was a student at first and then the other aspect with this popular culture piece was Jack Daniels had taken hold of the hearts and minds of consumers particularly in America. And as Americana was piped around the world whether it was through movies music and concerts our books our authors etc oftentimes an expression of masculine independ or America was expressed through Jack Daniels so in many. Instances I remember the early days of going out of the emerging markets and we had no distribution but everybody knew what Jack Daniels. Was and so for us a lot of it was how. Do we get this thing available you know in a way that you know in a scalable. Way so that we can then also educate them more about the brand so a lot of I mean I wouldn't say it was low-hanging fruit but I would say a lot of our job in those days was to make something that we knew was already attractive and desired around the world. And people who were aware of it was a hell of a head start then to go in and then supplement it with the real story about its roots. And origins and so we there's a whole bunch of us that went out and undertook that work yeah you traveled all around the world what was the funniest marketing story you could give us about Jack Daniels the Duke you experienced oh well I'll never forget being this and this was I was in London and. We were over there and I have a tennis background we're over there for Wimbledon we're actually staying at the house that Steffi. Graf was staying in at the time she won the Wimbledon Championships there was a buddy of mine from college who was working as one of the agents for her so he said. Come on over so we went over and we we went out that night you know after we got in and. Watched some of the tennis and so we were out and there was this huge line outside. This bar and this is and this is the reminder to me of what a rockstar the Jack Daniels brand was and I had a Jack Daniels business card and it looked like about an hour and a half wait now I walked up to a huge bouncer standing there and I walked up. And I handed the guy the business card and I said hey any chance we'd be able to get in here and something shorter than about an hour two and he went and grabbed the owner the owner came out and he said I hear you are Jack Daniels no I wish. That was but I've climbed close enough and that I work for the company and you wouldn't have believed I mean it just the door it opened and so that was. The reality to me of the brand's Fame and so one of the important lessons about that is that if you author something that's iconic like that and I know you've had experience with this as well you guided you don't try necessarily to overhaul or champion your part passenger because in. This in the instance of Jack Daniels the Zoomer and. Their adoption and love of the brand is very much a part of who it is and so there's a there's an art to stewarding that kind of brand which is very different than say something we might launch today that nobody's ever heard of yeah you know. Bourbon ism is has really really taken off how does that happen what drives a trend like that isn't a May I really did it was maybe the great surprise of my career that this thing turned around I'll give you a statistic. About the United States that's just amazing in 1970 in this country there were 80 million cases of bourbon and what I call North American whiskey or bourbon consumed in this country by the time we got to the year 2000 that. Case number was down to 32 million it had lost 48 million cases it started to turn around and come our way in the year 2000 and this is a 2016 number by the end of 2016 it was back up to 48 million and of course you. Know the population growth of this country the per capita is still well below where it was so we still even to get to the 1970 high of where the bourbon consumption was we still have another 32 million cases to go and it's grown at about an average of a. Million cases a year which gives us another almost two generations of growth just to get back to the high point what happened I think David was that over years and years and years and we've seen this across so many categories of where categories nationalised and like the beer business nationalized we saw very national Chardonnay brands. In our category vodka took off. Of in vodka became the phenomenon and what happens I just think it's one of those things in consumer taste is everybody swung to things that were white or sweet or easy to drink and then as they tired and particularly with Millennials in a new generation they wanted to drink things. That were more substantive more flavorful had greater stories. Behind them in the instance of bourbon I really do as you've traveled around Kentucky you know this that the hospitality behind bourbon is essential to its success I mean how many companies or businesses or industries open up their doors the way the Bourbon category. Does I just feel even in our category very few people tour vodka distilleries or factories but everybody wants to go to their favorite bourbon distillery and I mean think about the packaged goods businesses you and I know so well I mean very few people long to go visit macaroni. And cheese factories there's something about the people who make and tell the stories that go back so long about bourbon that is intriguing it's. Fun to see how people are not doing the wine tastings now they're doing. The Bourbon tasted you know I'll tell you what my son-in-law he loves des they really likes your Woodford desing like that I'm glad to hear that you know you know the whole trend towards. Bourbon is a great example of how. Something happens you know can can. A marketer make a trend or does it just. Happen through osmosis what advice would you give to people who are trying to get their their brands in the vernacular I do think that marketers and companies and brands can spark renovations in a category absolutely do they need cooperation and some help from society of course but and it's never been easier then the you know. With the emergence of social media David I mean what's happened with the the entrepreneur who can get to their audiences today so much more efficiently and targeted then say you and I would have been able to years ago where you had to structure the right media plan to get to the eyeballs I mean with social media. And modern media today the ability to spark something almost on a neighborhood basis is amazing and so I definitely think that marketers I would and it and it. Might take persistence to I mean even if three or four efforts or campaigns or ideas aren't working sometimes it takes a while and the magic comes we just had I mean we became the sponsor after young brands of course of the Kentucky Derby and we've been associated with as the. Official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby for years it. Didn't occur to us until we took on the presenting sponsorship of the Derby this year which we were all excited about that we could express what. That partnership was through the phrase the most exciting two ounces and sports I mean we've we've had this affiliation going back 25 years we could but it in through trial and error and if that particular phrase connects better it just does it marries our category to the Derby and I think for marketers persistence is critical and. Never be afraid to bring new ideas in in order to accomplish what you're suggesting you know you just mentioned up never be afraid you know which kind of brings me to you know a failure is it has. There ever been a failure or an apparent failure that really ended up setting you up for success what's your favorite failure story oh I think try the two greatest are those inevitable those inevitable people choices I would say if I look back on my career and think through I found in the practice of patience I'm a. Believer in people and I. I think this came from upbringing and so I probably demonstrated more patience and tolerance with people at times when I probably needed to make a tougher decision and move on you know and and I think. That that that actually was a lesson I learned is through maturation and you only get it through experience and those are as you know the toughest judgment calls and businesses because people are everything and so I had several where I said I wish I'd have done this earlier done that. More so certainly in that whole area of people selection and trying to get the right people you know set up. For success on the right projects the other thing are those are all those simple judgment calls that we. Make those business judgments I dunno I mean this was back in the day we actually. When we acquired our very very wonderful tequila business today called arataura tequila early in that process we were very. Anxious to get it where portfolio had a gap we felt this was the right one we went in and had an agreement to do. It and I knew I knew going in that we'd have to pay up we did pay up and then we found out afterwards that as can happen that not every aspect of the. Business you know was exactly as we thought it might be and actually in that case that I. Call I considered that on my part part of my diligence and part of my accountability and so what. I learned from that was I got to stand up for it and we actually and it's very rare to do we went and actually pursued and actually achieved in that case something in the range of about a 12 percent purchase price adjustment but there was a moment where. I said I'm accountable for this this is this is this will. Be on me and I think that comes with anybody who takes on the role of a CEO I really do I feel like I defined the role of a CEO in part now years later as the there's the feeling that comes from what I call. The neverending immense responsibility that associate I mean it's just never-ending and you feel accountable if somebody has a bad day in Indonesia right I mean it's kind of back on you. And so once you've in embodied that you just want to do what you can to help the system succeed and I mean I know you know that better than anybody you know great leaders Paul are great coaches and. You know can you tell us your best story about how you help someone achieve their potential yeah I mean I think more often than not it has come from trying. To for the purposes of people personal. Development to try to convince people to take. Jobs outside their comfort zone I mean I to me I think the greatest development comes from challenging yourself in areas that you're less familiar with and great growth comes from and I have several senior executives today the versatility that existed brown-forman today across. Our senior ranks because my chief financial officer once asked to leave the finance field and go head up our manufacturing and production operations and that conversation is not an easy one for a career financial person similarly the person at the time who was heading up our production we asked to go head up the regional operations. Encompassing North America David as you know when. You go to people and they they're professional and they've had very clear career tracks and you challenge them to go lead different people and experience new things I really do feel and so the coaching that's required first. To get them excited about it but then also to help them navigate the uncertainty has all I think is one of the joys of my career is to so to watch. And observe and then on the other end of. It to see them succeed is one of the great things you know just seeing your passion as you talk about brown-forman and people you never change. Jobs at Brown form and did you ever have a moment where time in your career where you thought maybe you it was time for you to leave Brown for me not really from such an early age in this company I was. Always encouraged I mean all of us you know deal with periodic barriers or obstacles where somebody got a job or you didn't get along with somebody across the hall or whatever but again I was trying to practice patience. And tolerance I mean I fell actually I'm an affiliate ER by nature as a personality type and I kind of fell in love with his company and I knew I could do great things I didn't I really didn't know in those first 15 years that I would become the CEO I. Didn't and I don't. Recall thinking if I'm not I'll. Leave I didn't so I wasn't that ambitious. I do think one of the reasons I got the job is because I was. Ambitious probably a little bit more for the company that I was myself and I think the Ozzie Brown particularly observed that and noticed the curiosity I had about moving the company forward I was a haven't grown up particularly in sports and seeing the benefits of bringing people together as a team which we. Ultimately experienced in college I. Mean I had that attribute and bias to want to see people do great things together ultimately today I described in our Charter as an executive leadership team I describe what we do as shared leadership and respectful leadership and I actually think one of the great training. Things a CEO can do is to share their job with their team and the more that people can see the difficulty of the decisions or how the dots get connected or how one has. To communicate in different ways at different times the greater it is for their you know their exposure to that work and development and of course it creates in them curiosity as well so I do feel like the company had been so good to me along the way. There really was never a strong temptation to exit before we get back to our show I want. To tell you about our leadership assessment at okole we believe the secret to effective leadership today is to be both heart wired and hard-wired heart wiring is about building passionate commitment in the. People you leave it's being a leader that listens and cares about the people you work with and recognizes that everyone on your. Team has value hard wiring is about removing barriers to success and putting process and discipline around the. Things that matter find out how hardwired and hardwired you are by taking our free leadership assessment go to ogle e-comm slash learn to find out more now back to the podcast. So you've established that you're ambitious you've established that you're you're competitive and you you really now are talking about the need to be collaborative and working together. It's very difficult to marry those two things for a lot of people right you know how have you been able to do that it's is that something you've always been able to do or if you had to evolve from being competitive ambitious and then devarti definitely evolved I mean you predict if you grew up in an individual sport. I mean I can think of no more training to being selfish then growing up playing competitive tennis I mean. Because it's you against your opponent and so the. Thing that kept me from being some lunatic later on was the upbringing I had. I grew up in a family I mean we all talk about it today when we converse about the importance of education. And the families behind the kids but frankly Dave I mean I would have none of the capabilities that got today and the grounding and the values without what my mom and dad had instilled. In me and then what I experienced. I'm still very close to all my siblings and so I just to me that grounding and I'm trying to impart it in my own family today we're critical and vital I mean. Having perspective just I'll give you the example right around this would have been around 2003 at around the same time I was had let's see we would have had three kids in four years. So I was and they were infants took on the CEO job and just after that just before that. My sister had been in a horrific car accident and gone through I mean you know coma and. Then significant disabilities and that's it in these meetings and have changed diapers in the morning come down to work and and been preoccupied with my sister and her plight and I'd hear people you know sort of groping and moaning about some of the stuff down here. And it just would hit me and. I'd say this stuff's easy this stuff is so easy let's bring some perspective to people that had to solve this problem how to diagnose it how to converse about it and a lot of that comes from being observant about. What happens I think a lot of the life lessons we have outside of our company walls are as or more it's your leadership development than what you experienced inside the walls I. Really did that's so true so true shifting gears for a second all great companies have a noble cause what's the higher purpose for brown-forman we have we expressed it in two. Ways for us what brings meaning is what we call enriching the experience of life we that goes on to say bad building. Strong consumer brands essentially in responsible ways that will endure for generations and we actually ultimately I love to. Write and so a lot of coming up a marketer and join it I mean we found ways to brand what that meant and we took our initials of BF and created the phrase building forever now that that had a double meaning that meaning was to the obviously the process of continuous growth and building building forever and that. Applied not only just to the business but it was very important. To express that too that people could come to brown-forman and build themselves I mean I mean it would be a great place to you know fulfill your own ambitions for career growth and I thought what's so important about that is that you had to have synchrony between if the company wanted to say grow 10% so too did the employees. In order to drive it I mean you couldn't have the employees growing it to and the company at 10 everybody had to keep growing it was a continuous improvement thing the other thing at a family controlled company which this is that was. Really important about the building forever was that was. Ultimately an expression of the company's desire to be independent and endure for a long time you know many companies you know you might turn around and say well they're they're trying to drive to a certain goal then maybe they're gonna sell or they're gonna exit this I mean by that when I took. Over the company it was a hundred and 32 or 33 years old I mean no hey look it had already been very successful for I got in there so one of the things I wanted to do is to make sure that the family and the out the the audiences outside brown-forman as well as for the benefit of people inside. Knew that we were here to stay and one of the way to stay and endure was to grow and to be successful. And to continuously improve and. Thankfully for us that's occurred you know. I've learned that best CEOs are great storytellers they're great communicators they can articulate where you want to go what advice could you give others in terms of. How to hone those skills like you just talked about how you like to write write it down I mean for me it was writing it down I think because people are different they have different communication styles I'll tell you what I wrote down this was an interesting one for me I after years of doing and I kept thinking. About when was I at my best as a. Leader and I in it goes to the basics of what we do as human beings but I first thought we had to I had to think. Very clearly I had to communicate clearly I had to act very clearly and then I had a feel like I had to feel I had to. Show emotion and the way I ended up remembering that to myself on almost any big. Decision or big occasion was I would ask myself in advance and after did I think for myself did I say what I thought did I do what I said and did I feel what I do and I answered yes to those questions if I just could answer somewhat yes. I felt like I would have had a great influence and impact on people when I made mistakes I usually shortcut one of them I might have awed it beautifully I might have said it but gosh see what I forgot to follow up on it in the way that I should have or maybe I didn't show enough emotion and. It's really interesting as we have replicated that with some of my colleagues here that they feel that they and they I've heard them play it back to me you know what that helps me to know the completeness that's required of leadership you can in and the most important. Thing is it has to feel natural to you do you get to be who you are and so the way I'd I've always tried to teach it to my colleagues is to continuously go back and ask some of those questions and there's an interest it's an easily remember a sequence obviously but it then it. Encompasses the the impact that you can have as a leader you. Know what you mentioned most importantly being natural being who you are talk about just the criticality of being authentic and why. That's such a big driver of success well first and foremost I think you is an individual a little selfishly it takes less time and energy to be yourself I mean if you can be yourself it's so much more efficient and if you can encourage other. People to communicate with each other being themselves and I think that's the one of the whole messages behind the diversity inclusion work that companies do is allowing people to be themselves but finding common ground. And being tolerant of each other being respectful of each other but I know I absolutely think that it's just more enjoyable to to not have to let me just think about it. There's times where we go do things where we feel like we might have to you know fake it I mean. It just doesn't feel as good right so I mean there's something so much more natural when you fit with a an environment or a place and and as we all know. I mean I this was one of the early awakenings when you take on the role of a CEO somebody comes and tells you you realize your personality is gonna be the greatest influence on the culture of this place and you go wow I don't know if they're ready. For this yeah and but it again it becomes the weight of immense. Responsibility so how difficult it would be to have to fake it through that and think of the you know impact you are having on people so for me it's just there's an efficiency to. It there's an enjoyment to it and I think people have. A pretty good BS meter they know if you really care about something they know if you know your stuff and so to my eye I'm willing to follow people if I know that they're authentic and they're both thinking and messaging you know you're a great brand builder if you how would you describe the Paul Varga brand Paul Varga brand. I do think has some authenticity I think it has some competitiveness that I've tried to channel toward the company and arm and Mac competition I really do think David the word that I was raised to be this way and I think. It has I happened to find a company where this was appreciated which is I really try to be respectful of other people I mean I I've never tried to impose my will on them even if I'm competitive with my point of view in the end I try to do it. In a way that is in my view just respectful of people and I just feel like it's such a more enjoyable way to go through life if you can try to treat people the way you want to be treated and I think people pick up. On that and it's effective over time well how do you determine the areas that you need to work on to become an even better leader about watching others I mean I'm so I I'm a I'm a driven person I mean even if that after I'm long gone from brown-forman someday I'll probably still be working on me I deserve another's. And seeing how much better they do some things than me and then I am a written word learner I like to write myself actually write poetry I love to write stuff down but I also like to read. And I'm so curious about as you get as I've gotten older I've got so curious about psychology and other things like why would people think this way versus that way and so and I. Think even an unknowing ways I think it makes me more an agile leader it makes. Me a little bit more adaptive leader and so I'm constantly sort of. Looking around saying boy that person does that really really well or I mean the one that I would have observed a view that is just increase your penchant and your passion for recognition something like that does not come as naturally to me so if I see it so when I hear about a read about or. Watch something you're doing that's something that somebody can pick up I can go over to another area and watch people who are tolerant and patient where I'm ready to engage in debate and I can say I'd like to practice some of that patience that they've got so I'm an observational learner and I. Like to read you know we were talking a little bit earlier about marketing yeah you know you've you came up it's a traditional marketer and then social media comes in and yeah if the game has changed how did you get your game up to speed as the world has changed. So much in. Terms of how you communicate because you're in a brand building business you got to be all over the consumer huh how did you of all hire people who can teach you I mean I think if you're at the top of the company I mean I'm not gonna go do all the work but I still have. To keep my instincts sharp and so being around people who can describe to. You and they don't always have to work. Or they can be agencies they can be other people but the basics of coming up with something compelling no matter how it's delivered have remained the same that's timeless that you know to express something that can compel somebody to want to consume your product share it. With others be an ambassador for it whatever it happens to be those haven't changed the mechanisms for doing it have changed considerably the frequency with which. You can do it has changed and that area. Was more foreign so hire great people who know how to do it and then what they might not know as much are some of these standards that do cross. Time and then those of us who've been around long enough can maybe impart a little wisdom around those and it becomes a great marriage china sounds. Like a little bit of reverse mentoring it's reverse meant so you sought out the young people who really knew how to do this and they taught you and you taught them things about the biz it isn't it's you know the hardest part if you grow up through. A company which. We both at times have done is you can get out of touch because of the responsibilities of the you know most senior office right I mean you got administrative things financial things but if in the end selling things to consumers and then paying. More for it and it cost you to make it. It's the end if that's what you're trying to do you've got to find ways to stay in touch and so I. Give you the example of the last five years I even reorganized brown-forman a little bit. At the top some four developmental reasons but one was to have the head was very unconventional the head the head of Jack Daniel's report directly. To me so that I could stay so close to that particular brand for which not only I love and enjoy and can impart knowledge and wisdom but also so I could learn from them and so I mean sometimes you and. That's that was unlit that those are unconventional decisions sometimes but I thought was very appropriate in. The case of brown-forman yeah you know I all you've talked about your family you're upgrading and I know you're very committed devoted family man have you been able to balance the. 24/7 demands of being a CEO and you know having three kids and their teenage years all the activities they have and your wife is wonderful how can you do it all it's prioritization I mean it's just in what you learned from I was taught the skills of prioritization. But simultaneously I mean I mean it sounds funny today to think that this was was helpful but when I first started in college I was studying pre-med. Really was wanted to be active in fraternity and was playing collegiate tennis and I would look around everybody else we had a little more time. On their hands than I did and but I have learned to juggle it and ultimately changed my major for for personal choice but I. Found interesting and so throughout my life I. Have kept very busy schedules trying to do as much as I could today it might be civic service it could be a you know. It could be working on the board of st. Xavier. High school these kinds of things but I found it important to do try to do as much as I can to have the best impact I can but you. Have to prioritize and and I also think a really helpful thing in the management style that I have is. This idea of shared leadership if you have a lot of people and you're not just a heroic CEO who does everything you can delegate you can have other people lead and so for me having many many people who are well-trained if I'm off doing something else whether it's in my personal life or traveling. For work or I've got outside board service we've got people here who are well trained to carry on the work of the company you know curiously and I didn't know this until this this discussion we had you. You were a pre-med major your your father was a doctor yeah how hard was that for you to go to your dad and say hey dad I'm gonna I'm gonna go down another. Path it was really hard it was really because I had two older brothers who were already and either in the court either becoming doctors are studying it to be as well but it was it. Was a I realized I didn't have a passion for it at the time I thought I might have a chance to go play beyond college tennis. And so I wanted to. Give that a run and I didn't think I could do both although I'll tell you the irony of it is for all those years that I thought that's what I was going to do when I first joined brown-forman this great you know distilled. Spirit and bourbon company one of the first bits of marketing I saw in a wall was a great poster for our old Forester brand which was the founding brand and the company at. The very very bottom of it it said for medicinal purposes only and I remember thinking by god I'm gonna practice medicine anyway you know you were talking about corporate responsibility how do you how do you really communicate the need to drink responsibly oh well I mean I it has been the DNA of the Brown family I get. To remember one of the ways this the way this has come when he went public was coming out of prohibition in. 1933 they needed capital to restart the company basically they went public but as part of that there was still very much of the temperance movement in the regulations and laws of the country you know almost a hundred years later now one of the brown family members took on the responsibility of starting the Industry Association. That would commit to marketing codes and responsible drinking and so that has traveled with over the generations in brown Foreman's cultural DNA. So it was so easy when you know when we got into leadership positions and you're always reflective a little bit of what's going on in society but it is vital to our business to do it responsibly as all in an alcohol responsibility is a critical the most critical component of our corporate responsibility and the other thing I'd. Say is anybody who has ever over consumed beverage alcohol they don't feel so good and the last thing any marketers sell it or once a consumer to feel from the use of their product is not feeling good so for the benefit of lifelong consumption and lifelong friendship with our brands we need and want people to enjoy. Our products responsibly so image in some ways a benefit to us you know. You mentioned that you loved to read yeah what book have you given out most as a gift. To others and why probably be a couple of them the one there's a book on the psychology of leadership and I call it. That but that's not what it's phrase it's. Called reclaiming the fires by dr. Stephen Berglas read it years ago and. It is it you know I felt this important I give it to leaders who are oftentimes new to positions of power and it fundamentally gets into. The psychology and the traps that leaders can fall into and inherently fall into depression where they call encore anxiety that need to constantly please all the. Things that CEOs may not be able to describe but almost all experience. When it gets into the loneliness it gets into all kinds of things that all leaders in and accomplished people from all walks of life experience a lot of people in from the sports world and fundamentally talks about what precipitated the. Falls of some of these people and I always liked it I mean I'm I like to practice humility but I also never wanted to take. For granted the responsibility and privilege you have to lead and. The trappings of power that come from it so on some level I wanted that and I always I do share that particular book it's not for everybody because it has some deep psychology some people have responded and told me it's the best book they've ever. Read I'm gonna read it's a good 25 or 30 years old it's if it caught. My attention as a great reminder for CEOs who wanted to stay humble and that sounds like a great gift to. Give your people and I want to thank you Paul for the gift you've given all of us by taking the time to share some of your your learnings on leadership and your life lesson you are one heck of a leader and I hate to end this podcast because I could. Keep talking to you for hours you can so thank you very much I appreciate it very much my pleasure Paul Varga is an avid learner the single biggest thing that separates. A good leader from a great leader how about you how do you stretch yourself to make sure you are continually increasing your knowledge so that you can be a great leader. I know it can be difficult to get outside of your comfort. Zone and to try and learn new things but that's what great leaders do and that's what Paul was able to do throughout his career if you would like to find out more about being an avid learner check out our. Blog and learning guide called. The secret ingredient to becoming a great leader it's in the resource section at oh go lead calm if you enjoyed this podcast you can subscribe at OBO lead calm or any of your. Favorite podcast platforms like iTunes. Stitcher or Spotify you can follow us. On twitter using the handle at David Novak oh go that's David Novak og oh. Just like it sounds thanks for listening to the O go lead leadership podcast.

 


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