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How To Effectively Do Business With Family
Sean: Hey guys. Welcome back to the show for today I have Mr. Charlie Bailes. He is the VP of human resources and internal distribution for ABC fine wine and spirits. Now, if you’re wondering what that is – it’s alcohol and not the one for your hands. This guy oversees 126 stores and over 1,600 employees. Now that’s scares me because during this time of the pandemic, having that much employee is going to be a challenge and I’m so excited to learn from him today. I’m sure you would learn a lot as well. Charlie, thank you so much for being here on the show.
Charlie: Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Sean: So Charlie I’m wandering 1,600 employees. We’ll start with that. I mean, I have 50 people working with me in SEO-Hacker.
And as the CEO and founder, I already got wrapped to the bone when the pandemic hit. And I heard that there’s going to be lockdowns. The economy is going to take a hit. I mean, 2019 was one of the best years for – not just for the Philippines, I assume for the rest of the world as well. And we were doing quite well in terms of sales.
But, when 2020 here and the pandemic was inevitable, it’s inevitably going to come here in the Philippines. I just knew like, because we are, we don’t have the best governance here. I had to brace myself for that and make a lot of pivots and changes. And it was a leadership crisis for a lot of companies.
I’m wondering, I want to learn from you. What did you do? How did you communicate to those people what was going to happen?
Charlie: I don’t think anybody quite knew what was exactly going to happen, but we just, we tried to meet the demand of the customer and also we needed to protect our team members in every way that we could.
So we were immediately thinking of, how do we protect the team? What do we do? Cause , we’re in the retail environment. In retail, especially the retailers of essential products are expected to stay open. And I know that sounds funny. The adult beverage is an essential product. That’s probably a whole another podcast that we could get into talking about so I am happy – and I am happy to do if you want. Cause it is a fascinating topic, but so we, we stayed open the whole time, but we did, we did cut her hours. We opened up later. We closed earlier in the evening to give time to clean and sanitize. And also just to let our team members go home, who were working very hard because our sales were just crazy because nobody knew what was going to happen.
So, you know, we had PPE everywhere. We had shields to protect our team members from our guests. And then some of the enhancements for the guest, we got curbside delivery up and running very quickly. We’ve always, the guest has always been able to buy on our website and pick it up in the store, but us we’re walking it to their car. We got to implement it very quickly.
And also all the delivery options over here in the states, we got up and running too. And now you can have it shipped to your house in the same day. You can buy it online. We can ship it to you in a couple of days. And then there were still a lot of consumers that wanted to come in the store, because like you said, When people are on lockdown, a lot of them are just looking for a warm place to go when they can and a safe place.
So it’s our responsibility to provide that for them. So really the first, the couple of questions that we tried to answer, what does, what do our team members want? What can we do to protect them? We look at them like they’re extensions of our family. So how do we want to protect our family? And then the second question is where do we meet the guests?
What are their expectations? And I think we did a pretty good job of answering those questions, looking back. But man, I wish that somebody could have told us the answers about a year ago. “Now here’s what you need to do.”
Sean: Yeah, if only we could, right. I mean, it is something when you’re just hit with a rock on the face, the morning after you don’t expect it. With 1,600 people, it will be a challenge to disseminate whatever it is that you and your board would decide would happen to them.
Could you give us a slight peek into how you disseminated those pieces of information that, “Okay, this is what we’re going to do. These are some of the things that are non-negotiable?” Now that we’re pivoting into a time of pandemic and crisis that we have never faced before. And these are some of the things that we are going to have to compromise with.
I mean, Charlie, I do believe that a lot of people gave you a lot of feedback, some happy, some not during this entire time. Would you be able to share that with us? What happened during that time?
Charlie: Sure. So one thing we did, we had an executive leadership conference call every morning. For 168 days, I think straight.
So that’s including weekends. That’s during holidays. Cause we started St. Patty’s day, last year, which is tomorrow that’s when everything kind of changed. So we had about 30 people on that conference call every single day. And then that was at about eight in the morning. And then we had an afternoon call a couple of times a week with the entire operations team all over the state.
Cause we’ve got 126 stores ranging a thousand miles of the state of Florida. So how do you possibly communicate to everybody? And we, we did the best that we could, you know, I would say we’ve got about a team of 30, in the field that our district managers or VPs of store operations or human resource business partners.
And we utilize every single one of them. And I think they all understood, and I think they appreciated it too, that if anything, we hyper communicated and over communicated. And when we saw that that was too much, which is about last summer, we toned it back a little bit because I think that people got exhausted with the amount of communication that was coming out.
But what other choice do you have when you have that many people? And really two, you have to rely on our team members on the front line. We don’t try to micromanage them. We empower them to make the right decisions. We’ll hold the policy and we’ll give recommendations of what to do. And certain things are zero tolerance that like, you must do this.
And if you don’t, we’re going to have a different conversation. But for the most part, our team members, they understood what’s the right thing to do. And we gave them the power to do it. There’s no way you can pull that many people accountable by yourself. We have an amazing team that gave all this communication and that gave the authority to our team members on the front line.
And it was truly inspiring to watch really and show the culture of our country.
Sean: To be able to be given a position where you are managing 126 tours and over 1,600 employees. I imagine you went through some challenging times, not just to prove yourself, but to grow yourself. What was the story behind that?
How did you grow into this position? And this is a family business. You mentioned earlier that you’re the fourth generation coming in, which is very, extremely rare, actually in this day and age. Where big companies would just buy off some legacy businesses and the first generation or second generation businesses would just sell out.
It’s an extremely rare story that you have. I’m wondering, as someone who grew into the family business, what did it look like for you to be where you are right now? What did the journey look like for you?
Charlie: Yeah. It’s the phrase that comes to mind is that, it’s both a blessing and it’s a curse. And you know, it’s because when somebody asks me, I’m 34 years old, they’re asking me, how long have you been in the business?
I’ve been actively working in the business for about 12 years, but I might answer 34 because I have been in this business since the day I was born. I have memories of going to the office with my dad when I was my kid’s age, I’ve got a seven, five-year-old, and a one and a half year old. I remember going to the office with them.
I worked in our warehouse in high school and in college, in the summers. So it’s, I’ve just grown up and there’s almost been an expectation. So to go work in it and also I’ve wanted to, I mean, I look at our executive team, which my dad is a part of. And I, you know, you grew up idolizing these people, for a great reason too. So I say that it’s the blessing and the curse because being a family member, you’re being held to a higher standard.
And I hold myself to a much higher standard too. However, that can be too much. And I would say that that’s been helpful to me, but also it’s been a great teacher. I’ve been running the HR department. We call it team member services for about four years now. And if I didn’t have the team around me, I would not be doing a good job right now.
And if I wasn’t given the training over the 12 years that I’ve been in the company I would not be sitting here talking to you because I have made huge mistakes. A lot of the mistakes, some mistakes that cost the business a lot of money, because of my borderline arrogance, instead of confidence, and trying to do things myself, as opposed to asking for help.
And like, those are massive lessons that I don’t know if I would have learned that, had I not been given the opportunity to fail, honestly. So I mean, that’s the blessing of it. And you know, I think that when I was younger, I would have said that it’s more a curse to work for the family side because you just, you know, maybe I should’ve been a doctor, maybe I should’ve been an attorney. Maybe I should have done other things.
But now, as I was rolling it through a lot of these lessons and made a lot of mistakes and been able to make those mistakes and been supported by brothers in law, and older cousins, and my father and my aunt and my uncle. I really, I look at them with just sheer admiration that they let me go through this gauntlet and learn from it because now I have just a deep appreciation that I think working for a family business, it’s the best thing in the world.
Because you’re, you’re your own boss? The family is the boss. So it’s just been this process of thinking it was more cursed. And now see that it’s a total blessing. It’s kind of a shame that there’s not more family businesses in the world that are as big as we are, because most of them, when you get to our size to sell out. Because it’s, it’s very difficult, you have to swallow your pride and you have to put the foundation of the company and the priorities of the company before you’re grown.
I made that mistake and, you know, fortunately I worked for the family business that let me make that mistake. Because had I not been working for the family business, it probably would have ended a little differently. And I’m sure you can fill in the blanks of what I’m going to there. Right.
Sean: I completely agree with you when you said that is one of the best things.
Looking back in our history, when people would be in the agricultural age. All businesses pretty much were family businesses, right? Cause when you farm, you ask help from your kids and your spouse. And it’s just a theory of mine that we see a lot of families breaking down because we want to do our own things separately.
Like the kids would have their own career outlook in the city or in someplace else. And you know, your dad did a fantastic job. Your dad did a – I can only hope that my son would also someday will want to work, or my sons want to work in the family business, but, you know, you could only pray and work hard for that to be able to happen. But yeah, I completely agree with you there.
What I want to know what you mentioned that there are failures that you went through and I’ve heard from a lot of mentors that mistakes and failures are the admission that you pay to grow and learn. So tell us about those times what happened there and what are the things that you learned from it?
Charlie: The first thing I learned is that you being the individual, so I guess I’ll just say me in this case, I am not the priority and I am not bigger than the company. And there are a lot of really smart people who know what they’re doing, who, you know, you need to look at as mentors and as friends and as allies.
Where it’s, you know, in America, there is a school of thought where you’re taught to be this strong individual and to rely on yourself and to do things yourself. I mean, we’re portraying that and at the youngest age, with just standardized testing. And getting into the right high school and the right college and the right job.
And it’s always pinned against each other. And I’m not saying that that’s completely wrong because for some people that’s fantastic. They thrive on that. But within a family business, when you have a lot of family members and you have a lot of different people with authority and power and differing opinions, that is a recipe for disaster.
And that happened to me. I was a strong individual stubborn hard-headed thinking my way or the highway. And that’s just has to change. And has to, you know, you have to adapt or else the business is just going to eat you alive. And I think that’s why a lot of family businesses do fail because the family members might never get to that point where I had a lot of help getting there from other family members. And the older generation who is kind of like, you know, been there, done that “we can help you kid just listen to us.”
So I’ve had the fortune of being able to go through that.