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Son of the founder of Maker’s Mark spills secrets to success

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REUTERS/Keith Bedford

By Chris Taylor

Bourbon is a multi-billion-dollar business, but it began with just a few pioneering Kentucky families from Bardstown who all lived down the road from each other.

One of those iconic families started around 1790 and is still in the business. Bill Samuels Jr., son of the founder of Maker’s Mark, is chairman emeritus of the brand after 35 years as president and CEO. His son Rob currently runs the company – part of the Beam Suntory brand family since 2014 – but Bill Samuels is still a workhorse, giving speeches and running distillery tours.

We talked to Samuels about how he helped his family transform a homespun hobby into a global phenomenon.

Q: Your dad created Maker’s Mark. What lessons did you learn from him?

A: It was really a hobby for him. He just wanted to focus on creating a bourbon that actually tasted good, because back in the ’50s bourbon wasn’t really known for that. Of course his idea turned out to be a stroke of genius. But at first it didn’t seem like genius, because for a long time there wasn’t much of a business.

Q: What did you take away from your relationship with Jim Beam, who was your neighbor and godfather?

A: He was the best guy who ever lived. He had the greatest natural sales personality I have ever been around, and was always able to put people at ease. He was also a natural at harassing people, and my father and grandfather were his two favorite targets. From him I learned a lot of details about my family that they didn’t want shared.

Q: You even knew KFC’s Colonel Sanders?

A: At the time he had a little restaurant in Kentucky that we would go to, and he and my dad were gin rummy partners. That’s how it started. He was a real intense, restless man, and he had to find something to do, so instead of retiring he started his chicken business.

When I got my driver’s permit in 1955, he asked me if I wanted to help him, so I drove him around the state as he sold his chicken recipe. There weren’t any franchises then, it was just a menu item in family restaurants.

Q: When you joined your dad’s company and helped him grow it to what it is today, what did you learn about entrepreneurship?

A: When I came back from my career in the aerospace industry, he set me up in a little 10×12 office out by the airport. We had to figure out how to commercialize the business. So he pulled out his briefcase and gave me a sheet of paper with my three-word job description on it: “Go find customers.” And then he told me, by the way, don’t screw up the whisky.

Q: When things became a big success, how did you handle that wealth?

A: For a long time we didn’t have any money, growing up on a farm in Kentucky. But by the 1980s, when I decided I was a big success in the bourbon business, I thought it would be a good time to shift resources and become a thoroughbred racehorse owner. That was a total disaster. I haven’t forgotten it to this day.

Q: Were there ever times when you thought the business wasn’t going to make it?

A: Oh my God, yes. We started in 1953, and didn’t make a profit until 1968, when we made $2,000. And that profit was only because my dad wasn’t taking a salary. Now it’s worth several billion dollars, but a lot of that value can be traced back to the discipline of the early days. He did all the heavy lifting before I even grew up.

Q: Your son runs the business now, so what advice have you given him?

A: I have gone out of my way to not tell my son what to do. I wanted to bring him into the process and then get out of the way, which turned out to be exactly the right thing to do. Of the three of us, he is the true entrepreneur. My dad was the perfect craftsman, and I’m somewhere in between. My son has been nice enough to allow me to keep my little office, and lets me take all the bourbon I can steal for drinking purposes.

(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Dan Grebler)

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Why veterans are twice as likely to die from overdoses

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REUTERS/Charles Mostoller

Opioid drug abuse has killed more Americans than the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars combined, and U.S. veterans and advocates are focusing on how to help victims of the crisis.

Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental overdoses of the highly addictive painkillers, a rate that reflects high levels of chronic pain among vets, particularly those who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to federal data.

U.S. government and healthcare officials have been struggling to stem the epidemic of overdoses, which killed more than 64,000 Americans in the 12 months ending last January alone, a 21 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. About 65,000 Americans died in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump named opioids a national public health emergency and a White House commission last week recommended establishing a nationwide system of drug courts and easier access to alternatives to opioids for people in pain.

“Our veterans deserve better than polished sound bites and empty promises,” said former Democratic Congressman Patrick Kennedy, a recovering addict and a member of the president’s opioid commission.

Kennedy said in an e-mail that more funding was needed for treatment facilities and medical professionals to help tackle the problem.

One effort to address the issue has stalled in Congress – the proposed Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act, sponsored by Senator John McCain. That measure is aimed at researching ways to help Veterans Administration doctors rely less on opioids in treating chronic pain.

“The Veterans Administration needs to understand whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid pain-killers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths,” McCain, one of the nation’s most visible veterans, said in an e-mail on Thursday. He noted that 20 veterans take their lives each day, a suicide rate 21 percent higher than for other U.S. adults.

The VA system has stepped up its efforts to address the crisis, having treated some 68,000 veterans for opioid addiction since March, said Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman Curtis Cashour.

The department’s Louis Stokes VA Center in Cleveland has also begun testing alternative treatments, including acupuncture and yoga, to reduce use of and dependency on the drugs, the VA said.

A delay in naming a Trump administration “drug czar” to head the effort, however, has fueled doubts about immediate action on the opioid crisis. Last month the White House nominee, Representative Tom Marino, withdrew from consideration following a report he spearheaded a bill that hurt the government’s ability to crack down on opioid makers.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Dan Grebler

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Shalane Flanagan: First American woman to win NYC marathon in 40 years

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REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years when she claimed a dominant victory over Kenyan three-times champion Mary Keitany on Sunday.

The men’s title went to Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor, who held off countryman Wilson Kipsang.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Flanagan, who had never won a major marathon, clocked two hours, 26 minutes 53 seconds for the stunning victory at the age of 36.

Keitany struggled home in 2:27:54 for second with Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska third in 2:28:08.

“This is the moment I have dreamed off since I was a little girl,” Flanagan said after the race, tears streaming down her face.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“It’s been a tough week for New Yorkers and a tough week for our nation and I thought of what a better gift than to make Americans smile today,” she said, referring to Tuesday’s truck-ramming attack that killed eight in what authorities described as a terrorist act.

Thousands of police lined the course as part of heightened security because of the incident.

“So I was thinking of other people when it started to hurt,” said Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic 10,000 meters silver medalist.

American women had not won in New York since Miki Gorman claimed her second consecutive title in 1977.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Keitany, winner of this year’s London Marathon and the fastest ever in a women’s only marathon, had been expected to run away with the race but a slow pace allowed Flanagan and others to stay with her early.

When crunch time came it was Flanagan, not Keitany, who dominated, impressively leading the final three miles.

While Flanagan was an overwhelming winner, Kamworor was not assured of his first major victory until the closing meters.

After taking the lead in the 23rd mile, the 24-year-old 2015 New York runner-up had to contend with Kipsang, whose final push brought him ever so close to his countryman.

But in the end it was Kamworor who won by three seconds in 2:10:53 with Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa third in 2:11:32.

“This is fantastic for me for this is my first victory in (a major) marathon,” said Kamworor, who was running his fifth marathon.

Former winner Meb Keflezighi, who was running his final competitive marathon at age 42, finished 11th in 2:15:29.

Swiss athletes swept the wheelchair titles.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Manuela Schaer stunned five-times champion Tatyana McFadden in the women’s race, defeating the American by almost three minutes in 1:48.09.

McFadden clocked 1:51:01 and third went to compatriot Amanda McGrory in 1:53.11.

Repeat winner Marcel Hug gave Switzerland the men’s title in equally dominant fashion, defending his championship in 1:37:21, more than two minutes ahead of British runner-up John Charles Smith. The title was Hug’s third in New York City.

Japan’s Sho Watanabe took third in 1:39:51.

 

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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You can earn a decent living without a four-year degree

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REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Gail MarksJarvis

Despite images of shuttered factories and a chorus of high school voices chanting the virtues of college, you do not have to get a four-year degree to earn a decent living.

While it may be true that on average, people with four-year college degrees earn more than those who have not gone to college, a study this summer by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce finds there are still 30 million good jobs held by people without bachelor’s degrees. And 28 percent of people with two-year associate degrees make more than bachelor’s degree recipients.

The College Board reported last week that four-year college graduates between the ages of 25 and 34 earn $19,497 more per year than people with only high school diplomas – a sum that seems to make it well worth spending the $20,770 that tuition, fees, room and board the average public college is charging this year.

But if you do not think college is for you, it does not necessarily mean you will struggle to put food on the table.

Those in the 30 million good jobs identified by the Georgetown study earn a minimum of $35,000 to start and $45,000 by age 45. Eventually half the jobs pay $55,000 or more.

That compares, according to the Georgetown researchers, to people with bachelor’s degrees who earn a median $61,000 by mid-career and start at about $33,000.

A rule of thumb in borrowing for college has always been not to have loans that total more than a starting salary in your field. Thinking ahead about occupations and pay is crucial before borrowing money for any degree, because many students borrow heavily without realizing their salary will be deficient to cover loans.

“It’s the degree and the occupation that matters,” said Georgetown Center on Education and the Workplace Director Anthony Carnevale.

These days that takes advance planning and research, to find occupations that pay well, said research director Jeff Strohl, who worked on the study.

For example, an elevator technician with a two-year degree earns $95,000 in Florida, but cosmetologists average just $22,700, which is close to the poverty level for a family of three. A nurse with a two-year degree would average $46,000 while a health aid would make $26,000.

Despite the loss of manufacturing jobs over the last few years, 55 percent of the best paying jobs remain in manufacturing, transportation and construction. But these jobs are dwindling. Since the recession manufacturing has lost 1 million of them, and construction employs 1.6 million fewer people than in 2007, according to the research. To hire for a job that typically does not require college, employers often look for some additional education past high school to weed out candidates, said Strohl.

Good jobs have shifted to workers with associate degrees. They have gained more than 3 million of the net new jobs since 1991; a period when jobs for people with only high school diplomas has declined by 1 million. There are currently 123 million workers in the economy, including 75 million without a bachelor’s degree.

While opportunity is growing for people with associate degrees, Strohl warned that these jobs may lead to a dead end. Often people go to community college to get a two-year degree focused on the liberal arts. The intent may be to save money on the less expensive program and then transfer to a four-year college, but few end up transferring, he said. Courses often are not accepted by other colleges and frequently fail to interest employers.

The lowest earning positions for bachelor’s degree recipients are in the liberal arts and humanities – often starting at $29,000, said Strohl. Yet, business graduates on average start at $37,000, healthcare $41,000 and STEM jobs at $43,000.

(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Bernadette Baum)

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