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

Reuters

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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)

Living

This College Dropout Is Schooling Influencers and Startups on How to Get a Next Level Social Media Following

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Ryan Hertel, Founder of Socialocca

College isn’t for everyone. Ryan Hertel can vouch. He spent three semesters studying mass communications at King’s College, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, after surrendering to pressure from his parents to follow the traditional pathway to money and happiness. Now, the 24-year-old is running his own business — a creative branding agency called Socialocca — in the same field in which many of his degree-holding peers are struggling to stay afloat or even secure entry-level jobs.

As influencers and startups are waking up each day to grind and shine and stand out, Ryan has his finger on the pulse of what works in marketing, what doesn’t and where social media is going. He recently spoke to Better than the Weekend to share some insights.

You’re an unlikely choice to be administering marketing advice to companies. You don’t have a college degree. What makes you an expert? I’m helping people build their brand online. In order to do that, I don’t necessarily need a marketing degree. I just need to have the experience of building a brand. The reason I can even contend when it comes to being in the know about branding and social media and marketing is because I built a DJ’ing business and was successful at building that business by utilizing social media to spread the word and get more than 13,000 followers on Instagram alone. Most people with a marketing degree say, ‘Hey, I know what I’m doing. I was taught what to do.’ I can say, ‘Hey, I know what I’m doing. I used social media to make money for my own business. I can do it for you.’ A lot of people have the knowledge of what to do, but they don’t actually have the track record to prove they can grow a brand’s following. 

Photographed by Lisa Petz

Influencers and newer companies may feel their credibility lies in numbers. Some buy followers to build their credibility. What are the pros and cons to focusing on the amount of followers you have in the beginning by paying for them? People who don’t know what they’re doing who want to be social media influencers do this too often when they’re starting out. There aren’t any pros to buying followers anymore. There were when people were easily fooled and buying followers weren’t a common practice. You can’t fake the following anymore. It’s easy to spot a fake audience today. Plus, fake followers will actually hurt your algorithms on Instagram or Facebook. Less of your real following will see your content. A bunch of fake accounts will see your content and your level of engagement will make you look far less popular than you should be. 

Some services promote buying real followers. Are there any services you know of that do this which you’d recommend? That’s not a real thing. They’re scams. Don’t fall for it. I’d recommend any service that acknowledges they can’t grow your service overnight and one that focuses on goals and not guaranteeing a certain amount of followers. Anybody who says they guarantee results is lying to you. Organic marketing cannot be guaranteed. It all depends on how good the marketing campaign is and how good the content is. 

How important are hashtags in connecting with new followers? They’re not important any more. Plain and simple, anyone who knows what they’re doing on social media doesn’t care about hashtags. They were cool like four years ago. Now, we’re just at the point where some of these hashtags are used by 56 million other people. Hashtags are way too oversaturated. No-one is sitting on their phone and looking up hashtags. It might get a couple more likes, but they’re usually from auto-generated services, anyway. Instagram is now doing something called shadow banning, where they’re even hiding many of these hashtags because they’re trying to slow down the feed. So your hashtag might not even be seen. If you’re relying on hashtags, you have to get way more creative with your marketing.

What is important when marketing your posts? What’s most important, above everything, is the quality of the post. Posting too frequently hurts your feed. Posting quality pics and videos less frequently will be more beneficial, because those posts can circulate for a couple of days if they’re quality posts. People are on social media to listen to what you have to say. It’s now a popularity contest, not a contest as to who posts the most.

Then is consistency still important, or has consistency evolved in terms of marketing on social media? The consistency of the quality of your post is better than the consistency of when you post. While being consistent is important, people get a little too carried away with it, thinking they have to post twice a day at the same time every day. That’s too much for people to take in. They need to be more consistent with the quality of what they’re putting out there and not the time.

Ryan Hertel, Founder of Socialocca

Any tips for influencers and brands when it comes to engaging with their audience? It’s important to actually engage with others and not just post content. Like posts. Comment. Not just on your feed, but there’s too. Even as a business, you want to Like posts and engage on other accounts. Tag people you’re working with. If you’re just sitting there doing nothing, nobody is going to remember you or think about you. If they constantly see you tagging and interacting with others like a regular person, they’re going to take you more seriously.

Where is social media headed? Everything is starting to turn into people asking, ‘What are they doing right now?’ Look at Snapchat and Instagram stories and Facebook Live. You can really cast your entire day on social media for people to see and people will watch. They’re interested in seeing what you’re doing in real-time, they respond to it, and they rush to see it before it usually disappears in 24 hours. When it comes to structure and systems and processes, it’s important to know rules don’t apply. No one rule applies to the same two people or company. Influencers and brands need to start living in the moment and capturing that. The future of social media is immediacy.

And there you have it. Now make like Missy Elliot, put your thing down, flip it, and reverse it onto your own social media branding agenda. Good luck!

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Living

Watch This Solider Dunk for Donuts

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Jason Ciesielski is a Field Artillery Soldier in the Army National Guard and an athlete making his mark on social media. When he’s not busy serving his country, the 20-year-old can be seen on his Instagram and Facebook page showing off high box jumps, dead lifts and freestyle dunks.

“I want to empower people to be the best, strongest versions of themselves,” he says.

Jason recently went Live on Facebook with Better than the Weekend to dunk while treating himself to one of his guilty pleasures — Dunkin’ Donuts. He picked out four of his favorite fried cakes of sweetened dough and made sure he dunked before indulging his sweet tooth. Moral of the story: You can still be fit and eat what you want, as long as you work for it.

Watch and see how he did. Ladies, you’re welcome. 😉

Dunkin' for Donuts

Real men earn their donuts 🏅Ask Jason Tyler Ciesielski

Posted by Better than the Weekend on Wednesday, April 18, 2018

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How to Stop Being a Pussy and Be the Lion You Were Born to Be

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Adobe Stock Image

Gentleman,

We are hard-wired to be lions; to go after something we want.

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It’s in our nature to be a total savage when chasing after our desires — despite the consequences. In modern culture, where social media is redefining our lifestyle, we seem to be transforming into this fear-based robot who stays in their comfort zone and doesn’t reach too far.

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GIPHY

My name is Jesse Mundt. I’m a 23-year-old realtor from New Jersey. I’m not worried about remembering Harambe, learning the fucking Juju dance or getting blackout wasted. I’m focused on hitting my goals. I want to see other millennials get as excited as I am about hitting their goals. That’s why I’m here to offer some advice on how to break this formula of being a pussy and finally be the lion you were born to be.

Don’t be a dick. Hear me out.

You’re probably a lot like me, actually. I want to be rich and successful.

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Photo provided by Jesse Mundt

But before we move forward, I believe we have to go backward.

First step in being a fucking lion is to sit down and be your 6-year-old self again — this time with some intellect. Ask yourself these questions: What do you want your life to look like if you couldn’t fail? How much money do you want to make? How big do you want your house to be? What’s your dream car?

Be specific. Your answers should give you butterflies and chills just thinking about them.

Next, dust off the creativity and imagination of your childhood self and dream BIG. Imagine your adult life if your childhood dreams became a reality. (Remember, you only limit your own thoughts. So go fucking wild while dreaming what your life could be like.)

Lastly, find a mentor. Someone who has what you want and is willing to teach you how to get it. Keep in mind, you can’t teach what you don’t have so be careful who you take advice from, especially those close to you. (For example, if you want to make $100,000 each year but the person teaching you makes $60,000 a year, it’s impossible. You get it.)

Being a gentleman isn’t limited to how you respect a woman. A true gentleman works on himself and constantly strives for growth. It’s not only our duty as gentleman, but as human beings.
That’s how he become a fearless lion and takes on the world.

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GIPHY

Are you willing to give up your comfort zone to go up?

I am.

From one gentleman to another,

Jesse

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