Ep 028: Doug Cone, Cone Distributing

A few months ago we met Douglas Cone III and were first introduce to Team Cone. We now see where his hunger came from. Listen as Tracy and Douglas Cone III’s father, Doug Cone II, talk about his first day selling beer, the things he learned and the relationships he made along the way. Our industry is all about our community, and we couldn’t be more proud to present to you Doug Cone II.

028 Cone Jr.mp3 transcript powered by Sonix—easily convert your audio to text with Sonix.

028 Cone Jr.mp3 was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best audio automated transcription service in 2020. Our automated transcription algorithms works with many of the popular audio file formats.

Doug Cone Jr.:
I have an old framed article from 1986 out of NBWA, used to produce the NBWA perspective. It was a little magazine. It went out once a month and the owners and I keep that framed in my office is because it talks about the first beer wholesaler in the country and have a website.

Tracy Neal:
And who was that?

Doug Cone Jr.:
That was Cone Distributing.

Tracy Neal:
Really? First website.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yes.

Tracy Neal:
My guest for episode number 28 is Doug Cone Jr., president and CEO of Cone Distributing. Also known as Team Cone, this interview takes place in Palm Beach. I recently visited Mr. Cone and his distributorship in Ocala, Florida. He references the term Team Cone in our interview. And I didn't realize how seriously he embraced these words until I pulled into his parking lot and parked under a big sign that said Team Cone. You see, there is no I in team and there is no sign that says Cone Distributing. It's all Team Cone. Everything about the culture of this distributor points to the power of Team Cone led by Doug. And in case you're wondering, Doug Jr. or Mr. Cone is the father of Douglas Cone III. My NBWA next gen guest from episode number 25. Doug is a gentleman and a man of fairness with discipline and vision. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. iSellBeer presents to you, Doug Cone Jr.

I am not mithril about you. You're Mr. Lebowski, I'm the dude.

Yeah. Tell you what. You can take a good look at a pictures asked by sticking your head up.

Welcome.

Tracy Neal:
All right, Doug. Welcome to the podcast. Hey, glad to be here. Good to have you here. Thank you so much for jumping up into my hotel room here in between the conference things that are going on downstairs. And I was good to meet you for the first time today or actually last night.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Last night.

Tracy Neal:
Right. But again, if we go back on episode 25, I interviewed your son Douglas III when we were at the next gen conference. And I learned so much about the organization and his role getting involved with it that I told him, I said, you know, I'd really like to interview your dad sometime. So thanks for being here. Glad to do it.

Doug Cone Jr.:
All right. I know, we each our hands are getting cold holding these cans of beer. So why don't we go ahead and start the traditional podcast with the opening of the beer?

Tracy Neal:
Let's do it. It's hotel carpet. You can spill it. Dougs it right at, Somebody shook that can't. It wasn't me.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Good morning too.

Tracy Neal:
Yes, it is. It is morning. It's never too early for a beer. We're in a beer conference in Florida. So it's great. So Cone Distributing. Where's Cone Distributing located? And can you kind of give me the 411 on how many years you guys have been in business? Maybe how many employees you have, what some of your major suppliers are in the counties that you cover?

Doug Cone Jr.:
Absolutely. So we are actually a home based in Ocala, Florida, which is in north central Florida.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
North of Tampa, slightly west of Orlando.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
We have the actually the largest geographical territory of Florida. Florida is comprised of 67 counties. We have 20 to 67. So literally a third of the geography of the state of Florida.

Tracy Neal:
Wow.

Doug Cone Jr.:
If you want to get specific, it's nineteen thousand seven hundred and fifty six square miles.

Tracy Neal:
Wow. You've measured, huh?

Doug Cone Jr.:
We know our market.

Tracy Neal:
Okay .

Doug Cone Jr.:
And for the most part, very rural. But we do have the distinction of having the two largest college markets, University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida State University up in Tallahassee.

Tracy Neal:
Oh, yeah, both of them.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Both of them.

Tracy Neal:
I'm from California. So pardon my lack of Florida geography knowledge.

Doug Cone Jr.:
That was quite a right. So you can you can you can start north of Tampa, drive to the Georgia line. You're still in Cone Distribution territory. And if you if you go up I-75 and hit I-10 and hang a left and head west, you go all the way to Panama City and still be in cone distributing territory.

Tracy Neal:
Really? Nice. That's awesome.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And so our our portfolio includes, I think the easiest way to to describe it is we have every brand of beer except Anheuser-Busch.

Tracy Neal:
Really? That's a good portfolio.

Doug Cone Jr.:
It's a good portfolio to have.

Tracy Neal:
Well balanced.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Very well balanced. You know, we talked a lot. We've heard a lot in the last 12, 15 hours about Seltzer's. So we were blessed to have both the White Claw and Truly.

Tracy Neal:
Yes.

Doug Cone Jr.:
In-house. And they're doing extremely well.

Tracy Neal:
That's great. I would imagine, especially with the college towns.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Especially with the college towns.

Tracy Neal:
That's good. How many employees do you have there? And by the way, is there only one warehouse or do you have multiple branches?

Doug Cone Jr.:
As a matter of fact, we we have our primary facility, almost 300,000 square feet in Ocala, where we centralize all of our inventory comes into Ocala.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And every night we have six transport trucks that run all night long. We we build our orders out literally by stop those orders or pull palletized loaded all 53 foot tractor trailers and driven and cross docked in Tallahassee, taking off the trucks and put on the delivery truck for delivery next morning.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
So warehouse facility in Tallahassee and primary facility in Ocala.

Tracy Neal:
Okay. And approximately how many employees?

Doug Cone Jr.:
I think as of last payroll somewhere in the neighborhood of 325, 330.

Tracy Neal:
Excellent. That's quite an operation.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Well it's from our humble beginnings in May of 1985 this year. This year, this May the 20th. We'll we'll be celebrating our 35th year in the business.

Tracy Neal:
Wow. What's it, what's it feel like knowing that you provide livelihood, jobs and the pleasure of work, but also the livelihood and jobs for potentially 330 families.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Well it's you know it's it's actually you feel a sense of responsibility because it's certainly not all about me. And the fact that you've got 300 families that are depending on the success, you know, our mutual success in the business. And, you know, as far as I tell those 300 people when I get them together is that, you know, the most valuable resource in our company. It's not that beer that's sitting on the floor. It's not the cash that's generated from the sales. It goes in the bank.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah.

Doug Cone Jr.:
The most valuable resource our company has is those 300 people and the ownership that we want them to take in Team Cone.

Tracy Neal:
Team Cone, is kind of a motto that you guys have.

Doug Cone Jr.:
It is our brand.

Tracy Neal:
Okay. Your brand is Team Cone.

Doug Cone Jr.:
We branded it Team Cone about about eight years ago.

Tracy Neal:
That's awesome. In fact, you were telling me before we turn on the microphones that you guys are doing something a little special on it. What sort of determined? A little bit different. A little bit. Really good in terms of your social media. Can you talk a little bit about how you approach social media from Team Cone?

Doug Cone Jr.:
Well, you know, it's interesting. I have an old framed article from 1986 out of NBWA used to produce the NBWA perspective, it was a little magazine that went out once a month and they always like I keep that framed in my office because it talks about the first beer wholesaler in the country and have a website.

Tracy Neal:
And who was that?

Doug Cone Jr.:
That was Cone Distributing.

Tracy Neal:
Really? First website.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yes. And.

Tracy Neal:
That's awesome.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And and our attempt at that website was actually to be at the time, our territory wasn't as large as it as.

Tracy Neal:
In 1986.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Huh?

Tracy Neal:
So you're pretty really. Yeah. You've got like eight or nine years on AOL.

Doug Cone Jr.:
A little bit. Yes, we did. And and our and our focus was going to be specifically on the Gainesville market and the college kids. And we were actually posting events and specials. And, you know, this band was going to be playing, you know, Sister Hazel was going to be here and literature together would be at the Florida theater on Thursday night and there'd be know, $5 million like pictures, et cetera, et cetera. And we were having tremendous success. So I got a telephone call from our local beverage agent who said we've had a complaint filed against you that you're providing something of value to retail customers in violation of Florida titles, evil. And the funny thing at that time is there really weren't any rules governing the Internet. So they asked me as a courtesy, would I take our site down until they could, quote unquote, kind of figure it out. And so that site managed to stay down for over 20 years.

Tracy Neal:
Oh, really?

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yes. And and then through different colleagues of mine, Supreme beverage up in, you know, doing their world of beers. And some folks that were doing some really good stuff with social media. I said, you know, it's it's it's time for us to to get back in the game.

Tracy Neal:
And so you hired a specific social media person.

Doug Cone Jr.:
I did. I did. A young man. Very, very bright, very, very tech savvy, actually, is I referred to him as my beer geek. He's a level 2 cicerone. He's actually authored four books.

Tracy Neal:
Wow.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And craft beer and and beer in general. And he has he's brought a whole new dimension to our social media platform and how we reach out to customers, consumers.

Tracy Neal:
It's great.

Doug Cone Jr.:
The head of the beer world at large.

Tracy Neal:
Are there is the handle teamcone dis?

Doug Cone Jr.:
It is.

Tracy Neal:
Teamcone dis.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Teamcone.net

Tracy Neal:
Team, teamcone dot net is the website.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yes.

Tracy Neal:
But then on social media like Instagram and Twitter and on it. Is it your teamcone dis?

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yes.

Tracy Neal:
Okay. Had to look it up. And I think one thing that you were telling me that he does that I really appreciate I thought was a great ideas is speaking in that B2B voice. I think too many times when I look at social media on Instagram and Twitter, I see distributors talking to consumers. And I know they mean well, but I don't know that consumers want to follow a distributor social media handle. You know, they'll follow a brand handle or look, retail handle. But I think there's such an opportunity there for that B2B conversation. In other words, social media talking to your retailers about what your sales reps would be saying to your retail.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Absolutely. And talking about new brand intros and, you know, letting the folks that need to know what's going on in our world relative to new products, special features. You know.

Tracy Neal:
If I could come up with one word name for a social media strategy for distributors, I would call it sales rep plus.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Here we go.

Tracy Neal:
Because it's really take the take what your sales reps would normally be saying and repeat it. Retailers need to hear it two or three times, as all of us do. Right. Or tell them a little bit ahead of time before the sales rep gets there or remind them after the sales reps already left the same message and whatever your sales reps selling and notifying retailers about. That's a great thing to have on social media.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Great.

Tracy Neal:
Well, that's awesome. You had the first Web site in the industry. I had no idea. That is pretty cool. So what about suppliers? You didn't mention which supplier? Oh, wait. You said every supplier except Anheuser-Busch right.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Primary largest supplier.

Tracy Neal:
You've got the MillerCoors, Constellation, Boston.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Constellation, Boston, Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas, New Belgium. My friends from from from Mike's.

Tracy Neal:
Mark Anthony. Yep.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Mark Anthony.

Tracy Neal:
Not a bad supplier to have in 2019 by the way.

Doug Cone Jr.:
That supplier to have and then tremendous number of local crafts. Because I really believe here in the next year or two we're going to see more of a move to kind of, in my opinion, sort of hyper local crafts.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And so we we we've been sort of strategic in picking and choosing who our craft partners are going forward.

Tracy Neal:
That's great. Now, your son Douglas is. Douglas III.

Doug Cone Jr.:
He is.

Tracy Neal:
You are Doug. Or you go by Doug. But technically, you're Douglas II.

Doug Cone Jr.:
I'm Junior.

Tracy Neal:
Doug Jr. So that means that there is a Douglas Senior. And I know that you're your father's no longer with us. He's he's passed away on. But was he involved in the business at all in terms of Cone Distributing?

Doug Cone Jr.:
Well, it was interesting. Really from day one when I got in the business, you know, born and raised in Tampa. Fifth generation native Floridian. My my family, my dad and his two brothers were in the road and bridge building business, citrus, timber, cattle.

Tracy Neal:
All the big industries of Florida.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Well, yes,.

Tracy Neal:
Bridges, roads, citrus.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Citrus, you know, cattle. And so when I had the opportunity and found a distributorship that was available, that was interesting. As you know, this is a very small fraternity.

Tracy Neal:
Yes.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And back in the early 80s, you know, Florida was an Anheuser-Busch dominated state. I thought I wanted to be an AB distributor. I had a good friend who was the AB distributor in Tampa. And they said, Doug. Don't think you're going to have much luck there. You know, Anheuser-Busch family's backyard and and every wholesaler here is either family member or or former employee. So I think you need to look at the other guys. And I was I was fortunate enough to have a dear friend, Bill Sutton, who was he was the Schlitz, Stroh, Old Milwaukee distributor. And he was instrumental in helping me kind of get the word out that I was looking to buy a wholesaler. And I got a got a call from a banker up in Ocala, Florida, in November of 84. He says, I've got a 53 year old client with a pair of bleeding to ulcers. His oldest son's in jail for smuggling dope. His youngest son has done.

Tracy Neal:
The other industry in Florida,.

Doug Cone Jr.:
The other industry. And he.

Tracy Neal:
Right, right about. We're in the heart of Miami Vice era.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Exactly. Exactly. And and I said, well, will he talk to me? And he said, absolutely. So next thing I know, I'm in Ocala, Florida. I'm talking to a Schlitz, Stroh, Old Milwaukee wholesaler. The good news was Coors had just come east of the Mississippi.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And and wholesalers for an allocation. But he was you know, he was he was a Coors wholesaler.

Tracy Neal:
Did you happen to work with Gary Styles on that on Coors?

Doug Cone Jr.:
Do you want to hear a really interesting story?

Tracy Neal:
I'd love, that's what this is all about tell me the Gary Styles story.

Doug Cone Jr.:
This is a this is the Gary Styles.

Tracy Neal:
Because Gary Styles helped me launch this company. The iSellBeer, CPG Data company back in April, May, June of 2013.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Well, Gary Styles and I started out with a hate relationship that turned into a love relationship.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
At the time, as you well know, you know, buying a beer distributorships, a two part deal, a guy to have a willing seller, and then once you cut a deal there, you have to get supplier approval.

Tracy Neal:
Yep.

Doug Cone Jr.:
So back then, my largest single brand, this house, this was a two hundred and twelve thousand case operation.

Tracy Neal:
So you were already in business?

Doug Cone Jr.:
No.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
I had.

Tracy Neal:
You were buying the business.

Doug Cone Jr.:
I was buying the business. This is November of 84. I got the approval from Stroh's, Schlitz, G. Heileman and Pabt's, et cetera, et cetera. I wrote my own marketing plans, didn't go out to any consultants or anybody to help me do that. I put my Coors marketing plan together. I fly to Atlanta to meet with the regional vice president, Mr. Gary Styles. Styles and I spent a couple of hours together and Gary looked at me and he said, Doug, you know, in the last few years, Coors Brewing Company has made some really lousy distributor appointments. We've gone to some exports. You know, exports jocks and and some other some other folks. It just hasn't worked out very well at the time. I'm 28 years old and.

Tracy Neal:
You're 28 in 1985.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yeah. I'm 28 years old.

Tracy Neal:
Wow. Yeah, that's. That's amazing. You're negotiating this. You're trying to start a business. And I did not realize you would have only been 28.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Only 28 years old. And Gary said and Doug, with with no experience, there's just no way that Coors can see their way clear to approve you. And so.

Tracy Neal:
And that kind of blocks the whole sale, right?

Doug Cone Jr.:
That kind of blok the wholesale. So I I returned to Tampa, crestfallen Charlie Henderson, who was the district manager for Coors and the Tampa Bay Area. I'd gotten it because I was during the pull all of this was going on. I'm working at Southern Distribution Company during the day, unloading trucks, unload railcars. I'm on a fast track learning curve trying to figure out what this business is all about. So I said, Charlie, I said, you know, if I was sitting in a room with Bill, Joe and Pete, Coors, I said, who would they tell me is the best Coors Distributor in the country? And Charlie said, that's easy. Ray Clymer, Golden Distributing Company, Wichita Falls, Texas. So I walked into Bill Sutton's office, got in directory assistance back in the day when directory assistance was around.

Tracy Neal:
No 411?

Doug Cone Jr.:
No 411. I got the number for Golden distributing. I called I asked for Ray Clymer. I said, this is Doug Cone with Coors Brewing Company. I got through to Mr. Clymer. And the first thing I did was I said, Ray, I've got to apologize for my subterfuge. I'm not with Coors Brewing Company. Here's who I am. Here's what I'm trying to do. And I said, Mr. Clymer, if it wouldn't be an imposition on you, I'd like to come out and spend eight weeks working in your operation on my dime to learn how to be the best Coors wholesaler I could be.

Tracy Neal:
Really?

Doug Cone Jr.:
And there's dead silence on the telephone. And I'm getting Ray. I'm saying I've got Ray to get shut down. And Ray Clymer says, son, if you want it that bad. Come on. And in January on January the 27th, I am in Wichita Falls, Texas. Sleet blowing one way. Tumbleweeds are blowing the other. I spent eight weeks with with Ray with him having me do everything from.

Tracy Neal:
January 27, 1985. You remember the day?

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yes, sir. I remember the day.

Tracy Neal:
And back then, I mean that one of the things that I've been able to witness in my lifetime is just air travel. I mean, air travel is not like not like today. You don't just go down the airport and get on a southwest natural cheap. I mean, you probably had to put on a suit. You might have had a hat. You had to go to a travel agent.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yep.

Tracy Neal:
Right. You had.

Doug Cone Jr.:
All the above.

Tracy Neal:
You had big you know, the suitcase weighed more than the contents. Back in those days.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Absolutely it did.

Tracy Neal:
Right. It didn't have all these rental car agencies.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Nope, nope.

Tracy Neal:
So that's amazing. At age 28. You fly halfway across the country because you want to be the best distributor possible.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Exactly.

Tracy Neal:
And you worked there for eight weeks.

Doug Cone Jr.:
I worked there for eight weeks. And Ray put me through doing everything from, you know, unloading rail cars, working coolers, swing guy, doing delivery work in the on premise. And I remember those on premise, the old Charlie Kay. They called me. You know, that was the days of all long neck returnable bottles.

Tracy Neal:
Yep.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And as well in every on premise account in Wichita Falls, downtown Wichita Falls, a concrete steps. We're at a 45 degree incline, and I had to pull that hand truck up with those returnables and the kegs do, you know?

Tracy Neal:
Back before the kegs had handles on it.

Doug Cone Jr.:
That's exactly before the kegs had handles on it. You know.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah. Thank you to the genius that put handles on the 15 5 keg.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Absolutely. And so you got a hell of learning experience with with Ray left him. I thanked him. I flew back to Tampa, unbeknownst to me, the day that I left. He picked the telephone up and he called Bill and Joe Coors.

Tracy Neal:
Really?

Doug Cone Jr.:
And he told Billy, says, Bill, I don't know who this is. Jack Leg is you've got for our V.P. in Atlanta. Let me tell you about this kid. Been out here for the last eight weeks with me and he goes, you want him in the system. So two days after I got back to Tampa, my phone rang and it was Gary Styles.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And Gary said, Doug, you know, I've had a chance to think about it. And I'm going to reconsider your application. And and so they did. And I got the approval from Coors and we signed the paperwork. And at at 12:00 noon on May the 20th of 1985, Maksym and I signed the paperwork. Practical beer. And I was a beer distributor.

Tracy Neal:
Wow. May 20th, 1985 at 12 noon, huh?

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yep.

Tracy Neal:
And you just mentioned somebody else. Did you have a partner in this?

Doug Cone Jr.:
No. What I what I did was I had to hot everything that I owned to turn into cash to try to make this deal. Then I had to go convince bankers that this 28 year old kid could run a business and pay them back. And so when you asked the question, was my dad involved in the business? He was never really involved in the business. But what he did do and I will I've always loved him, but appreciated this was he said, son, I'll gear and I'll guarantee your notes.

Tracy Neal:
Okay. That's important.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Well, it was because in two years I got his guarantees removed and and and we were off to the races.

Tracy Neal:
Awesome. So tell me about the first day. I mean, maybe we'll back up before we get to the first day of Cone Distributing, which I'm really excited to hear about. I wanna hear about your first day in the beer industry in Tampa. How did you. Somewhere in between junior high and your first day on the job. Something happened. What led you to getting into the beer industry?

Doug Cone Jr.:
Okay. When I graduated from college.

Tracy Neal:
Which college, by the way?

Doug Cone Jr.:
Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.

Tracy Neal:
Centre?

Doug Cone Jr.:
Centre, C-E-N-T-R-E.

Tracy Neal:
Danville, Kentucky.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Referred to as the Harvard of the South.

Tracy Neal:
Harvard of the Sout. By all alumni, right?

Doug Cone Jr.:
By all alumni. Exactly. You know, good little private liberal arts school. And. And so when I graduated, I had three job offers. I had a an offer from Procter and Gamble and their management training program in Cincinnati.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
There used to be a restaurant chain up in that part of the world called Magic Pan Restaurants. And I had an offer from them. And then I had an uncle in Tampa. Bill Po and Insurance business. And so I said, you know, I've spent four years up here. You know, I'd like to go back to Tampa. So I accepted Uncle Bill's job offer, little knowing that he was putting me to work in the mailroom. And I was you know, I was in the mail room during the day and I was going to school at night to get all my insurance licenses, which I did in the course of 18 months or so. Okay. And then I was out on the street as an insurance salesman and actually did pretty well at it. You know, I think I've got a little bit of salesman by nature in me and. Yeah. And it translated well there. So that went on really well for about six and a half, seven years. And then Uncle Billy's kids started graduating from college and coming into the agency. And so I'm looking around at four or five of my cousins going, you know, this places glad we get a little bit crowded. And at some point, I'll make it a point of diminishing return. And so I started looking at cities, Atlanta, Dallas, Fort Worth, Denver, you know, where there were really growing. They were on fire. And I said I had no intention is leaving Tampa. But I said, what can I turn my meager talents to? And let me look at some of the things going on. So interestingly enough, distribution stood out. Macro and beverage was micro. Well, I happened to. I have another uncle, Bill's brother, Jack Kazin, who was president for Coca-Cola, so I called Uncle Jack and I said, can I come over and see? He said, absolutely. I drive the corporate headquarters in Daytona. I said, Uncle Jack, I want to be a Coca-Cola bottler. And he goes, no, you don't. And I said, I don't. He says, Son, this is when Coke was cranking up your CCE model, buying back your independent bottlers. And he said.

Tracy Neal:
This had been early 90s.

Doug Cone Jr.:
This was.

Tracy Neal:
Oh, wait, no, this is before '85.

Doug Cone Jr.:
This is yeah this is. So this is this '83 ish.

Tracy Neal:
Possibly. It is right in the heart of the Pepsi Challenge in the Michael Jackson hair commercial.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And then Michael Jackson hair commercial. Yes. And and so Jackson Doug I could I could just call me Junior. He said I can find your bottler to buy but it probably cost you 19 or 20 million dollars. And I was a little bit out of my price range at age 27 at that time. And he said, Junior, he says, you got to think about beer. And I said, Well, Jack. I don't have a drink it. And he says, Son, we're not 12 month year beer drinking state of Florida. Okay. It's an industry that's still enjoying double digit growth. It's all C.O.D. So you're not chasing money. It has a high T&E travel and entertainment profile, which is. I do. I dealy suited for your personality and I'll. Try to make this seem a little bit more politically correct in the way Uncle Jack said it. He said, Son, I don't even think you could screw one up.

Tracy Neal:
I knew that you could screw it up.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yeah.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And and I went, OK. So that's when I went back to Tampa, had my conversation with Pepin, Bud guy, had my conversation been.

Tracy Neal:
Pepin still there, too, by the way, Pepin Distributing?

Doug Cone Jr.:
That I grew up with is is run the operation.

Tracy Neal:
So you grew up with Tommy.

Doug Cone Jr.:
I grew up with Tommy.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Known, Tommy. All my life.

Tracy Neal:
Now, this whole story has such a great entrepreneurial spirit to it. So I'm gonna go out on a limb and say, you must have done some entrepreneurial things in elementary school, junior high high school. I mean, to take the risks of buying a beer distributorship at age 28, flying across the country, working for free for eight weeks, getting all these loans, asking your dad to sign the note. Tell me, what are some of the things that you did as a young boy that maybe you can reflect back on and go, yeah, I did have that entrepreneurial spirit.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Well, you know, it was interesting. I you know, when I was a very young man, I did the whole paper route thing on my own. Okay. And did that kind of stuff. My father, who was one tough old S.O.B., I had a chance when I was 9 and 10 years old to go to summer camp in North Carolina, where my, was 11 years old. My application came in. I said, Dad, I really want to go back to camp. He has absolutely said. But you go into a different camp this summer. He goes, you're going to Cone summer camp for boys. And I started at 11 years old, is the only white face on an all African-American asphalt crew.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Pavey Northville.

Tracy Neal:
Was that his industry was construction building

Doug Cone Jr.:
Run in bridge-building building.

Tracy Neal:
Paving?

Doug Cone Jr.:
Absolutely. So we were paving a big stretch of highway. And he wanted to make sure that I was on the front end of a 20, 200 degree asphalt. Poor. I had a wide bladed shovel. And I was the guy that at age eleven, at age eleven, at age eleven. And back in those days, you worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m..

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Okay. Then let's kind of fast forward. I did that.

Tracy Neal:
Let's say, how many hours did you spend thinking? I do not want to do dad's business. I do not want to do it.

Doug Cone Jr.:
It came. It came to me over years of working and dad's business that I did not want to do that. It's interesting. I have a older sister and younger brother. My father's a Georgia Tech graduate, civil engineer. My sister is a tech graduate. The first graduating class of women from tech. My brother is a civil engineer and went into the family business. My sister actually worked on the R&D development team for the ceramic heat shields for the space shuttle. So I got rocket scientists on one side of the family and I'm just a beer guy. That great but. So talking about my dad being that tough S.O.B. and from an entrepreneurial standpoint, I think I sort of blossomed into that by default because my sophomore year in college, I came home for spring break to inform my father that I would not be working for him this summer.

Tracy Neal:
No more Cone summer camp for boys.

Doug Cone Jr.:
No more summer camp. I was done. I had this really lovely girlfriend that I was madly in love with. And I've got degrees in history, philosophy and a minor in business. And my father used to ask me, your son? Tell me, are you studying history, philosophy or the philosophy of history? And then he'd say, no, never mind. How the hell are you going to get a job with those degrees, you know? And so I said, Dad, I'm not coming home. Yes, you are. No, no, no, I'm not. Yes, you are not. And then I made a mistake in telling my father where he could put it, where the sun don't shine. And he said, well said, I tell you what I'm going to do. He says, I'm going to give you a lesson with the golden rules about. So I got my plane ticket taken away from me. I got a Trailways bus ticket back to school. He gave me my last quarterly tuition payment and told me good luck. And so I guess.

Tracy Neal:
I only laugh because I have three teenagers right now.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Okay. It could happen to you.

Tracy Neal:
Boys. 18, 16 and 13. So it's I'm finding this quite comical and I'm taking notes.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Ok. So I get back to school, I go to the bank. Bank accounts frozen. So I have I have sixty one dollars and seventy three cents to my name. And I'm going, oh, what do I do now? Yeah. So my girlfriend works in the library. So I got to use the Xerox machine and I put fliers together saying. Student in dire financial need. Will do any job for 50 cents an hour under minimum wage and I stuffed every faculty box with that flyer. And the next day I had 13 responses.

Tracy Neal:
Wow.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And of those 13 jobs that I got to do, probably eight of them almost killed me. And then I enlisted the aid of a couple of other folks that that were on financial assistance. But I knew I wouldn't going to be able to pay that tuition payment on till I got lower income. So I went to the financial aid office. They laughed me out of the office. You've been on a full ride. You know that person, great chief financial assistance as the president of college. So I made a point with the president. The college I went to see told him the story. He goes, Doug, this. I've seen this happen a hundred times. strong-willed fathers, sons getting away for the first time. You know, butt heads just a little bit. He goes, you know, let's call your dad. And he says, I'm sure we can work this out. So I gave hiim my dad's office number and he calls. He says, Yes, Doug, come, please. Tom Spragens president of Centre College. My dad comes on the phone. You. Yeah, Doug. Thomas Spragens here. He says, you know what? I've got your son here at my office. He is so committed to getting his degree and finishing it is education that he's applying for financial assistance. And I know with that kind of commitment that we can certainly work something out. There's dead silence on. When my dad comes back, he says, yeah, Tom, if you think so much, a little son of a bitch, you put him through school, bam!

Tracy Neal:
And hung up the phone.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And the president looked at me and says, you're right, we've got a problem. And he rang me financial assistance. Fast forward two years. I graduated from college. I had started that handyman business. I had 11 employees.

Tracy Neal:
Really.

Doug Cone Jr.:
I sold it to I did and sold it to my employees. And when I graduated from Centre College, I had paid all of my student loan off and had enough cash left to buy a 1972 Ford pickup truck with a camper shell on it. And today, that business is still operating at Centre College and it is still a financial assistantly elegible business for students at Centre College.

Tracy Neal:
Wow, that's amazing. And how thankful, I mean, maybe not at the moment that it happened, but how thankful are you looking back that your dad. I mean, you you had this this budding entrepreneur with inside you and he'd be forced it out.

Doug Cone Jr.:
He forced it out. He absolutely did. And at the time, it was it was the most horrific thing, you know, that I've ever been through. And I look back on it now and I realize it's one of the best things that could have happened to me.

Tracy Neal:
So Douglas III has no idea what's in store for him over the next 10 years. I have a feeling there's not going to be the easy road.

Doug Cone Jr.:
He will get what he earns.

Tracy Neal:
Okay. Good. Good to know. So let's fast forward back up to May 20th 1985. Let's see. 1985 would have been the Bo Jackson era. Yeah. Right. And Reebok is big. Nike's coming out with Bo Jackson, the cross trainer. MTV's hitting a big splash and Cone Distributing is born.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yes.

Tracy Neal:
What do you do on the first day after you sign the papers and have a beer.

Doug Cone Jr.:
I bring all the employees in, all 14 of them. And into a room and introduced myself as the new owner and ask if there's any questions. And my workforce at that time was probably 70 percent Caucasian, 30 percent African-American. And one of my favorite employees. And he retired after 30 years with the company, Bobby Vickers, big black African American. He raised his hand in the back of the room. He says, Mr. Cone, how you feel about black people? And I said, I said, Bobby. I said, I'll tell you what. I don't care if you're black, white, yellow, green or red. As long as you've got a job to do and you do it well, I don't care what color you are. And by the victors manias. I like that.

Tracy Neal:
That's good.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And so there was there was sort of this kind of automatic, I think, trust slash bond that that these guys were looking to this young guy.

Tracy Neal:
On day one.

Doug Cone Jr.:
On day one.

Tracy Neal:
And I'm I'm not you know, I didn't grow up in Florida, but in 1985 in Florida, were there, some would it would have been common to have some racial tensions in other industries or other workforces.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Well there actually were and I will tell you that when I was up there doing my due diligence and everything, putting the deal together, I actually stayed at a motel on the outskirts of Ocala where one side was segregated.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And you know.

Tracy Neal:
So it's still very much a big issue in 1985. Your statement in commitment to the employees really meant a lot for establishing culture trust in the family.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yes.

Tracy Neal:
That's awesome.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yeah. And so. So we go to day to day and day two. Back then, we were not a pre sell operation were all pebble's sell.

Tracy Neal:
Drivers sell.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yeah, driver cell drivers not only went out and sold when they came back in, they loaded their own trucks for the next day. The good old days, right. The good old days. And so the first thing I did was when they came in the next day, I was in the warehouse helping them load the trucks on the second day. The second day, too. All right. We got those trucks loaded on day three. I showed up in a pair of blue Dikki pants and a white shirt and had but Doug on it, not Doug Cone. And they all just Doug and my American flag on my left sleeve. And I jumped up the delivery truck with Bob Hancock, who again, another person retired after 30 years with me. And I said, Bob, I'm riding with you today. And he goes, well, with me, Mr. Carr. I said, Yeah. We're gonna go slinks a beer. And he goes, Yes, sir. I said, well, come on, let's go. And you know Tracy. I will tell you that, you know, you. You do that. And my belief has always been that you never ask an employee to ever do anything you haven't done or are not willing to do.

Tracy Neal:
Yep. When I was so I'm I'm I'm almost here in a couple of weeks I'll be 48. I started in the beer industry in 1994. And one of the things that I used to say, although I'm getting older and older, I used to say that I was the oldest young guy in the beer industry because when I was hired by Coors, I think I was one of three or four people under the age of 40. And I really am grateful for that because I was trained by all the older guys who came along in the late 70s and 80s, like yourself. And unlike some of the, you know, the last 20 years, in those early 90s, it was still old school beer sales. And what I was taught was you get in the car with a sales rep and you ride from start to finish. You help them merchandise and stack every brand of beer, not just yours. You eat lunch standing up, which is a kind way of saying, you know, don't go out and spend an hour sitting at a table, eating lunch, standing up.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Slim Jim and Mountain Dew.

Tracy Neal:
Yep. Right. And, one of things I always do and I do a work with even to this day when I got to work was probably four or five times a year. The first thing I tell them is look, I'm I'm your labor today. You don't even know I'm a boss in some respects. You might see me that way. This is your route and you're the boss. You need to tell me what to do. Don't expect me to know what to do because it's your route and treat me as if I'm your labor. And I will respond and I will help you, because my overall goal is to not only have fun and get to know you, but to make your day shorter. I don't want you going back to warehouse going, oh, man, that that guy had my car all day, you know, added two hours to my day. That's not the objective. So, yeah. So let's fast forward from May 22nd now or first two days of 1985. What's the industry look like for you as it changes over the last 30, 35 years? What are some significant things that you've done, I mean you've gone from 14 employees to three hundred and thirty. Right. Didn't happen overnight and and I'm sure it wasn't without some growing pains, some lessons, potential failure or two along the way. All right. Tell me about some of those some of the things that have happened.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Well, you know, from a from a growth standpoint, when I've looked at the industry, I think of it was a real benefit to me, was being a first generation beer guy.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
So I did know that that's the way it always done it. And I looked at this business and somebody on stage earlier yesterday said, you know, this is not rocket science, you know, and it's not it wasn't in 1985 and it really isn't today. There's so much that that has changed and there's more complexity, but there's so much that's still the same. And you see the cycles. Somebody was calling into the 10 year cycles or the 20 year cycles. And they're there. And there's a lot of truth to that. You know, I knew that if we were going to you know, if if if and I don't like to use the term, we won't hear me say I a whole lot. Right. No, I in team. Right.

Tracy Neal:
Good leaders say that.

Doug Cone Jr.:
OK, well, if we were going to going to grow this business, then I had to figure out, all right, how do I get brands? Well, consolidation back then was really I mean, in in in Ocala, Florida, there were actually five year distributors. There was me, there was the Miller guy. There was a Bud guy. There was a Pabt's guy. There was a G. Heileman, kind of all other import guy. All right. So I said, OK. He's my primary competitor. They've got a sixty five share, you know, and and the rest of us are all just kind of picking up the scraps and competing against one another when we ought to be focusing on this guy right here. Yeah. And and so as I got to know these guys in realizing that. Then it will make it really making any money. I see, guys. You know, if we do one of two things, either we joint venture or you sell to me. I've got to create some scale and some mass to be able to to to compete effectively. And so I was able to take those other three distributors and purchase them. Got got to start there. Then there was the sister house to mine in Gainesville and the owner was was getting up in years. And we had a good relationship. And I said, well, you sell me your business. And he said, yes, I will. And so we literally doubled the size of the business within two years. By 1987, we doubled the business to we were two hundred thousand cases in change. And the next thing we were at almost 600,000.

Tracy Neal:
Wow.

Doug Cone Jr.:
You know.

Tracy Neal:
That's awesome. So what does it mean? I only know. Douglas, do you have other children?

Doug Cone Jr.:
I do. I have an older sister and a younger brother.

Tracy Neal:
No, I mean children.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Children. Oh, yes. Do I?

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yes, I have a. Douglas has an older sister.

Tracy Neal:
OK.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Sady.

Tracy Neal:
Sady involved in the business?

Doug Cone Jr.:
No, no. Well, Sady is my my social media guru has our platform has taken off so well. He's not overwhelmed, but he's his plate is very full. And she was actually communications director for our local EDC chambered economic partnership. She did that for two years before she had her first child. My first grandchild. And so she is coming. She's coming on as contract labor to to to help with some of our community affairs things and to help Mark with some of our social media. So that's my older daughter. And then I have a younger son, William, who's in Pensacola at University West Florida, finishing up his degree.

Tracy Neal:
OK. So you had told me last night when we were talking in the lobby that this was a generational business. Right. So what does it mean to you in terms of the. I'm sure there's a lot of pride, but I don't want to put words, you know, to have somebody like your son and your daughter and potentially another son involved in the business someday.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Well, and I will also tell you that as of Monday of last week, my daughter's husband went to work for Team Cone. So I have a son in law in the business. Very sharp young man spent 12 years in his own Edward Jones shop. Okay. And so am I. Tracy, being honest with you. I've agonized over the last six months. I've had some very, very attractive offers to sell the business and have been tempted on several occasions, but thought to myself, number one is we're here on stage again. Where are you going to put your money and get a better return? A and then B. There is a tremendous amount of pride in and where this business is today and how it got there in those 300 people that depend on that company. And and the fact that I've actually think it's really very cool to give this next generation a chance at taking this business to another level.

Tracy Neal:
That's awesome. That's really cool. And so how is Douglas involved in the business today?

Doug Cone Jr.:
Well, Douglas, much, much like my father, when he started in the business, he went to summer camp and I've, you know, started in the damage all doing repack and, you know, cutting his fingers all up and having that hot glue gun burnim and, you know, various places on his body. And he has he has worked through a series of every crummy job there was. You know, but he's you know, he's now for. Forklift certified. He's working on his level one cicerone training. You know, he is he's he's working in our sales support set department, doing CAD drawings and doing resets. And, you know, so he's he's working diligently. And I always say slowly because he's got it. He's got a pretty set training schedule. To make sure that, you know, he he gets to touch as much of the business in the right appropriate amount of time.

Tracy Neal:
Good. Yeah. When I when I interviewed him and for our listeners, if you want to listen to Douglas Cone III, it's. episode number 25 on our podcast. But when I interviewed him, I remember saying, you know, that you're you're so young, Douglas, that I really look forward to 20 or 30 years from now us sitting down and having a rerecording of this and looking back and laughing that, you know, and just laughing at him, he's going to be laughed at me and I'm going to be laughing at myself as well, because I'm going to continue to grow and look back at today and go, boy, did I not know anything.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Right?

Tracy Neal:
What kind of message? I've got two more questions for you. The first one is, again, around family. You've got one grandson.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And one grandson.

Tracy Neal:
Ok.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And one do. My second one to do the first week in April.

Tracy Neal:
Congratulations. And so I would presume with another son in college and with Douglas not having any children yet, that you might be lucky enough to have many grandchildren 10 or 15 years from now.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yes.

Tracy Neal:
And there may even be grandchildren that continue to come and great grandchildren. And at some point in time, you know, like all of us, you will not be with us running the company.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Right.

Tracy Neal:
What kind of message would you like to leave for your grandchildren or your great grandchildren when they're a young adult potentially working at Team Cone?

Doug Cone Jr.:
Just always remember that I said it earlier when you and I got talking. Always remember that it's the people that you surround yourself with. That are the most important thing. Resource that you have in the business. And remember, it always treat them fairly, compassionately, honestly, and they will help you get where you want to go.

Tracy Neal:
Great advice. All right. My last question, any industry friends or partners out there, you want to give a shout out to anybody that really helped you leverage your your your career and grow to be the person that you are today? And I've asked this of other people, and sometimes they surprise and say it's a competitor or a supplier or a retailer or an employee. Anyone who will give a shout out to and say a big thanks for help me get to where you're at today.

Doug Cone Jr.:
I have probably 4 or 5 shout outs, one from a supplier standpoint. He's he's been a dear friend now for over 30 years. As my friend Pete Coors, who has has has been a friend and a mentor to me and, you know, in his own right, even though he's only a few years older than I am. But but it's been a it's been a relationship that is just very much been a two way street and a friendship that it runs very, very deep. That's great. I got so excited yesterday when I walked in the room and I saw my friend Bruce , who I would consider to be one of my mentors, who back when I was young, the young gun. You know, at 28 years old. And, you know, it's really so funny to be sitting here talking to you today. Thirty five years later, I still think I'm the youngest guy in the beer business.

Tracy Neal:
I do, too.

Doug Cone Jr.:
You know. And of course, there are a lot of sons, et cetera, et cetera. And in so many of of of so many great people have either gotten out of the business or were passed on.

Tracy Neal:
By the way, before you go to your third shot. Will you introduce me to Bruce later today at the conference? I have not met him before. Would have loved to meet him.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yeah.

Tracy Neal:
OK.

Doug Cone Jr.:
He's a he's a very, very, very, very special.

Tracy Neal:
Love to meet him.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Special guy.

Tracy Neal:
Thank you.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Yeah.

Tracy Neal:
OK. Sorry to interrupt you.

Doug Cone Jr.:
No, no. Not not a bit. And then I would say to. I've got to give a shout out to my vice president sales Charlie Ingrilli. Who is celebrating his 22nd year with me? Who sometimes is a great sounding board for me, tremendous supporter of me. He's. He gives me. He gives me 100 percent 24/7 and a lot of our success over the last few years, a lot of the credit goes to him.

Tracy Neal:
That's great.

Doug Cone Jr.:
A lot of credit goes to him and into the team. But I think that, you know, back to the grandchildrens some of those comments we have, we have worked hard, done some tremendously heavy lifting to develop the culture that we have a Team Cone. And a set of core values. And I think that the maintenance of that culture and sticking to those core values will be what we'll continue to make Team Cone successful going forward.

Tracy Neal:
That's great. One last shout out. Behind every great man, there's a great woman. Tell me tell me a little bit about your wife and the support and the sacrifices that she's made over these these years to support you.

Doug Cone Jr.:
I always get a little choked up about that because she is you know, I am blessed to be married to my best friend. We've known one another since we were 7 years old when we met in Sunday school. We were never an item at all. And especially when you tell the story around a group of women, you get a lot of big, wide eyes. But she was actually a bridesmaid in my first wedding. I'd been married before.

Tracy Neal:
OK.

Doug Cone Jr.:
OK. But we we just celebrated 35 years of marriage.

Tracy Neal:
Congratulations.

Doug Cone Jr.:
She's the mother of all of my children. She had nothing to do with the demise of my of my first my first marriage. And when I moved her out of campa where she'd grown up all her life, she had a flourishing catering business. She's a gourmet cook. And I came home one day and said, pack it up. We're going to Ocala. And in 1985, at eight o'clock at night, they'd roll the sidewalks up first. The first year I was in business, I'm working 18, 20 hour days. I come home. She didn't know anybody. She's cry her eyes out. Why did you move into this hellhole? And. But she has she has stood by me, put up with me. You know, she she knew what I was doing. She knew what it was going to take. And again, I think the secret to this long and happy marriage is the fact that she is my best friend.

Tracy Neal:
That's awesome. I look forward. What's her name?

Doug Cone Jr.:
Deborah Anne.

Tracy Neal:
Deborah Anne? And I look forward to meeting Deborah Anne.

Doug Cone Jr.:
And so she is without.

Tracy Neal:
Awesome. Well, Doug, I have really enjoyed this. You know, when I when I sometimes when I meet new people and I say, hey, I'd love to have you on the podcast as soon as they agree. I tend to kind of go dark on him because I don't want to have a lot of small talk. You know what I mean? I don't I don't want to. Since you agreed to go on the podcast. I stopped talking to you for 24 hours because I didn't want to know anything. I'd like to know it all for the first time. Right now. Right here. I didn't know about your entrepreneurial spirit. I didn't know that you were first generation. I didn't know anything about this. And I've really enjoyed the last hour. So thank you so much for agreeing to take the time. Share your story with not only me, but iSellBeer Nation out there. And you're a great, a great legend in this industry. Although the youngest legend, right. Great legend in this industry. A great ambassador. You're one of the good guys that we're really excited to have in this industry when we say it's all about the people. And I just want to thank you for your time and your openness.

Doug Cone Jr.:
Pleasure has been all mine Tracy.

Tracy Neal:
All right. Thank you, Doug. So what's the best tasting beer in America? Who cares? That's for the consumer to decide. And until they do, you will keep selling them new brands every day. As a distributors sales rep. You can become a part of the iSellBeer Nation by subscribing to this podcast and using the #iSellBeer in all your social posts. Also, be sure to join the iSellBeer Nation Facebook Group and visit our website. Our industry is an up and down the street business where local relationships matter. I want to thank you for making me part of your day and wish you good luck on the objectives for your next account call. In fact, I know you're gonna crush it.

Automatically convert your audio files to text with Sonix. Sonix is the best online, automated transcription service.

Sonix uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence to convert your mp3 files to text.

Rapid advancements in speech-to-text technology has made transcription a whole lot easier. Quickly and accurately convert your audio to text with Sonix. More computing power makes audio-to-text faster and more efficient. Automated transcription can quickly transcribe your skype calls. All of your remote meetings will be better indexed with a Sonix transcript. Automated transcription is getting more accurate with each passing day. Sonix converts audio to text in minutes, not hours. Get the most out of your audio content with Sonix. Do you have a lot of background noise in your audio files? Here's how you can remove background audio noise for free.

Sonix uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence to convert your mp3 files to text.

Sonix is the best online audio transcription software in 2020—it's fast, easy, and affordable.

If you are looking for a great way to convert your audio to text, try Sonix today.

Wait! Before You Go

FREE DOWNLOAD: A deck on Motivating Generation XBOX (your employees who spend all night gaming)