Last week I interviewed Martin Roper, who was CEO of Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams ) from 2001 until 2018, and it actually was his last day there. As background, he followed the iconic founder Jim Koch and became CEO in 2001. During those 17 years as CEO, the company quadrupled its revenue and had share price compounded annual growth rate of 20%! Roper helped the diversification by leading expansion to about 60 lines including Twisted Tea, Angry Orchard Cider, Truly Spiked.
Since I was curious about what the last day was like I asked Martin and he responded, “In some ways, my last day at The Boston Beer Company was just like any other day. In other words, I worked to ensure my team would continue to move the company forward; have a long-term focus, but also continue to be driven by a sense of urgency to constantly innovate. That said, it was also bittersweet, because I opened my last Sam Adams beer at the company and toasted the great group of people I’ve had the privilege to work with and the iconic brand and category that we’ve built together.”
In spending some time that day with Martin there were two things that resonated with me. First was his long-term focus. In our world of quarterly earnings, it is sometimes hard to maintain that focus; but I find most of the truly great companies are focused on the long term because that ensures you stay true to your strategy and values, and never take your eye off the customer. Interestingly, after interviewing about 750 top CEOs, I have found the concept of ‘the way you do one thing is the way you do everything’ to be so true in that most CEOs will have a belief of how to succeed that they bring to any company they are CEO of. And that’s why many CEOs can successfully lead several companies in completely different industries. My take is whatever Martin does in life, he will always have a long-term focus.
The second thing is a little more tactical … while I was with Martin I had a Sam ’76 beer together. I was somewhat amazed with it being both super light yet having such a deep complexity! I almost felt like I needed to pair the beer with a food. Of course the message to me there is, in products don’t with ‘or’ think ‘and’. That’s the art of innovation.
So my message to CEOs is, think about what your special sauce is i.e. long-term focus … stay true to that and keep it on your last day of a position and into the future as well.