My favourite football team is the elite of elites – Manchester United. Back in the day, Manchester United had the great manager Alex Ferguson, and under him there were star players with superb skills. Just like how such a perfect team shines brightly on the field, a right mix of talent is also a winning formula in business.
When I first joined Jebsen Beverage as Sales Representative in 2008, it did sort of feel like joining an elite squad. Blue Girl Beer, one of the products I was responsible for selling, has been a household name and a top seller for years. But this did not mean that it had no competitors – in fact, competition was fierce. Thanks to our leadership’s guidance and the advice from various mentors at work, I quickly gained the necessary skills to navigate the industry. The past few years have been difficult, but they have also been fruitful, and certainly helped me grow.
Selling beer is much more interesting and enjoyable than what I sold in previous role. Not only do I get to be much more involved in marketing our products, but I also get to create custom sales and marketing plans to cater to our clients’ love for novelty. I have had opportunities to create exciting, creative marketing campaigns that brought in significant sales and partnerships. I particularly remember certain unique and successful campaigns, like catwalk shows at bars and mahjong set redemption promotions. Though some of these were executed years ago, many of our long-term clients still remember the campaigns, which is hugely satisfying for me. When Jebsen Beverage partnered with AB Inbev in 2015, joining a portfolio of strong beer brands, I found myself stepping into another level of growth and an opportunity to build up my management experience.
What makes a football team stand out is its diligence in training high-potential players. Likewise, I was lucky enough to be trained and nurtured at Jebsen, which led me to rise through ranks within 12 years, to my role of Sales Manager today. Sometimes, I draw inspiration from Ferguson’s leadership philosophy on leading my own team.
Ferguson once wrote a book called Leading, where he shared his experience of leading Manchester United. He talked about the need for leaders to be visionary, and the importance of exuding confidence and steadfastness as key to winning people’s trust. In my position, I make it a point to map out long-term development plans for my team. Sometimes I join my subordinates in client meetings so I can understand the strengths and weaknesses of each team member, which helps me bring out the best in everyone and improve our performance as a team.
Winning a game is a short-term gain. Only by building a united team can we win big in the long-term. Outside of work, my subordinates, colleagues and I often meet for drinks and friendly banter, solidifying our bond and sometimes, generating fabulous new ideas from our casual chats.
We also build relationships beyond our own team. A loyal fan base is an important component of Manchester United’s success, and I am glad to see that our clients are also brand loyal, to a certain degree. I believe that beer marketing and sales is more than just transactions, but the careful cultivation of long-term relationships. Beyond selling beer, my team also manages client relationships, and keeps clients coming back for business or sometimes, with new ideas that we can translate into action.
This year, with the pandemic, presented many challenges to us. We were constantly playing defence, adjusting our actions amidst changes and disruptions. More than ever, we needed to strengthen communication among teams and with our clients. But I am confident: the Jebsen Group has existed for over a century and weathered many storms; the current challenge is just one of our tests. And we are prepared. I guess Ferguson put it best when he said that victory is not the accomplishment of one single MVP or coach – it is built on the contribution of the entire team. As long as we have a jersey on our backs, we look out for one another and uplift one another during hard times. This is the most important leadership lesson I have learned at Jebsen, and it will continue to guide the way I lead the team through challenges today and in the future.