Bill Brooks: We grew the brand

November 20, 2012 

We grew the brand

I ran the first Hostess route in North Carolina. Management, not the nonexistent union, decided that the Hostess brand would not grow unless someone was focused exclusively on the brand. The route man was key to distribution, merchandising and relationship building. James Upchurch trained me.

Pay was primarily commission. When James first started, he was loading his truck at 4 a.m. and unloading it at 4 p.m. On his time off, Wednesdays and after church on Sundays, he checked on his stores, made sure product was well merchandised. He redistributed product between stores to increase sales and reduce out-of-date product. The expiration date was a consumer driven, brand protecting device.

James’ entrepreneurial approach took him from small farming to middle income. When he trained me he was making more commission and working fewer hours – both earned. Management decided route men like James were overpaid. Management changed the compensation plan to less reward and more hours. Our plant went union.

Later I worked with Merita Bread, a union shop. As a manager, I publicly complemented high performers and privately disciplined low performers. In less than a year, we added two routes. Average sales increased by 25 percent.

We grow working together.

Bill Brooks


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