| 2016 Q4 | photo by Steven Hertzog
What is your business’s most important commodity or service?
Peace of mind. The knowledge that someone is watching their back while they run their business. Someone is present and actively advocating for them in places where decisions are being made.
What is your business’s most important priority?
Service to and the welfare of my members and their establishments.
What has been some of the most important aspects of your success?
Working with wonderful people who are passionate about hospitality and serving their customers. Connecting with decision-makers and elected officials. Helping them find the best solutions pain-points and assisting business owners and staff in understanding, interacting, and shaping public policy.
How many people do you work with, serve, interact with on a daily basis, and are responsible to? Or for?
Each day is different. Some days it’s hundreds or thousands, and on other days it’s just one person helping them with their problem. I am responsible to members and their governing boards. I also work for the best interests of the public. I do my best to improve the industry and the general public understanding of the challenges of our industry.
How do you and The “Spirits” Industry, make a positive impact on the Lawrence community?
Interesting question, there’s so many ways we have a positive impact. The spirits industry is just a part of the overall hospitality industry. This is the group that celebrates with you, that welcomes you in, rejoice the best times of your life, and to comfort you in the worst times of your life. Also we provide many jobs from your waiter, to the person who provides the food to the restaurants to the chef to the distributor to the manufacture we provide employment opportunities in the community and particularly the artesian and craft distillers brewers and vintners provide local jobs in our community. We are also the first line in protecting the community from underage drinking or folks who cannot consume alcohol legally. A large part of what we do is to ensure safe and legal consumption.
What is do you see as your personal responsibility and The Industry’s responsibility to the community?
Responsibility. I referred to this in an earlier question because it is a large part of what we do. We fully realize that we are in an industry that has restrictions and controls placed upon it by the government, you elected officials. We take those obligations very seriously. So, personally, I feel a duty to provide the tools my members need in offering friendly, ethical and legal service to the customers.
What would you change about doing business (or working with businesses) in Lawrence?
It is such an honor to work with the people and the amazing diversity that is Lawrence. In the places providing services I really would only change one thing in two ways. One: I wish I had more time. Time to work with each individual business. Time to listen to their needs and help solve all their problems. Two: I wish we had more time with a large part of our customer base. So many of them come to town to attend the University of Kansas or Haskell University or four other educational purposes and then they’re gone. I wish we had more time to get to know them and to help them understand what they’re looking for in a hospitality experience.
Why did you become involved? or What inspires you? – is there a specific thing, person or incident?
I became involved tangentially, sort of a backing into this role. Because I had so many friends who owned, operated or worked in this industry and they needed help. They were getting affected by changes of statutes, regulations, and policies. They needed representation in the Capital to make sure that all the facts were being heard and decisions were not negatively affecting them. And they couldn’t be there and working hard to grow their businesses and serve their customers. So with a little arm-twisting by my good friend Peach Madl and others, I agreed to help. I started off just as a part-time, short-term arrangement, to assist with one issue. Long story somewhat shorter it has turned into another career for me. I work in five states, and Chair the Government Affairs program for a national organization in D.C. I also do other consulting in my “spare time”. I couldn’t be happier being “miserably busy”. It’s very gratifying personally, for when I was younger, I was a server and a small business owner in the hospitality industry and was constantly affected by decisions of others, in places that I couldn’t be. Usually, on issues I didn’t even know were being considered.
What is the biggest challenge you feel The “Spirits” Industry faces?
Our industry is constantly being challenged from the day it began thousands of years ago. They have found recipes for beer and illustrations of spirit making on cave walls and in pyramids. I think our current largest problem is twofold; first, keeping up with expectations in a society that demands instant gratification. Our industry and all of the servers and sellers are challenged to keep up with things that people see on their devices or Mass media, that have yet to be brought to our particular location. They may not even be legal here. The second largest challenge is unique to our time; more and more people are used to experiencing life at an arm’s length. I’m referring to through their screens. They have events and experience things where they are not physically present. The Hospitality industry, spirits and alcohol, are not that kind of experience. Ours is a personal physical interaction and with a group that is less and less used to that personal affect. We have a challenge to make sure we are relevant and that our interaction is done responsibly, safely and hopefully enjoyably.
What do you foresee as being the biggest challenge for the future for your industry? And how are you addressing or preparing for it?
Another large challenge for industry is sustainability. Almost all of our products start from agriculture and natural resources and many if not most of our industry are now sustainable and working to stay green. What I’m referring to here is to keep a small businesses alive long enough to find their audience. So much is happening in the craft hospitality industry and so many new ideas and products are coming out all at once, it is a real challenge to get those products in front of the public long enough, that they can decide if this is something that will succeed or is this something that isn’t meant to be at this time. Hopefully, we all work together to make that happen.