Today we finish our interview series with Dan Carr, President of General Cigar. Last we spoke with Dan we were talking about General’s niche in the industry. Today, we look at leadership style, brand consistency and what experience he wants you to walk away with after smoking one of their cigars.
Cigar Brief (CB): What do you feel is the key to creating brand consistency and loyalty?
Dan Carr: That’s number one for us. Again I mean, you don’t make a brand for over 30 years if you don’t have consistency. And we’ve been seeing a lot of brands that have really come out of favor because of that gradual change over time. I can give you an example, during the boom when the boom happened in the 90s, 1996-’97 especially, I remember Edgar Cullman saying, we’re not going to ship another cigar. And we didn’t ship for a long period of time, not a cigar, which is amazing. You have all these people working at the company and of course all the customers that had enormous demand for our cigars and we of course wanted to fill that demand, but we never wanted to jeopardize quality or consistency, so we held off on producing until we could ensure that.
We also try to create consistency and loyalty through our marketing initiatives and to be honest I think, we have one of the most innovative sales organizations in the industry. They work really hard to connect us into the market.
CB: Speaking of customer loyalty, what do you want a customer to walk away with after smoking one of your cigars?
Dan Carr: Complete pleasure and enjoyment. We want them to remember the moment that the cigar occasioned.
CB: So for my last question I wanted to ask you about your leadership style. Clearly you have a lot of territory and personnel to oversee in your position. One of the things that I have noticed on this trip is that despite the size of your company, which could easily breed distance and aloofness, there instead seems to be a high level of esprit de corps and camaraderie. How do you instill this culture in your workforce?
Dan Carr: Well, what I try to instill in my role of leadership is the culture, and that culture is one of ownership. One of the main reasons why I’m here and not in another company is that I love for employees to be owners and what I mean by that is that an owner can be anywhere at any level, there can be many “owners” in a corporation. If you believe that you’re best and what you want to do is worth taking ownership of, that’s where it becomes fun.
And if you want to be just kind of, “hey look, I just want to do my thing and go home,” it’s kind of what we’re not about and that’s been the difference. And so, I’ve got a lot of people who’ve come to the company with incredible experiences and backgrounds and that is because they’ve wanted to become an owner in what we do. They wanted to lead something, it wasn’t about the dough, it was about leading something and then it was about making a footprint, a fingerprint or something. I mean if you work for say Unilever, if you leave, the company its still going to keep on going. But here that loss would be felt. As big as we are, we operate under a small company philosophy, that everyones contribution matters.
***We would just like to take a moment to thank Dan Carr and the rest of the team at General Cigar. We will be continueing to bring you some great interviews with the different operational staff of their Dominican facility in the weeks ahead and have really appreciated the exposure and access they have granted Cigar Brief.