This week we sat down with Jeff Hansson, Co-Founder & CEO at Scout Distribution, to learn more about the reshaping and disruption of the craft beverage distribution space. Prior to Scout, Jeff was part of the team that successfully scaled and sold Saint Archer Brewing Company. We’re incredibly excited to be working with Jeff and the team at Scout this year.
What was the driving force behind starting Scout Distribution?
We identified that there was a big whole in the market for emerging brands. The existing wholesalers have large portfolios and don’t have the bandwidth to give a young brand the time and energy that is required to grow. We also felt strongly that our background as a supplier would put us in a unique position to communicate effectively with our brands. Most distributors only understand the distribution world but we are uniquely relatable because we own a brewery and understand everything our suppliers are going through.
What should a future founder be most aware of before launching a distribution company?
Hire the best. We have handpicked every single person that has come onto our team, both sales and operations. Scout made the decision early on to invest in industry professionals that could make an immediate impact at retail. You truly get what you pay for in this industry. If you build the best team, it makes it much easier to sign and grow incredible brands.
From your experience, what have been your biggest pain points and what have you found to be the most rewarding?
As a young distributor, you’re not extremely efficient as your geographical footprint isn’t very large. Early on, our routing efficiency and drop size was poor and small. You need to be able to weather that period of time from a cash flow perspective. Scout put an immense amount of focus on going deep vs. wide to provide great service to our accounts and to drive operational efficiency. Another pain point in the beginning was working with new brands that had very little knowledge on how to scale their brand within the three tiered system. These young entrepreneurs are all hungry and want their brand to be “the next big thing” and sometimes you need to slow them down and discuss big picture strategy. The most rewarding feeling is watching our brands flourish in the market, there is nothing better.
What are the three tools/platforms you can’t live without for your business?
Our ERP system for sales and inventory management is the foundation of our entire organization. Having the right technological tools is critical to our success. We are integrating Slack to create a better culture of internal communication and accountability. We will be approaching 100 employees within the next 12 months, so excellent intercompany communication is essential. We recently invested into an HR platform called Paycom. Paycom has enabled us to manage hourly labor much more efficiently and it has enabled our employees to own their PTO requests, W4 documents, etc.
What companies in the modern brand ecosystem are you a fan of — and why? Are there specific commonalities in the brands that you respect?
There are so many brands that I respect but two that stand out to me are Juneshine Hard Kombucha and Ashland Hard Seltzer. Juneshine is incredible at connecting with their targeted consumer. They are masters at social media marketing and they have remained very true to their core values of producing a high quality product while striving to be extremely sustainable. Ashland Hard Seltzer has been incredibly fun to watch since their launch in February. The beautiful packaging, brand messaging and the effective execution of their owner/influencer business model has really taken things to a new level. For Ashland to compete with massive national brands this quickly is nothing short of astonishing. The commonalities between the brands that I see moving the needle in the marketplace are the following; They are great at raising capital, they understand how to reach their targeted demographic and they understand the importance of investing into feet on the street. At the end of the day, this is a people business, if you have the right people you can go a long way.