In past generations, the scion of a powerful family might have expected to walk straight into a top position on the strength of name alone. But in a modern business environment, this is no longer a given: family members either prove themselves on the job, or arrive with skills, or both.
Practical experience could begin early. “I did [work at the brewery],” recalls Trum, “but only during school vacation—my parents felt that it was most important for me to get a good school education and that I should have the time to concentrate on this, rather than rolling wooden barrels all year round. For me, it was something like an extra allowance. I also worked at the tavern during those times, tapping beer for instance. However, all this was voluntarily: my parents never forced me to work.”
Dick Yuengling, the fifth generation of his family to run D.G. Yuengling and Son, grew up in the shadow of the brewery in the coal town of Pottsville, PA. He couldn’t wait to start working there, which he did at 15, repairing the properties the brewery owned and rented to bar keepers.
Georg Schneider began working in the Schneider brewery at 14, in the technical department. “There I would wash the tanks, scrub the floors, get food for colleagues and any job which was done by apprentices. Later on I was allowed to help the drivers deliver the beer.” After a university degree in economics and a master brewer’s certificate from Weihenstephan, he returned to the brewery.
Anthony Fuller, the managing director at Fuller, Smith and Turner in London, joined the company over 40 years ago, after a stint in the army. “I’d learned a lot about dealing with people, organizing, which you do as an officer, but most of my training has been on the job,” he says. “When I first joined, it was a very easygoing company, very relaxed; you didn’t get the impression that anyone put in very long hours.” His career started on the property side of the company, with Fuller’s chain of pubs.
“Back then, directors thought they knew everything they needed to know to run a company. So when I suggested, for example, that I should go on a course to learn more about the building trade, the reaction was ‘Oh, no, we already know about all that.’
“Now we make sure that people have every opportunity to go on courses. We’d never take anyone into the company until they’d spent time working outside, and had something to offer. We don’t encourage anyone to join as young as I was when I came in, in my twenties.”
For most, formal academic training has superseded hands-on training. Matthias Trum holds a degree in brewing science from the brewing university at Weihenstephan; Hugues Dubuisson trained as an agricultural and brewing engineer, and took a degree in administration and management. The current generation of Lindemans hold degrees in biochemistry and bioengineering, with an emphasis on brewing. Melissa Coors, who has a degree in Foreign Service and an MBA is now brand manager, Hispanic Marketing in the Coors company.
Paul Wells, of the Charles Wells brewery in the old English borough town of Bedford, came to his career at the company with training as a chef and in hotel management. “I’m probably the first family member to come to the company with a thorough background in food and drink,” he says. “It was different for previous generations: at least two of those generations would have had to fight in wars, so they had served the country in that capacity before joining the company.”
After his studies, Wells spent a year in the States. “Working in the States was an absolutely critical experience. I saw that staff really earned money based on good service and performance. Related to the U.K. at the time, there was no sense that extra effort led to extra rewards.”
He moved back to London. “I worked in bars, mainly theme bars—God, weren’t they awful!—but they were the thing at the time. When my father asked, ‘Is this the time to join?’ I took over as our sales person for the company in London, so I got to see my old friends, but from the other side of the business.” He became the company’s chief executive in 1998, at age 39.
August Busch IV worked as an intern in the corporate yeast culture department in 1985. “That may not sound very exciting,” he commented, “but we supply all of our breweries from the same yeast culture system. That proprietary yeast is directly descended from the original Budweiser yeast culture first used by my great great grandfather in 1876.” He also served as an apprentice brewer and a line foreman in the company’s beer packaging and shipping department, before transitioning to brand management and marketing.
“I’ve had a variety of jobs in the brewery and with the company, giving me a chance to learn all aspects of the business,” Busch continues. “That’s probably the same kind of experience that you’ll find in most executives who’ve spent their entire career with one company.”