A Toast to Triangle
The iconic industrialist Andrew Carnegie once said that when he resolved to stop accumulating, he began what was an “infinitely more serious and difficult task … wise distribution.” With respect to the beer industry, manufacturers have benefitted by one Los Angeles-based company whose operational expertise not only helps alleviate the difficulties in this task, but helps ensure the wise distribution of beer throughout Southern California.
When walking into a bar or store to purchase whatever one may prefer in beer, thoughts may dwell on a particular flavor or the brewing brilliance of one manufacturer or the next, but one may not immediately consider that the very accessibility of that beer has been achieved through the dedication of a distributor who tirelessly toils to ensure the goods not only get delivered, but get where they need to be in the condition that consumers desire. That’s dedication worthy of a toast, but it is also at the core of services fulfilled by Triangle Distributing Company.
In terms of that day-in, day-out role, Triangle’s place in the beer distribution process is simple. The distributor takes inventory from the brewery and holds enough to keep retail customers with sufficient stock of their specific brands and packages, but so much that freshness is not compromised. That’s important because as difficult as it may be to fathom, beer is a perishable item. The presence of the distributor also allows the brewery to lessen its own inventory and begin concentrating instead on putting together subsequent batches.
Distributors take orders from their specific retailers – stores, restaurants, etc. – and deliver the merchandise; in fact, retailers infrequently keep more than a week or two of inventory on hand at their places of business. Another role of the distributor is brand-building, which, in Triangle’s case, means 27 sales representatives calling on more than 1,500 retail accounts. The reps take inventory, suggest orders, discuss new brands and packages and discuss pricing, assortment, display and merchandising. Depending on the nature of the relationship and the needs of the customer, a beer sales rep can run the gamut from order-taker to beer and beverage consultant.
While all this speaks to the work of a distributor, the point here is that Triangle Distributing Company is recognized as one of the best in the business. It functions on a higher level, and that could be largely attributed to a higher focus on values as indicated by Triangle’s executive leadership (and “values guru”) known as Peter Heimark who represents the third generation of a family with a distinguished legacy in the distribution business. Lots of leaders speak with reverence about “corporate values,” but Peter Heimark recites the mantra on a higher level and it’s obvious that the concept of team is one the University of Southern California grad considers in nearly every waking moment.
“My job is to make sure we have an environment where our employees, suppliers and customers can grow and succeed,” he said. “I believe in our eight shared values, and I review all our decision-making to ensure those values are the filter through which decisions are made.
“I go to sleep thinking about whether there is balance or even better congruity between what our customers, suppliers and employees see as their individual success. I wake up and drive to work thinking about what more we can do to create that success every day.
“At all times, I am thinking about the attitude of my team. Do they believe in the vision of shared success? What more can I do to help them see that vision?”
The “shared values” to which he refers – treat each other with uncompromising truth; lavish trust on our associates; mentor unselfishly; be receptive to new ideas regardless of origin; take personal risks for the organization’s sake; give credit where it’s due; reject dishonest dollars; and put the interests of others before our own –illustrate an approach he considers vital to maintaining employee contentment.
“Our folks embrace these principles,” he says, “and that makes it a great place to spend 50-plus hours a week.”
The business actually got its start at the family level back in 1937, when Heimark’s grandfather, Rudy, founded the Heimark Distributing Company in nearby Indio, Calif. He then founded Triangle with business partner James Fleming two decades later and was joined a year later by Heimark’s father, Donald, after a stint in the U.S. Air Force.
Heimark got his feet wet after graduating from Claremont McKenna College, when he worked as an international intern for Anheuser-Busch for a year in Spain and Denmark. The overseas experience convinced him of the value he could derive from having a master’s degree in business administration, which he pursued and eventually got at USC’s Marshall School of Business in 1997.
“There were some very practical skills and assets that I could gain with an MBA, especially a local MBA, that I would not be able to gain as easily on my own,” he said. “I’d previously had no training or background in accounting or finance, but quickly got up to speed by taking those courses at USC.
“I was also attracted to the entrepreneurship program at USC. While I wasn’t looking to start a new venture, many of the lessons of entrepreneurship apply to running a family business.”
Not surprisingly, it was both familiarity and camaraderie that attracted him to Triangle.
“Family business is the short answer, but a more honest answer is the people,” he says. “I’m surrounded by fabulous people who are as close as family. I get up every day for the 185 people at Triangle and 80 more at Heimark Distributing who do all the hard work.
“That having been said, this is the beer business. If you can’t have fun selling beer, you’ve got problems. While the industry has changed drastically over the last 16 years – the consolidation of the most powerful brewers, the emergence of the craft beer scene, etc. – there is still a lot to be excited about day in, day out.”
“In a nutshell,” says Heimark, “the layman drinking a bottle of Budweiser can thank the wholesaler for the fact that it is available, that it is fresh, that it is cold, that it was affordable, that it looked delicious because of an awesome display at retail, and, if they are curious about a new brand, all those same principles apply. With a wholesaler, your grocery store has a few hundred SKUs in stock, fresh, spaced appropriately and priced competitively. Without a wholesaler, you have something more like a big-box store, a few SKUs and freshness offset by availability, or visa-versa.”
And on the days where his resolve is waning, Heimark recalls his experiences as an intern and the lessons learned about advocating for every stakeholder in the brewer-to-consumer process – which is a mindset he still sees in the vast majority of family run distribution organizations.
“When we walk in a retail outlet, we want that bar, C-store, grocery store or any other customer to know we are there to create success for them,” he said. “We do this by offering a great assortment, by offering expert advice, but most basically by giving them adequate time and attention and not just dashing out with an order.
As consolidation continues throughout the beer industry, Heimark says it is a shame some of that service mindset is being sacrificed.
“When a brewer – big or small – partners with us, I want them to know this is their team. They do not need to make appointments. They do not need permission to be with our people. We are their path to market and we are there for their success.”
For more information, please visit their website at: Triangle Distributing Company
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