Gary Shansby, alumnus (BA 1959) and immediate past chairman of the Foster School Advisory Board, was recently featured in Leaders Magazine. As the magazine editor notes, the founder and chairman of Partida Tequila is an expert brand builder and entrepreneur. He co-founded a consumer goods private equity firm and has been associated with products such as Glaceau Vitamin Water, Famous Amos Cookies, Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts, Terra Chips, Smart Balance, and Partida. Prior to this, Shansby was chairman and CEO of Shaklee Corporation, a Fortune 500 NYSE Company. He previously held senior management positions at Colgate-Palmolive, American Home Products, and The Clorox Company, and brings more than 50 years of brand development and building experience to Partida (as well as Prof. Mark Forehand’s marketing classes on occasion).
The article covers insights from Shansby on what it takes to be an effective leader, the challenges associated with being the CEO of a publicly traded company, and how he got into the tequila business. He also shares his strategy for building the Partida brand.
He says the effective traits of a leader were introduced to him by a writer from The Wall Street Journal who had met several U.S. presidents. According to the writer, great presidents do these three things: “First, don’t act too smart, meaning it’s not about being intellectual; second, be decisive; and, finally, be passionate and communicative about what you believe.”
When talking about his time as CEO of Shaklee Shansby says, “The challenge is that there are so many masters. But the most important ‘master’ is not the board nor the shareholders, but the motivation of the employees, which also reflects on product quality and consistency.”
He came to found Partida after researching the spirits business and discovering that the highest growth category was tequila, and in particular, ultra-premium tequila. Shansby said, “The tequila business reminded me of the wine business as it is similarly dependent on soil and terroir. The best ultra-premium tequilas are as fine in quality as single-malt Scotch, Cognac, and great whiskeys.”
Shansby’s strategy for building the Partida brand has been to focus on product quality. “My intention from the beginning was to build Partida correctly, and not by aggressive, in-your-face marketing or price promotions. Experience has proven that rapid growth in spirits generally is not as permanent as steady growth. Most of the large spirit brands were built over decades.”
When asked what has been the secret to his ability to build real relationships in business, he says, “It doesn’t bother me to make a mistake. No one has managed a business and not made mistakes. Learning from and not repeating mistakes is key to success.”
Read the full article on the Leaders Magazine website.