Coca-Cola Beverages Florida began operations less than one year ago, when it acquired the Central Florida territory from The Coca-Cola Company, and the Tampa-based company continues to grow. The company – the only African-American owned Coca-Cola bottler – has signed letters-of-intent to acquire more territory the company, most recently in December.
We talked to Troy Taylor, the company’s chairman and CEO, about his background and expanding role in the Coca-Cola system.
What made you want to get into the bottling business?
Growing up in Louisiana, I experienced the products at a young age. I was fascinated by the business and could see myself doing it. I never had the desire to work at The Coca-Cola Company; I always knew I wanted to be a bottler. To be this close to the products and the brands is such an exciting part of the business. I couldn’t ask for anything better.
What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced in setting up a new bottling company?
The biggest challenge was starting up an independent business. It has been nearly 60 years since a bottler has been added to the Coca-Cola system. This newness presented unique challenges. For example, there were no systems in place such as payroll, so we had to build that infrastructure. Having the right leadership team in place allowed me to sleep better at night. We see ourselves as one of the largest startups in the world. We started with about eight people on the leadership team in a 5,000-square-foot office space, and now we have a full leadership team in a 27,000-square-foot space and more than $380 million in revenue. And with the upcoming acquisitions of North and South Florida, in just a little over a year, our business will grow exponentially to over $1 billion in revenue, making us one of the largest Coca-Cola bottlers in the United States.
What are key issues for your company?
We have to become more locally driven in understanding the cultures, people, tastes and desires of our Florida consumers. I also recognize that people want to consume our beverages in different ways. To win, we must innovate and not rely on the same thing for every market. We also have to build a different culture throughout our company – where our leaders have more responsibility and accountability to fully own their functions and run their parts of the business.
How are you building your corporate culture?
Engagement is key to building our culture. Our communities, customers and colleagues mean everything to our business. Leading by example and showing where I want the culture to be is an essential step to building a solid foundational core. Most importantly, we need to have fun as well.
Where did your outlook originate?
It comes from my upbringing – parents, teachers and others. They taught me that you can’t take yourself too seriously and you can’t do it all. Leaders surround themselves with great people.
What are your future goals for the company?
We want to be the best Coca-Cola bottler. We will get bigger with the upcoming acquisitions of North and South Florida, our larger size will give us opportunities to create and capture more value in our markets. We view our growth as an enabler to be better and become a leader in the Coca-Cola bottling system. In order to accomplish this, we have to have flawless execution daily. There are some great bottlers and leaders in our system that we are learning from, and we will work hard to add to the great legacy in our bottling system.
In fall 2015, you visited Coca-Cola in Atlanta to meet with the 2015 class of MulticulturalEDGE, a weeklong leadership development program. EDGE is part of the Multicultural Leadership Council, and its strategy is to accelerate the development and advancement of U.S. multicultural talent. Coca-Cola has a number of Business Resource Groups, including field chapters, to support various groups. What are your thoughts on these opportunities?
Coca-Cola Beverages Florida will always embrace the field chapters. We built a diverse senior leadership team on purpose. All companies will have challenges, and I can remember when diversity wasn’t even a thought. Diversity is the right thing to do in general, but it’s also the right business decision. The Coca-Cola Company is doing the right things as it relates to diversity and inclusion, and I applaud them for it.