No unfortunately I didn’t get to pick the brain of Neville Isdell, the former CEO of Coca-Cola, but I did read his book Inside Coca-Cola recently. It was pretty good, not great, but definitely interesting to get an insight into the ultimate global brand.
Whenever I read a biography or business related book, my goal is always to find at least one takeaway message. Anything that helps expand my knowledge, opinion or perspective on or about business. From some books I end up with a list but from Neville and Coca-Cola I learnt one key lesson. It is very simple and makes perfect sense but I barely ever hear it discussed when reading or conversing about business.
It essentially stems from Neville’s experience during his early days working for Coca-Cola in Zambia in the 60’s. Back then the distribution networks for Coca-Cola in Africa were rather primitive by today’s standards. Cases of Coca-Cola were paddled up a river by boat to be sold at stalls in villages. It may sound inefficient but it worked and secret as to why is very simple;
“Everyone along the way, from start to finish, makes a profit”.
I know that in real business life, especially as a small business, it is never that simple with everyone along the way always after a bigger piece of the pie. But it’s a great notion to keep in the back of your mind when building a business that will be sustainable in the long term.