“Some of them have never forgiven me!” Jack Teeling on his darkest days in business
When the Cooley Distillery, founded by his father John, was sold to Beam Inc. in 2012, Jack Teeling was forced to break some very bad news to the company’s distributors.
Life in business is never straightforward. Just ask Jack Teeling.
The Co-Founder of Dublin’s massively popular Teeling Distillery in the Liberties, and the whiskey it produces, has revealed the toll taken by his last four months as Managing Director of the Cooley Distillery.
When the company started by his father John was sold to Beam Inc. (later Beam Suntory) in January 2012, Jack was tasked with staying on for four months to enable the transition to new owners.
He tells Tadhg Enright on The Architects of Business, in partnership with EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™, how difficult it was to cut ties with many of the company’s smaller distributors.
“It was like a black hole,” he says.
“You’d no idea what was going on or what we were meant to do. My role was unfortunately to exit a lot of partnerships that we had. So the whole point of… when large companies tend to buy smaller brands, they want to push it through their route to market and capture all the value chain.
“And we’d a lot of independent, smaller distributors around the world and they wanted me to fire them.”
Jack – an EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ winner in the Emerging category in 2017 - was charged with sending away partners he had signed up in the first place.
“(It was a) very uncomfortable situation, but it had to be done and that’s unfortunately what they wanted me to do. I was dealing with a junior solicitor in Spain of all places and they gave me strict instructions I wasn’t allowed to go and meet my customers. I had to send it by email and then not communicate by phone, in case I said something stupid that would lead eventually to libel and stuff like that but look, it was a necessary evil unfortunately.”
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Having founded the Teeling Distillery with his brother Stephen, Jack managed to lure back a number of those same distributors from his time at Cooley.
“A lot of… around 60% or 70% of the customers I have now are people that I had relationships originally with. But some of them have basically never forgiven me for ending that original relationship.”