Close Up: Pat Viancourt
Show Up And Play Loose
When you grow up in a family of eight children, you have to learn how to take things in stride. For Cleveland, Ohio, native Patrick Viancourt, president and CEO of supplier Hospitality Mints (PPAI 113524), this early lesson in not taking life too seriously has served him well throughout his career in the food and beverage, secondary packaging and awards/recognition industries.
Prior to his current role, which he assumed in March 2016, Viancourt was vice president of sales for North America at Ranpak Corp, a packaging company. Viancourt lives with his wife, Kim, and their two sons, Patrick, 18, and Matthew, 17, in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a southeast suburb of Cleveland. When he’s not at work, he’s usually moving, making music or watching high school sports.
“I like to stay active, run, work out and ski,” he says. “I also am an avid guitar player. We are quite a musical family. My wife used to be in the music business and my sons also play music, so there’s always music playing or being played in our house.”
Both of his sons also play football. “I had the great pleasure of coaching them when they were in grade school and when they went off to high school, I was able to step back and really enjoy watching them both grow and flourish, but as a fan and not as their coach.”
This past fall, the boys played in the Ohio Division 1 high school state championship game against their state rival. “Unfortunately, they lost in double overtime, but it was a very proud moment for my wife and me to see both of our sons on the field at the same time and being key contributors to such a fantastic season,” he says.
What was your first job and what lessons did you learn?
My first job was being a paper boy. I delivered both the morning and the afternoon paper. I believe it taught me to be accountable, to provide top-notch customer service and to deliver what was expected of me (no pun intended!). It also taught me how to handle and respect money. The key to successfully managing a paper route is not only delivering the papers on time and in the right place, but also being timely when collecting the weekly dues from customers for the delivery service. You can deliver all the newspapers you want, but if you don’t get paid, it is a wasted effort. My first job out of college was working for Seagram Americas, the global wine and spirits company. They were phenomenal at selling and marketing their brands while teaching their employees the fiduciary responsibilities of business.
What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
I don’t know if there’s any one accomplishment that I would point to, but I have made it a point to truly focus on the training and development of those employees whom I have had the privilege to lead. I believe that people want to learn and they want to be led by good leaders. I believe that it’s critical to the success of a great organization. I guess what I am proudest of is the people I have worked with over the years and have maintained long-lasting relationships with—even going back to my first boss at Seagram’s.
Who are your mentors and what have they taught you?
I’ve had the great pleasure of having many mentors throughout my career. Not necessarily formal mentors, but either people whom I reported to in a job or people I could call on the phone and have meaningful conversations with on key business topics. But if I had to pick one, I would have to say my father. My dad was a product of the Depression; he was a veteran of two wars (WWII and Korea), and he quit high school when he was 16 years old to enlist in the Navy. He celebrated his 17th birthday in basic training before being shipped off to the South Pacific. After the war, he went back and finished high school and received his diploma. Both he and my mother were always there for us. With eight kids, they figured out how to make it work. I still look back in amazement. My dad unfortunately passed away back in 2002 and my mom just turned 87 and is doing well.
What promotional product do you wish you had invented?
There are so many unique products that stand out, it’s hard to point to one. I guess I would have liked to have invented the silk screen. It’s amazing how that apparatus transformed the clothing industry. Prior to that, everything was done by stitching cloth numbers or letters to a shirt. No matter how the industry has evolved, and especially with all the technology gadgets that have been developed, the logoed t-shirt is still perhaps the most ubiquitous product in the promotional products industry, and it all started with the silk screen.
If you wrote a book about your life, what would the title be and why?
Show Up and Play Loose. I think so much of life is showing up. Throughout my career, whenever I have hired a new employee (salespeople in particular), the one piece of advice that I would always offer was for them to “show up”. What I mean by that is show up, be prepared to accomplish something and to achieve success each and every day. The other piece of advice, “play loose.”
Life can be very hectic and you can choose to come at it one of two ways. You can either be extremely uptight and stressed, or you can play loose. It’s the difference between an organization that is very uptight because the person at the top is that way—so the rest of the organization starts to take on that same persona and people spend too much time ruminating about things that may or may not ever happen versus the organization with a leader who exudes confidence and that confidence trickles down through the organization.
It’s the difference between the sales rep who meets with a customer and is so concerned with closing the deal that it eventually falls apart versus the sales rep who shows up and plays loose. They are confident, they are not pushy, they’re not selling, they are advocating on the customer’s behalf. They know that if a customer says no, it may just mean not now. For good salespeople, hearing a “no” really means they’re just one step closer to hearing a “yes!”
What are your plans for Hospitality Mints in 2017?
As a company, we do business in three separate channels—promotional products, foodservice and retail. We have positioned Hospitality Mints to grow in all three of these channels. Given the sheer size of the promotional products industry and the fact that the channel continues to flourish, we believe there are accelerated growth opportunities for Hospitality Mints.
We have put in place some great initiatives in 2017 that will increase Hospitality Mints’ brand awareness and most effectively communicate our value proposition, including a more robust media and product-sampling plan and enhanced packaging that allows our customers to leverage technology through the use of mints. We can now fit a QR code on our mint wrappers, allowing a customer make it an edible business card or piece of POS.
Using custom mints may be one of the most meaningful and yet cost-effective ways to market your company, your message and your overall value proposition, not to mention that the product inside the wrapper is the highest of quality, made in the USA and, we believe, the best mint in the industry.
Julie Richie is an Austin, Texas-based writer and former associate editor for PPB.