Here's how Total Wine runs their business: Hire people to run your business who already have experience with large retail operations, ideally ones who have actually run businesses larger than you currently are so they can guide you toward growth. Hire people that already fit your business model, not ones you owe a favor to or who "contributed" to your cause. Find executives with experience in the product you sell or the sales model you use. Staff the stores with people that work toward company goals. Make sure there are enough qualified people on duty to cover store hours. Finally, provide a compelling reason for people to go to your stores and not the competition's.
Here's how the PLCB does it: Fill your 'business' with political hacks who have no experience running any business even remotely close to the size of the PLCB, nor any firsthand knowledge of retail or wholesale liquor or wine. Mix with a "we don't care what you want" attitude and staff with people who are almost immune to being fired and get promoted based on time in grade, not product knowledge or performance. Stir in a large amount of "We've always done it this way," toss in a goodly amount of graft and nepotism, and you'll have something that resembles the PLCB.
Drilling down, let's look at the comparative qualifications of the PLCB board chairman and Total Wine's chairman, and see how they stack up.
PLCB Board Chairman Tim Holden
: BA Sociology, Bloomsburg University
- Probation officer
- Real estate Broker
- State Representative
- U.S. Congressman
- Vice chairman House Agriculture Committee
- Chairman of the committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research
- Member Livestock, Dairy and Poultry subcommittee
- Member Transportation and Infrastructure committee.
Total Wine & More Board Chairman Adrian Bellamy
- Bachelor of Commerce, University of South Africa
- Master of Business Leadership, University of South Africa
- Chairman and CEO of Edgars Stores (clothing)
- Chairman and CEO DFS Group Ltd. (leading luxury retailer)
- Executive Chairman of The Body Shop International (global personal hygeine retailer)
- Chairman of Reckitt Benckiser PLC (Major consumer product manufacturer, $13B revenue)
- Chairman of the Board for Williams-Sonoma Inc. (renowned houseware retailer, $4.5B revenue)
- Board Member of Action (Netherlands-based value retailer)
- Board Member River Island (London-based fashion retailer)
- Previous Board Member
- Robert Mondavi Corp (wine)
- South African Breweries Ltd (beer)
- Starbucks Corp. (coffee; retail)
Those are pretty close — "congressman," after all — but I have to give the edge to Mr. Bellamy. This isn't a blast against Mr. Holden in particular. He's no more qualified than any of the other PLCB board members of the past 82 years, and just happens to be in that position now as I write this. I could do the same for the other Board Member Michael Negra (who does have significant business and retail experience, if not in booze) in comparison to the rest of the Total Wine Board, but you can follow the links and see for yourself. If this really is one of the top wine and spirits sellers in the world, you would expect it to be run by top management. It simply is not.
We residents have been hearing the lip service about how the PLCB wants to run more like a business. One of the first things you do to move toward that goal is to hire people who know and understand the business you are in, something the State has consistently failed to do. Given the newest PLCB Board member to be nominated, whose qualifications appear to be that he worked for Governor Wolf, gave money to Governor Wolf's campaign, and is a personal buddy to Governor Wolf, that pattern of willful failure will likely continue.
Privatization allows entrepreneurs to use their vision, drive, and work ethic to grow their businesses. Monopoly does not. The choice is simple and has been made by everyone already. Private business is how you buy practically everything else (and it's how you buy wine and spirits as well, apparently, if you live within ten miles of the border). It works, if it didn't, we'd have state-run gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail.
So here's to 2016, may it bring an end to outdated policies from the 1930's. We get closer every time, and as the PLCB supporters themselves admit: we only have to win once. Because we'll never go back.