It's In The Cards

CARDS have played an integral part of my life. When I was a little kid, baseball cards consumed my existence, as they did for much of my generation. While today baseball cards are more of a business, collectibles for a later day payout, I remember the games we played: flipping, trading and creating all-star teams, way before the Internet and the fantasy leagues, were my passions. I never was able to totally forgive my mother for throwing them out when I went to college.

Playing cards were the next obsession, a rite of passage from my high school into my college years. During that era, we passed many a night into early morning showing our bravado and competitiveness. I loved the feel and smell of those Bicycles.  Ultimately, I gave it up for the sex, drugs and rock & roll of the turbulent 60’s. That was way more fun. Also, as much as I loved to win, I hated to lose even more.

But for about 30 years, a different set of cards has been the mainstay in my life, my good old 5×8” index cards. Early in my career, a mentor taught me to use them as an efficient account management system, and I use it to this day. With the advent of computers all my techno-savvy co-workers have mocked my methods as fairly Stone Age. I admit that sometimes they’re inefficient, but they do continue to work even when the computers go down. Technology dependence has its drawbacks, my cards don’t.

I now bring you to why I write this column. I was at the 2010 NACS trade show. It is always a great event, filled with the latest and greatest, but the reason I love it so much is that I get to see hundreds of friends. It’s always good to catch up. It also crystallizes the transient nature of employment within the marketplace. As I covered the hundred-plus beverage companies, and saw old retailer buddies, I was struck by how many of the players have rotated to other companies. Almost every booth I entered had a familiar face wearing a different company polo shirt. It’s hard to track the people without a scorecard – but not when you’ve got a 5×8”. We are in a very incestuous industry; it doesn’t favor long time commitment and loyalty from either employer or employee.

As is my custom, after I returned, I pulled out my cards to update them, which required spending quite a few hours looking through the names of the people and the companies I have worked with. Sadly, there are hundreds of cards in my dead file. But as I wrote down my contacts and tracked their movements, I was amazed at how many of the names cropped up again and again, on multiple cards. It was the rule, not the exception. In your day to day existence you don’t realize the magnitude of the shifting of personnel, but my exercise was proof positive, because my cards don’t lie.

I’ve always valued stability. I’ve spent 18 years publishing this, the definitive magazine for the beverage industry. You all can move; I guess it’s my role to keep doing what I do, if only to serve as a clearinghouse for everyone else. If you need me, I’m here. It’s in the cards.