The Brand Emanates from the Team

When making hires, Mike Kirban of Vita Coco, left, and Amy Taylor of Red Bull both prioritize the right fit over experience.

When Mike Kirban first started selling coconut water, he was just looking to make a few bucks on the side. Kirban was working from home for a computer software company and had no intentions of launching a corporation.

Demand changed his plan. Coconut water has become one of the fastest-selling and growing categories in the beverage industry, and Kirban, the co-founder of Vita Coco, is one of its most important players.

Yet despite the professional income, Kirban didn’t want an overly conservative office. He still wanted the feeling of working from home. He built the Vita Coco office with this preference in mind; hence, there were hammocks for power naps, palm trees, reggae music and no drama.

“I wanted to create a place that I wanted to go to,” he said. “That I actually enjoyed.”

That desire to create an enjoyable business through building a culturally aligned team carried from the first presentation to the last panel at BevNET Live Summer ‘13 last week in New York, and the success of the companies sharing the stage throughout the day served to inspire and inform the entrepreneurs in the audience.

With Kirban’s new-age-y approach to management, which he shared on stage during the event, he revealed that he had established Vita Coco as a state of both mind and business. At their core, coconuts are often associated with tropical getaways. Kirban said that he tries to hire people who can mesh with this ideology and also forward the brand with a laid-back competitiveness. By doing so, Vita Coco’s message emanates from the team, which targets a consumer base that continues to seek brand identity.

Perhaps no brand better exemplifies the mindset of a team, no matter the scale, more than Red Bull. Amy Taylor, the VP/GM of Red Bull North America East, said at the conference that despite her company’s size of more than 8,000 employees, it still retains an entrepreneurial, localized mindset.

She said that she allows the bright minds of Red Bull’s team to make directional decisions and trusts that this will steer the company in the right direction. Whatever drives loyalty at Red Bull, she said, is the same thing that creates brand loyalty by the consumer.

“We kind of get out of the way of the brand,” Taylor said. “We’re facilitating the brand coming to life.”

Like Red Bull and other new-age companies, Runa prioritizes engagement, passion and risk tolerance over experience or the details of a resume. Tyler Gage, the co-founder of Runa, a natural energy drink, said in his speech at the conference that he hires people who seem intelligent and genuinely committed to his brand. He also wanted younger, savvier people who could deliver his brand’s street-smart message of clean energy.

“To train them to sell beverages is not the hardest thing in the world,” Gage said.

To keep pace with competitors new and old, beverage brands continue to innovate their products and their marketing efforts. The people behind this progression can sometimes be forgotten.

“The way that the brand lives is the way that the culture and organization lives,” Taylor said.