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Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Outlaw Tobacconist Genius

I liked the last blog so much (Education vs. Information) I was thinking of never adding another entry again, but I can’t help but highlight one of the smartest and most impressive Tobacconists I have ever met. Let me clarify “met”. I was standing in the line at Starbucks in the Houston convention center and I thought I recognized the face in front of me. It was Kendall Culbertson; founder of The Outlaw Cigar Co. in Kansas City, Mo. I had just read an article about the Outlaw Tobacconist in a trade publication and was impressed with his promotional hi jinks and retail philosophy. So I said ‘hi’, …. blah, blah, blah… ‘nice to meet you’. And that was about it.
Now, the latest issue of Tobacconist magazine has arrived and I have read another article about Outlaw Cigar Co. (by Stephen A. Ross, page 51). But this article is infinitely better than the last one I read; highlighting the real genius of the Outlaw Tobacconist. I can’t stop repeatedly reading the article because there is so much helpful and amazing information. Kendall is a revolutionary and brilliant Tobacconist and businessman so I would like to quote a few excerpts and ideas here. I believe there is something valuable to learn from almost every Tobacconist: there is so much information, knowledge, and wisdom in retail Tobacconists!!! We have far more in common than we tend to think… But I think i have found my new Guru…
- “If you do a good job of creating a cigar smoker, you’re growing your own business as well as others. Grow the pie; don’t worry about the size of your slice. If the pie grows, your slice automatically gets bigger.” (I could stop writing now, because this says it all)
- “An aged cigar is better and it’s unique. I try to convince people to age cigars themselves because they are so much better.” (this is good for business and customer appreciation)
- “How much better does the cigar taste with the story…” (Sidney Frank, entrepreneur behind Grey Goose said: “Americans want to pay more, you just have to give them a good story”)
- “You’ve got to get people interested in your business … show them that you are having a good time” (Amen)
- “Why are cigars in convenience stores, liquor stores and grocery stores? They’re not going to create new cigar smokers …. haven’t you just sold out the cigar industry’s ability to gain cigar smokers?” (Hallelujah! and shame on those manufacturers that bypass their retail Tobacconists to generate simple revenue instead of lifelong and loyal customers)
- “A guy is not going to get passionate about the cigar he’s smoking by buying it in a grocery store”
- “I believe that I’m in the health business. Whats the number one killer of men? Stress. What can you do to relieve stress? You can’t just tell someone to relax. A cigar is a great way. When a guy smokes a cigar for an hour and a half or two hours and has fun with the other guys, he’s relaxing. What is unhealthier – the smoke that he gets from the cigar or the stress that he would have if he didn’t take it easy for an hour and a half each day? I think its the stress by far. I’m saving your life because I’m relieving your stress. A cigar a day can be a big relief and it paves the way for more downtime.” (Savor Your Time and focus on Your Quality of Life)
- “You must hire people that are already passionate about cigars” (the main ingredient of any great Tobacconist is Passion!)
And there is soooo much more. I almost regurgitated the entire article, so I will have to stop here. To me the lesson is, Care about your industry, your profession, and your customers, and you will be healthy, wealthy, and wise. Outlaw Cigar Co. does amazing events where they have even brought in Apache helicopters to amuse their crowds… While this is totally absurd for most of us, the principles, ideas, and values they espouse are applicable to all retail Tobacconists, and immediately actionable!!! So, Get to work.
PS: (shameless self promotion) you can read a little about Tobacconist University on page 31
PSS: What’s going on in Kansas City, MO….??? Between Xikar and Outlaw, there must be something special in the water… we should have a convention there!

Jorge Armenteros, CMT

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