Due to his family’s ownership of the Royal Cup Coffee & Tea business, Bill Smith began his professional career early. Bill’s summer work during his high school and college years turned into early immersion training and exposure to building a solid foundation for understanding the family coffee business and what it takes to serve customers well and grow the business. After completing his college degree at Davidson, completing his Infantry Officer training at Fort Benning, Georgia, and working outside the family business for two years, Bill returned to the family business in 1994. Bill’s professional career within the family business resumed with a concentrated exposure to running coffee routes and growing the business through direct sales with customers in the metro Atlanta area as well as business expansion opportunities in South Florida, Colorado, and Arizona.
In 2000, Bill earned his MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Later, he moved from Royal Cup’s Field Sales team to the company’s headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama, where he joined the company’s Operations division. After various immersion roles in all areas of operations, Bill assumed senior management responsibilities for Operations. Bill successfully built out the Operations Management team, increased the capacity and capabilities of each department, and assumed executive leadership responsibilities soon thereafter.
In the 2010s, Bill first was promoted to executive leadership over Operations, Commercial Sales, and Office Coffee Service. Then, in 2014, Bill was named President & CEO of Royal Cup thus following in his uncle and father’s footsteps for the family business.
Throughout his career, Bill has been an active supporter and participant in United Way annual campaigns and he has served on multiple Birmingham and Alabama nonprofit organizations such as the Red Cross and McWane Science Center. Currently, in addition to Bill’s director and strategic advisor role on Royal Cup’s board, Bill also serves on the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama board of directors.
Bill is an active fitness leader and enjoys running, swimming, cycling, and hiking. Having done many running road races, Bill will do his first triathlon later this 2021 calendar year. Bill also is a ready partner to go again and join anyone who wants to celebrate a milestone birthday with a skydiving jump.
How did you get started in this business?
As a family business executive and owner, I achieved numerous milestones across my experiences. Now, while still being an owner and board director, I want to apply those learnings in a new way and a new direction. I started my business to give myself the platform to share my experiences with other business owners and executives who are facing and leaning into the same situations and challenges I faced in his family business career.
How do you make money?
My objectives are to bring both value and a partnership spirit to the owners and business executives with whom I work. When that happens, I will be confident that my clients will do well and then I, in turn, will do well.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
I am excited to start this new consulting venture. My research, benchmarks, and connections indicate that it normally takes at least 1 – 2 years before achieving a break-even point or run rate of sustained success. I am eager and competitive to be a positive mark on those benchmarks.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Every person faces doubts and risks. I appreciate the quote “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone” and the “fail forward” spirit. I am comfortable with not being perfect but rather enjoy pushing myself to embrace life changes and lean into risks.
How did you get your first customer?
I am in my startup launch presently and look forward to celebrating my first clients this year!
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
I value learning and accountability. I appreciate the coaching that Donna Peters, The Me-Suite, gives. While this effort may not be marketing, the creative discovery and learning process opens up doors to new business opportunities.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
The COVID pandemic has forced many tough decisions on many leaders, businesses, and of course individuals. I have never experienced as radical a situation such as this one, but I see the many opportunities that are rising out this situation. I believe that sometimes the toughest decision is an inward question where you ask yourself whether you have the guts and accountability to lean into change.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I have been blessed with opportunities and is appreciative and thankful for the experiences I have had.
Early in my career, I achieved success by immersing myself in multiple areas within my family business. It is important to me that I take the immersion approach where I could see, touch, feel the different areas of the business for how they worked and who the key people were that made the business what it was.
Later in my career, I achieved success by listening to influential and respected leaders, by being persistent with actions, and by acting with conviction.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
I am most satisfied with achieving successful team results, especially when it comes through engaging with and empowering people to be their best and most successful selves.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I am most excited about helping successful people solve problems and achieve more with their businesses.
What business books have inspired you?
Some of my favorite authors are Jim Collins, especially his book, Good to Great, and then Malcolm Gladwell, with his creative thinking starting with The Tipping Point. I am reading Traction by Gino Wickman now.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to embrace those first five years post-college with the goal of achieving a greater variety of new experiences, especially including more travel to different countries and cultures.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
Yes, I believe in mentoring opportunities and will welcome the chance to listen and empower other successful people. Contact Bill through his email or on LinkedIn.