Rob Maneson - The Executive Formula Podcast #2

Podcast: Rob Maneson, C-Level Executive in the CPG/Tobacco Industry | The Executive Formula Podcast #2

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Below is a link to the full video of The Executive Formula Podcast #2 with Rob Maneson and hosted by Edouard Thoumyre. Further down you will find a full transcript of our conversation, including links to the exact moments in the video.

Guest: Rob Maneson, C-Level Executive in the Tobacco Industry

Host: Edouard Thoumyre, Managing Partner & Executive Recruiter at ACCUR Recruiting Services

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Rob Maneson’s Profile

League of Fat Bastards (President USA and Americas)
Apr 2024 – Present · 2 mos
Miami, Florida, United States · Remote

AIR (Advanced Inhalation Rituals) (Head of Sales (Americas Region))
2022 – 2023 · 1 yr
Austin, Texas, United States · Remote

Lucy (Head of Sales)
2021 – Jul 2022 · 1 yr 7 mos
Charlotte, North Carolina, United States · Remote

Imperial Brands PLC 
8 yrs 1 mo
Fontem U.S. Inc. (Sr. Vice President Sales)
2019 – 2021 · 2 yrs
Charlotte, North Carolina, United States

800-JR Cigar Inc. (Chief Executive Officer)
2017 – 2019 · 2 yrs
Greater New York City Area

Casa de Montecristo, Inc. (General Manager)
2016 – 2017 · 1 yr
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

800-JR Cigar Inc. (Retail Strategy & Marketing Director)
2014 – 2016 · 2 yrs
Greater New York City Area

Altadis USA (Head of Trade Marketing & Key Account Sales/Trade Marketing Manager)
2013 – 2014 · 1 yr
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

VPS Convenience Store Group (Category Manager – Tobacco)
2011 – 2013 · 2 yrs
Wilmington, NC

RaceTrac Petroleum (Category Manager – Cigarettes)
2010 – 2011 · 1 yr
Atlanta, GA

Altria (Sales Unit Manager / Sales Development Associate / Territory Sales Representative)
2004 – 2010 · 6 yrs
San Francisco, CA, St. Louis, MO, Houston, TX

League of Fat Bastards (President USA and Americas)
Apr 2024 – Present · 2 mos
Miami, Florida, United States · Remote

AIR (Advanced Inhalation Rituals) (Head of Sales (Americas Region))
2022 – 2023 · 1 yr
Austin, Texas, United States · Remote

Lucy (Head of Sales)
2021 – Jul 2022 · 1 yr 7 mos
Charlotte, North Carolina, United States · Remote

Imperial Brands PLC 
8 yrs 1 mo
Fontem U.S. Inc. (Sr. Vice President Sales)
2019 – 2021 · 2 yrs
Charlotte, North Carolina, United States

800-JR Cigar Inc. (Chief Executive Officer)
2017 – 2019 · 2 yrs
Greater New York City Area

Casa de Montecristo, Inc. (General Manager)
2016 – 2017 · 1 yr
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

800-JR Cigar Inc. (Retail Strategy & Marketing Director)
2014 – 2016 · 2 yrs
Greater New York City Area

Altadis USA (Head of Trade Marketing & Key Account Sales/Trade Marketing Manager)
2013 – 2014 · 1 yr
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

VPS Convenience Store Group (Category Manager – Tobacco)
2011 – 2013 · 2 yrs
Wilmington, NC

RaceTrac Petroleum (Category Manager – Cigarettes)
2010 – 2011 · 1 yr
Atlanta, GA

Altria (Sales Unit Manager / Sales Development Associate / Territory Sales Representative)
2004 – 2010 · 6 yrs
San Francisco, CA, St. Louis, MO, Houston, TX

Rob Maneson’s Full Profile on Linkedin

Table of Contents

Here are the loose “chapters” in the conversation. Click link to jump approximately to that part in the transcript:

Podcast & Guest Introduction

Edouard Thoumyre (00:00:00)
Welcome to the Executive Formula, the podcast where we discuss executive careers and executive recruitment. Hello everyone. I’m your host, Édouard Thoumyre, managing partner at ACCUR Recruiting Services, a boutique executive search firm specialized in consumer goods industries.

Today is our second episode with a guest we’ve known for a long time, Rob Maneson. Rob is a senior executive in the tobacco industry.

He first spent about 15 years with two large public companies, Altria and then Imperial Tobacco, now called Imperial Brands. At Imperial, Rob started in trade marketing, then led the retail strategy and marketing for JR Cigars, a recently acquired company by the group. He became general manager of a newly created retail division called Casa de Monte Cristo, went back to JR Cigars as the managing director.

and finally became senior VP of sales for another division called Fontem, dedicated to tobacco alternatives. After Imperial, Rob was head of sales for Lucy Goods, a privately owned tobacco company, tobacco alternative company, head of sales for Air Global, a private equity backed company, the world leading Shisha tobacco brand, and now general manager for a newly created, newly formed startup in the cigar industry unapologetically called the League of Fat Bastards Cigars.

Rob, welcome to the Executive Formula. It’s a pleasure to have you with us today.

Rob Maneson (00:01:29)
Thank you so much. Happy to be here.

Not Talking Tobacco But CPG Industry

Edouard Thoumyre (00:01:31)
All right, thank you. So first quick disclaimer for the listeners who are not necessarily very interested in the tobacco industry. I want to reassure them that even though we will discuss it a little bit, it’s not the main focus of today’s episode. We’ll just try to discuss it like we would any other category as an example. And this is also the approach we have at ACCUR Recruiting Services where tobacco is one of the several, one of the few consumer categories that we serve.

And similar to the first episode we had with Nadine Hoibel a few days ago, I would like today to discuss how you grew your career as an example, how you became an executive like you are today. And I’m also interested in exploring the differences between working for a publicly owned company versus a privately owned company versus a private equity backed companies, even though sometimes titles and job description look the same.

the mindset and the approach is usually quite different. And this is a topic that comes up very often in our searches, either with the employers or with the candidates. So I know you’ve been exposed to each of these different types of companies and ownerships. And so I thought it would be an interesting subject. I’ve been speaking way too much, so the floor is yours. Yeah.

Rob Maneson (00:02:44)
Thank you.

Rob Maneson (00:02:49)
Yeah, absolutely.

Rob Maneson (00:02:53)
Sure, thank you so much. I mean, yeah, I think you nicely showed and talked about my career. My career is really interesting, right? No, no, I think it’s quite on. So, you know, I’ve had an opportunity to work in a number of different public and private companies, and I’ve been fortunate enough to grow my career since really coming out of university. So starting in a very low level and learning those experiences and gaining skills in a variety of different roles.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:03:00)
No mistake on my part.

Rob Maneson (00:03:19)
and each role progressively getting more responsibility, bigger scope, and really ultimately to running businesses, which has been super fun and enjoyable and a real reward for myself and my career. So you mentioned tobacco. I mean, ultimately I started my career in what I would call a fast moving consumer goods company. The tobacco sector is very similar to other fast moving consumer goods. We just happen to sell a tobacco product, but the principles and the steps and how you go to market.

is very similar from our products to transpiring to other fast moving goods. So the learning is, I think, is quite consistent versus other goods. A little different clientele, obviously. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So, but you mentioned it, I started my career with Altria. Altria at the time was a company that owns Kraft Foods, had international business. It was a really large.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:04:00)
and applicable across industries as well. Yeah.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:04:15)
I didn’t remember that. Okay.

Rob Maneson (00:04:17)
multinational company with, you know, I think was at the time, maybe 100,000 employees worldwide. So it was a huge, huge organization. And for me, that was the opportunity. The reason, yes, I joined the cigarette side of the business and the tobacco side of the business. But one of the reasons I joined out of university was the opportunity to go on such large scale. And the time they owned still a large portion of Miller Brewing as well. So you had Kraft Foods, Miller Brewing, and the tobacco side of the business. And so.

it was really a huge opportunity. And one of the things that attracted me to the opportunity was the training programs they offered was really quite good. So it was very thorough and depth. And I thought it would be a good start to any career that I had is getting kind of gaining this incredible training. And in hindsight, it’s been wonderful. Some of the training, the best training I got in my professional career was,

the first several years kind of working for them in various capabilities. And so, you know, that’s always great. I think private companies are quite different from that perspective.

Tobacco Employers Are Usually Better

Edouard Thoumyre (00:05:25)
Sure. So two points before we continue mentioning the training. I’ve noticed, I didn’t necessarily know that before starting working with tobacco companies, but I noticed when we started working for Imperial Tobacco as well as for JTI a long time ago that these companies seem to be really good employers. And the way I was looking at it is that maybe because they’re not necessarily attractive for everybody.

They have limited reach to candidates. Therefore, they have to be probably better employers in the way they treat employees than others. And so I’ve noticed people staying for a long, long time in those companies, but not only staying, but also moving up the ranks. And apparently, development programs and training programs have been a common thing, especially among the top tobacco companies. So Imperial, BAT,

Rob Maneson (00:05:55)
That’s exactly right.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:06:24)
Philip Morris, etc.

Rob Maneson (00:06:26)
I think you nailed it, Edward. So I mean, traditionally tobacco companies are maybe not as highly sought after as, you know, different categories in fast moving consumer goods. So for them to attract the right talent, they have to be traditionally their benefits packages that are very healthy and strong. Their training and development is at the forefront and the career progression options and path is very clear, generally speaking.

And so that applied to me and appealed to me when I was looking for it. I wasn’t a, I still really aren’t a tobacco user. So it wasn’t an issue for me from a moral issue, but it was, do I really want to work here? And is the mission right? But also as a young employee and somebody just coming out of college, those things were important as the ability to kind of career advancement, the skillset development so that whatever I moved into in the future, I’d have a good basis. Ed.

To your point, yes, all of the tobacco companies that I’m familiar with, traditionally the larger multinationals, very focused on career development, very focused on training and development. And so they’re great bases and kind of places to be from that regard. My experience, it would tell you, and again, limited experience, but my experience is that traditionally public companies offer much more of that than the private companies.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:07:47)
Of course. Yeah.

Working for Private Companies vs PE-Backed Companies

Rob Maneson (00:07:49)
My experience is the private companies are really kind of hiring people who have the skill set they want and trying to do a very specific task or very specific things. And again, that might be over a year or multiple years, but very specific focus. And so less focused on the development of their employees. Maybe the benefits are strong, but the development career advancement is not as clearly aligned. And so from my experience, public companies benefit.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:08:11)

Edouard Thoumyre (00:08:15)
But maybe it’s due to the size as well. Maybe it’s due to the size. Yeah.

Rob Maneson (00:08:18)
I think so. I think so. Yeah. So I’ve been part of some larger private equity firm companies and very small like I am now are startups. Startups obviously have zero training and development. Their focus is on survival and growing the business exponentially. And so it’s a very different mindset. And so my, again, my experience I think is quite unique is a combination of both public and private is fun. And it’s also,

Edouard Thoumyre (00:08:30)
Yeah, they don’t have to.

Rob Maneson (00:08:45)
For me, it’s been able to take the learnings from both and use different things that I experience and apply them to the work I do, which has been also fun for me. So yeah, it’s just unique environments that I’ve had a chance to operate in.

Experience Needed To Work For PE-Backed Companies

Edouard Thoumyre (00:09:01)
It’s funny because it’s a discussion sometimes I have with, so sometimes I get asked to coach families and friends who are starting their career and I do that not too often, but I’ve done it many times. And one of the things that I have learned from all those years in executive search is that it’s a really good bet to look for…

an employer that is a renowned employer to develop careers rather than focus on the category you personally love. And typically, if you start working in your career with Coca-Cola, P&G, L’Oreal, and to a certain extent as well the large tobacco companies, but also you know, you mentioned Kraft, Mondelēz Now, these are fantastic employers to grow the beginning stages of your career.

10, 15 years, because you do have access to a lot of training and development programs, and then you become highly bankable for any other companies, private companies, private equity-backed companies, etc. And so this is a cycle that I see very often. And people who, on the contrary, start their career with a focus on products they like only, but not necessarily looking at the quality of the employer from a career perspective.

they don’t have the same guarantees or the same likelihood of growing a career.

Rob Maneson (00:10:29)
Yeah, I think you’ve got that right. I think, again, it depends on the individual and what they want in their career. But ultimately for me, it was, you know, my ambition was to grow and kind of get more and more responsibility. And so I never set out, even as a young employee, I never thought, man, I’m going to be a general manager or a managing director of a business. That was never my kind of aspiration. But as you kind of move along in your career and you get more and more exposure and more and more development.

Those things then became absolute goals for me, right? So yeah, so it’s the possibility of that. And what would that mean for me professionally in my career and what I enjoy doing those things. And so, you know, that became very unique and I love it now. Again, the ability, what drives me is the ability to make change in an organization, be it financial for the business or personnel and developing people or something bigger. And I think, you know, when I started my career again, as a,

Edouard Thoumyre (00:11:00)
Possible. Okay, yeah.

Rob Maneson (00:11:29)
as a low level field sales territory person, my focus was individually on my 150 accounts in a very small market. And at some point, as I was working hard and developing, it was like, well, how does my contribution matter to the big company? And so from that regard, it was frustrating. And so, because it was like, well, my little piece is very irrelevant to a massive company. And then as you grow your career, that…

that small piece becomes actually much bigger. And what I’ve found is, you know, for me personally, my reward is seeing action I put in place or a strategy I put in place have an actual real impact to the business, be it, you know, good or bad, right? We all make mistakes. So you learn from those mistakes where they don’t have a positive impact and you try to make better decisions next time. But the ability to make a real decision for the company that has an impact.

is what gets me the most excited about my work, right? And that’s, I think at a startup or a publicly traded company is how do you enhance that? At a startup, it’s very different, right? So startups are, the startups I work at are focused on radical growth. It’s the hockey stick, right? So it’s a massive curve of growth. How do you do that? How do you create a business that generates the flywheel quickly and continuously?

Edouard Thoumyre (00:12:42)
Of course.

Rob Maneson (00:12:52)
where publicly traded companies, again, in the sectors that I’ve been in have traditionally been focused on very slow and steady growth, right? And there’s a, that’s right.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:13:01)
But usually they have a leading position already. So they have to maintain a leading position or improve it a little bit. But yeah.

Rob Maneson (00:13:09)
Yeah, that’s right. But it’s also different, right? I think the expectations of the shareholders are very different. Even if it’s a public company, the expectations are continuous capital investment, moderate growth, strong results of the stock price or shareholder value. In private equity companies, they’re hoping for a home run, right? They’re hoping for a big splash in growth and 20X return on investment of their money. So…

Edouard Thoumyre (00:13:30)
Yeah. And then exit. Yeah.

Rob Maneson (00:13:36)
You know, they’re willing to take a lot more chances than the public company. And again, those it’s the pros and cons of both, but at both points in my career, I’ve really kind of experienced both and they’re both incredibly rewarding. Maintaining your value position of a publicly traded company when you’re a 50% market share is a really unique, hard challenge. Same as growing a business from, you know, 1% market to 10%.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:13:39)
Yeah, true.

Rob Maneson (00:14:02)
That’s also a very unique challenge. And I’ve had the ability and the luck to do work for both kinds of companies. So a lot of fun.

Large Employers Open More Doors

Edouard Thoumyre (00:14:11)
But it comes back also to a discussion I’ve had many times with people trying to find how to start their career, where very often I would tell them that if they start with a good employer, and usually a large employer, very well known, they open up more doors for the future as well. They get trained and they get called for other types of opportunities.

It’s not necessarily as easy when you start with a small private owned company that doesn’t necessarily have a big name. And if you do a few years there, you don’t necessarily have the big label of, you know, 10, 15 years with a large publicly traded, the Imperial Tobacco, Kraft Food, whatever. And so you can more easily start with large employers and go into smaller employers to have a big impact and be a GM there. And then the opposite, the opposite is almost impossible.

Rob Maneson (00:15:07)
Yeah, I think it’s my experience is the same, but I also know from friends and family that I, you know, similar career paths are very, you know, kind of levels of careers through networking. I think if you start with a smaller company, you’re taking a much bigger gamble that they have some unique product that is going to, it can work, but I think it’s, it’s, it’s one in a thousand. And I don’t, I’m, you know, this is my guess one in a thousand versus one in one in 10. Right. So it’s.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:15:21)
Yeah, it can still work, but yeah.

Rob Maneson (00:15:33)
it’s much harder that they’re gonna start from the ground and grow. And obviously there’s some incredible companies that have grown to become huge. And you can then transition back to publicly traded companies as that company grows, because you have the experience of scaling and something. But I think your point is valid, which is, you know, the learnings I got from working at a big company, the training I got, and able to apply those to smaller companies who are growing has been a lot easier than the other way. I don’t think in my career, I would have been able to start at…

Edouard Thoumyre (00:15:59)

Rob Maneson (00:16:02)
some of the privately held kind of small companies and take that same learning to a bigger company. It wouldn’t have worked in my career. And again, for me, my growth personally and professionally was keep going up the ladder. There are people now who start careers who don’t want that. They’re happy and content with a good salary and good benefits and a product that they care about and can be passionate about.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:16:11)

Rob Maneson (00:16:29)
that’s awesome, I have no, you know, all the respect for those people. It’s just what you want in your career. But I think if your goal is to, you know, become a managing director someday, or, you know, a VP of whatever company, I think the experience and the training is going to be critical to you doing that. And you can get that through your company, you can obviously get that through an MBA or, you know, other kind of, you know, doctoral programs or, you know, learnings outside of that. But,

I think your company is important. I also think your CV makes, when you’re growing your career and moving around different, people look at certainly what company you worked for, what brands they represent and what you did. So it’s very much. So I think that is an important piece as somebody transitions and keep going up their careers. Well, you worked for XYZ company and they had these incredible brands that people recognize and had huge brand awareness.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:17:07)
Of course, it’s a big label.

Rob Maneson (00:17:25)
it makes the connection for them a lot easier than, well, I worked for this small brand that I, company maybe I’ve never heard of and it’s more niche focused or specific to a category. So, I think all of those things matter at some point. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the reality of kind of hiring, I think.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:17:29)
Of course.

Growing Ambition

Edouard Thoumyre (00:17:45)
It is a reality. I mean, statistically, at least it’s a reality. I just wanted to bounce back on the fact you were saying that becoming a general manager was not necessarily a goal of yours when you started your career, but it became a goal as you probably got a little closer. And I was surprised because I always kind of thought like most people when they become a GM, it’s because they’ve been looking to become a GM or managing director. You feel it was not the case for you? Or it became gradual?

Rob Maneson (00:17:50)

Rob Maneson (00:18:12)
Well, no, I think early in my career, yeah, I think it became gradual. I think very much. When I started my career at 20, 23 years old in a big company, my ambition was never to become the managing director CEO. My ambition was to grow my career and get great experiences. And I could see myself in kind of, at the time it was very hierarchical, but there was several levels I could see, that’s a job I want to be at, which would have been at the time.

several steps above where I was at from the ground floor. As you progress, I think you’re, for me, I was continuing to look upward to see what roles. And then when I joined Imperial, you guys placed me and that was the first time we worked together. I joined Imperial as a trade marketing person and my scope and responsibility was interesting. It was the first time in a career at a bigger company, not necessarily a small company, big company.

I had interaction with the CEO and the managing directors on a regular basis. And so, you know, then I saw my work and I said, okay, I’m actually, you know, I’m making an impact to the business, not just a division of the business or a small piece of the business. I’m making an impact. And, you know, they’re seeking my voice in how to define problems or how to solve problems or how to grow the business. And that was super rewarding for me personally. And then you start thinking, okay, what does my career progression look like?

And I would say, you know, I was very fortunate and again, my work was good that got me in the right positions that it quickly came apparent that yeah, I can have a chance to be run a business unit. And then, you know, once I became a business unit kind of running as the number two position, being the number one became really attainable, right? I was okay, not that you’re trying to push somebody out, but it was, this is my career progression. This is I’m being, you know,

My manager’s talking about succession planning and I’m going to be slotted for these types of roles. So it became really rewarding. And then, you know, I started in Imperial, I started running a very small division as a startup, right? So that was a new division they created and the challenge of getting that, you know, in a big organization off the ground and what business, you know, building the business case and getting the people to sign off, you know, even higher up the business and, you know, starting the, that was exciting and rewarding. And I did that well. And.

Rob Maneson (00:20:36)
was rewarded with a much bigger opportunity to become a managing director. And then I will tell you that when I was the CEO of JR, it was probably one of the most rewarding positions. It was a large business. We were expected to grow. And it was in a category I enjoyed quite a bit. So the work, the result, and the people, most importantly, the people was incredible. And so…

that was really exciting. And then my work there led me to an even bigger role and for Imperial. And so, you know, it’s been great. And again, once you kind of see the mountain top, if you will, it’s exciting. I think it’s not for everybody. And there’s positions I’ve said, I want to step back from leading and rather be, you know, lead the sales organization versus all the organization. And in my new role, it’s, it’s, it’s,

as a general manager of a brand new business. So I’m running everything and that’s also very exciting for me is making decisions, setting the strategy and then trying to put the infrastructure in place so that we can scale to a much higher degree.

Opening New Business vs Managing Existing Business

Edouard Thoumyre (00:21:42)
What’s interesting as well is that when during your time at Imperial, it seems like you were exposed to, I would say, the legacy business of this large company, but also to internal startup businesses and business units, which gave you an opportunity to tackle much more entrepreneurial type of missions. And it’s interesting because often what we see with people with 15, 20 years of large companies with very established brands,

is that sometimes if they want to leave this large company and go work for a smaller company, et cetera, they don’t necessarily have the exposure to an entrepreneurial environment and it becomes a concern for the new employer. And often what we discuss with employers is that we like the idea of having executives who have been trained with the large businesses because they get all the best practices, but then who have been exposed to an entrepreneurial

venture and then they become the best candidates for typically, for example, a private equity backed company that seeks very fast growth with high returns, etc. Which are also the positions where you can make the most money as an executive. And so it’s the good combination, you know, like the publicly traded established, then entrepreneurial, and then you go into

Rob Maneson (00:23:01)

Edouard Thoumyre (00:23:07)
a fast growing high reward equity type of position.

Rob Maneson (00:23:13)
Yeah, I mean, I was very fortunate at Imperial. Twice in my career there, in very two different categories within the tobacco space, I was able to do that in two different roles. So my first, as you mentioned, was Casa de Monte Cristo at the time. The US, and this is during the Obama administration, his last years, he was starting to normalize relations with the Cuban government. And…

Edouard Thoumyre (00:23:40)
The Cuba, yeah, I remember, yeah.

Rob Maneson (00:23:42)
Imperial owned 50% of the Cuban cigar business. So they saw that as an opportunity to quickly build out a business unit in the US that allowed us to expand should that, you know, governmental relationship change for the positive long term. And so all of a sudden it was moving to hyperdrive of create this business unit so that we can leverage it when the market opens.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:24:01)

Edouard Thoumyre (00:24:08)

Rob Maneson (00:24:08)
which still hasn’t actually happened, but they were ambitious to do that at the time. And then second time in my career with them was, you know, the vape business across the US in Fontum. So Fontum was, Blue E Cigarettes was the growth stage of the company and they were putting a significant bet globally around the…

Edouard Thoumyre (00:24:12)
yeah. Yeah.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:24:20)
So this was with Fontem, right? Yeah.

Rob Maneson (00:24:34)
the space. And so I was positioned and simply because, candidly, I’d met the right people at Imperial and they’d seen what I did and they came to me and said, we’d love to move into this role. And it was an awesome opportunity because the company, the entire investment of the company was really around this arm of the business. And so, you know, aspirations to go from a hundred million dollar business to a billion dollar business overnight. So quite a lot intense.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:25:02)
Did it reach a billion dollar? No, but at least you have a goal. Yeah. Yeah.

Rob Maneson (00:25:04)
No, not quite. It’s closer to it now. Yeah, so it’s closer to it now, but no resource was kind of off limits at the time. So that was a real eye opener for me is like trying to get an ROI and trying to bring in different things and massively growing was fantastic for my career. And then again, private equity, I’ve worked primarily after since then in the last few years. And it’s great because they have the same growth mentality at a different way to do it. And so,

you’re 100% right. I don’t think I’d be in the companies I’ve worked for since. I don’t think I would have even been a candidate had I not had those experiences previously within a big company. And so it’s been quite enjoyable. And again, obviously my fortunate, not everybody has that opportunity, even in Imperial or other big companies. So, but it worked for me and it’s been great.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:25:57)
Sure, and it goes back to many of the roles if we set aside CEO managing directors, you’ve been a head of sales for many years throughout your career in these different types of environments. And we often get this discussion as well with employers about their head of sales or their sales people, are they chasing new business or maintaining existing business? And of course, if you’re of an established brand,

Most of your work is maintaining established business versus hunting for new business with a startup company in fast-growing mode, in fast-growth mode. And those are two different, very different sides of the same head of sales type of position. And it’s not always easy to transition from one to the other.

Rob Maneson (00:26:47)
Yeah, I think, you know, it’s very different. And to your point, even in the same categories is quite different, the role, right? So I mean, when you’re at a big FMCG with a massive market share, 30, 40, 50%, you know, you can generally call up those customers and get an immediate meeting and discussion, not just with the buyer, but it’s the senior people and, you know, the C suites. So because they know you, they know your company, and they know what contribution you are to their business.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:27:07)
higher level as well.

Rob Maneson (00:27:15)
When you’re a startup trying to break in, the message is very different, right? It’s, you know, you’re trying to sell on the concept of, you know, not only your product and the difference between your unique selling proposition versus others, but you’re also trying to convince the buyers and their folks that they should support you because you’re a better alternative, right? Better can mean a lot of things, but better because you provide.

more profitability to the business if you, you know, on a per unit basis or you’re a brand that’s going to disrupt the category and take it over, you know, all of these things. And it’s, it’s, I think quite unique in that regard as well. Obviously it helps to have at least a relationship with some of the buyers from your previous. But I think I would also tell you, some of them don’t care, right? They don’t care about Rob Maneson and they care about, well you just happen to represent that brand. And that’s why.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:28:01)
from previous years.

Rob Maneson (00:28:12)
not to say they don’t like me personally, but my name is only gonna get me so far. It might get me then to pick up the phone call, but I still have to be able to deliver a message and a reason. They’re not just gonna do it because it’s a favor to me. They have to do it for their business. And so I think the selling is very different from that regard is what you’re selling is, again, much more creative versus a big company that’s let’s just maintain market share and let’s…

Edouard Thoumyre (00:28:41)
It’s more of a business case. Yeah.

Rob Maneson (00:28:41)
you know, the focus on a, it’s a business case of like, well, maybe we shouldn’t spend this much money on you this year, whatever it is, it’s the return is much more different. So again, it’s been an enjoyable experience with some of these companies of how do you, you know, when you get the customer who says, man, I really believe the mission you have, and I want to disrupt the companies that, you know, are the big ones, and you can help me do that. It’s like,

Edouard Thoumyre (00:29:04)

Rob Maneson (00:29:07)
you know, excitement in the room and everybody’s energy is high because then you’ve got a partner who really want to help you grow. And to see that into coming to fruition is awesome.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:29:18)
I hope this is what you get now with the new cigar company you’re with as well, like disrupting and getting some partnerships, really excited about helping you grow the business.

Rob Maneson (00:29:30)
Yeah, this is the most exciting thing. So, you know, I’ve been in the job six weeks now and it’s been a mix of trying to grow customers at the same time as creating the infrastructure and make sure we’ve got the right plans for the future. And so it’s really rewarding, certainly a lot, but it’s been fun. So.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:29:41)
Yeah, it’s a lot.

Why Staying In The Tobacco Industry

Edouard Thoumyre (00:29:48)
I was just curious as well about the tobacco industry. You were not necessarily married to it at the beginning, but it seems you’ve built your career around it. And for many people from the outside, the tobacco industry is not a growing company. I checked the numbers, there’s growth globally. I’m not sure if within the US there’s growth as well, but there’s probably also very different types of growth depending on the subcategories.

between cigarettes, cigars, vaping and tobacco alternatives, etc. What made you keep on growing your career within this industry? Is it just passion because you like these products or is it just an easy transition and you get called and therefore it’s an easy career progression? What’s behind it?

Rob Maneson (00:30:37)
Yeah, it’s a mix of both. I’d say in my early career, I didn’t necessarily want to become, stayed in tobacco. You know, I was looking to go at Altria, grow a few different levels and move to another category. I think, you know, we hit on this a little bit earlier. Number one, the benefits of tobacco companies are generally very good. So from a motivation standpoint, not to say that, you know, if you go into beverages or, you know, other consumer products, goods, they don’t pay well, but the pay is…

an element of it. And I think as I’ve become more longer in my career, people, you know, I get calls from tobacco companies in various sectors saying, you know, you’ve got this skillset, you know, the industry. So I think that applies. I’ve been reached many times by other folks who, you know, either the company doesn’t work for me at the time, or it’s not a category I necessarily want to get into. But so I think it’s interesting. You talk about the growth, I think the growth, you know,

Edouard Thoumyre (00:31:15)
Of course.

Rob Maneson (00:31:34)
Tobacco is overarching. You mentioned kind of several subcategories. The subcategories have lots of growth depending on what they are. Some are declining, some are massively growing. So, you know, and again, from a big company to a very small company, the growth is very different as well, right? Somebody…

Edouard Thoumyre (00:31:51)
You can pick up a trend that is crazy as opposed to staying on a very stable or declining one.

Rob Maneson (00:31:58)
That’s right. So it’s quite amenable for me personally in that regard. I mean, I’m in a place that wants to grow, you know, it’s literally in a nascent business. They just really started in February of this year. So, you know, we have very, very, you know, it’s building the entire business and growing. So everything is growth right now. And so, you know, coming from another place where it was trying to maintain that growth. So again, different place, different time, but…

the opportunities. My goal is I think, I don’t think that’s any different from the beverage category. If I look to the beer category in the US, if you’re an Anisobut, it’s very similar. If you’re in AB InBev, you’re trying to maintain market share and there might be segments in the beer category that they go acquire because they’re on growth trajectory versus Butter Bud Light or Miller Light, whatever that is. So it’s very similar. I think you look at the snacks category in the US. Again, I’m just thinking about consumer.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:32:36)
It’s very similar, yeah. Yeah.

Rob Maneson (00:32:57)
I think premium luxury goods are very different, right? So the LVMH is in the world and some of that is very different. But yeah, immediate consumables, I think is my, they have the same challenges that the tobacco space.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:33:12)
All right, great. I think we’ve reached a half hour mark and the end of our discussion today. But I don’t know if you had anything else you wanted to add in terms of advice for people growing their career. I mean, we’ve touched many points already. But if you have any final thoughts about it.


Rob Maneson (00:33:33)
Well, I think, yeah, thank you very much for inviting me and this has been great fun. I would say my one last piece of advice is, you know, whatever career you’re in and whatever your goal, I think there’s, you know, the more you read, the more you reach out to people and network, the opportunities grow and meeting people like you guys have led some incredible opportunities to me and being, you know, getting to work with your firm has opened a lot of doors for me and also the people I’ve worked with. So.

Find those opportunities if you’re a candidate and explore those progressively and you’ll have those opportunities to grow your career, I think for sure.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:34:08)
Yeah, we didn’t discuss that today, but last time with Nadine Hoybal, we discussed as well mentorship and trying to grow a team or individual mentors around you who can help you in different situations and you can do that on your own. And so I invite people to maybe take a look at the previous one. It was interesting in that regard as well. All right, excellent. Thank you very much for your time today, Rob, and sharing those advice. And it’s been a pleasure to have you on the show.

Rob Maneson (00:34:37)
Nice to see you again. Thank you again for the opportunity.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:34:39)
All right, thank you, Rob. Bye.

Rob Maneson (00:34:41)
Bye bye.

Edouard Thoumyre (00:34:43)
You’ve been listening to the Executive Formula by ACCUR Recruiting Services. We hope you found today’s episode insightful and inspiring. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast on your favorite platform to catch all the upcoming episodes. And if you have any questions or topics you would like us to cover, please reach out to us. We will see you in the next episode. Thank you.

author avatar
Edouard Thoumyre Managing Partner
Edouard Thoumyre is a seasoned executive recruiter with over 17 years of experience in executive search, as the Founder and Managing Partner of ACCUR Recruiting Services. Specializing in the Consumer and Luxury Goods industries, he has a proven track record of placing senior level and C-level executives in family, private equity-backed, and Fortune 500 companies in the beauty, wine & spirits, watch & jewelry, home goods, and tobacco industries, among others. Edouard Thoumyre holds a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship from HEC Paris (#1 European Business School, Financial Times rankings) and a master’s degree in industrial engineering from Centrale Lille (a top 10 French engineering school). ACCUR Recruiting Services has been recognized as a Forbes Top 100 executive search firm since 2018.Edouard Thoumyre and his firm, ACCUR Recruiting Services, have been featured in numerous publications such as WWD, Business Insider, Newsweek, CPG Specialist, Yahoo Finance,, Marketplace by NPR, Business of Fashion Edouard Thoumyre on Linkedin (25k 1st deg. connections)