Can you tell us a little bit about your life before The Penn Ohio Cigar Company?
I was president of an insurance brokerage company for 34 years and the cigar business was a hobby that I started in the mid to late 80’s. We grew that to a very nice and manageable size. In 2012 a company bought my insurance brokerage company and properties out so I had the privilege of an early retirement so now the cigar “hobby” is a full grown nightmare!
What led you to your current profession? What made you embark in the cigar industry?
My father and a few of my brother in laws smoked cigars (I didn’t) so we licensed through a specialty company. We had gotten some of the cigar companies to “sell” their lines of cigars. Then the cigar “boom” came in the late 80’s early 90’s and those licenses became valuable so we enhanced our opportunity and built a nice little business that was “fun” to do
What are some of the obstacles that you have faced throughout the years?
The biggest obstacle is always taxation. Everyone hates smokers, although there is a distinct difference between cigar smoking cigarette smoking. The hurdles in the last 15 years have been high but we were lucky enough to establish our business reputation so we have done fine.
What are some of your proudest moments?
The sacrifice I made was unfortunate for me. I was so busy with my career life that I didn’t get married until I was 57. I didn’t have children which is my biggest regret but my wife and I have a great life, she has 3 great children, and I think we have built a nice brand in our cigar business. My very good fortune is that I was able to sell my main business (insurance & brokerage) at a great time and that was a monster accomplishment for my life I would say.
Have you changed the way you run your business? What is the biggest lesson you have learned?
The cigar business is a fun business. People come in to relax. Our place is the place where you come in, relax in our lounges, have a coffee or drink and discuss the world and its problems. My biggest lesson learned is that people will remain loyal if you treat them right. It sure is a lot easier handing a guy another cigar when he thinks he got a bad one than it is to fix a union mass that is upset because their company raised their prescription drug program $1 and we are the agents!
Are there any people in your life that you would say inspire you?
This is an honest answer….you actually have one working for you. I was in the service business with our insurance company. My girls had to constantly put out fires and we paid them well for that. It was a thankless job most of the time. I have experienced that same type of energy and expertise that you have with Jamie Lee Carlino. She is a workhorse. There have been problems throughout the years, but I don’t leave because she constantly fixes each and every problem that we encounter. That is from my heart. She is a dedicated individual. Let me put it this way…..I wouldn’t want to fight her!
Running a business has many advantages, but trying to do everything yourself must be challenging. How has Sekure impacted your business? Is there something about our relationship that stands out to you?
Your company has one thing over the many that contact us almost daily. I have not experienced customer service like this other than one of the best run companies in the world and that is AMERICAN EXPRESS. To me that is as high of a compliment as I can pay. To me it comes down to who I work with and that has been Jamie Lee Carlino. Your service is on my map because of her and we have sent business your way because of her value.
The payment industry is constantly evolving. Has Sekure been able to help you along this process?
Yes. Anytime I have a question or a problem I put a call to Jamie Lee Carlino and usually within 24 hours my call is returned. We have hit some bumps in the road with terminal issues, etc. but she doesn’t wait to get them fixed. They get done through her channels quickly, hence why we stay with your company.
What advice would you give to business owners today wanting to start off on their own?
Keep yourself in shape and marry rich! Actually, the true answer is due diligence and patience. Easier said than done. It’s a changing business world and today, so your best chance to make it is to find something you are PASSIONATE about and then go 100 miles an hour because it is so competitive.
If you had to choose another career path, what would it be?
I would have probably coached football at a university. The only downside was that my insurance business and cigar business were in a town close to where my parents lived. I was the oldest of 8 successful children but because I built my business here so I did get some quality time with my parents, something that I don’t regret a single day. As they aged I could give back and when I lost my father (my best friend) I was so glad to have been here to enjoy all the years I did have with them. I really have no regrets. I have been very very blessed.
If you’d like to know more about the Penn Ohio Cigar Company you can visit their website: http://www.thepennohiocigarcompany.com/