Becoming a Business Icon “The Patron Way”

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patron wayWorking in a business with your spouse or life partner can be tricky – but rewarding.  If you are looking for a story about family business to inspire, you may want to sit down and have a drink. In this case, make it a good shot of fine tequila.

The Patron Way, From Fantasy to Fortune – Lessons in Taking Any Business from Idea to Iconic Brand, is by Ilana Edelstein (with help from Samantha Marshall).   I discovered the book via NetGallery, and thought it would be worthwhile to marketers who work with premium brands as well as business owners associated with the distilled spirits industry.

Patron Means Godfather, So Here’s the Godfather’s Story (Without Al Pacino!)  

This is a passionate narrative about the personal travails of the author, Edelstein, and her business partner/lover Martin.  Martin was introduced to tequila on a business scouting trip.  He brought Edelstein home some samples of the version to be known as Patron to taste.

The rest became a history blending their passion for each other, the business and the drink itself.

“In a way Patron symbolized all that was best in our relationship. We each possessed a unique mixture of characteristics and ingredients that, put together, made magic…There was one key ingredient that made it magic: love.”

The couple worked to raise the brand profile through serving Patron at the finest events attended by titans of industry and celebrities.  Their first event included A-list celebrities like Tom Cruise and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  A few other actors are mentioned, such as Robin Williams and James Coburn.  Edelstein even relates a discussion of hip-hop’s adoption of Patron with Daymond John of Shark Tank and FUBU fame.

These experiences offered some business insights Edelstein sprinkles into the story progression:

“Know who the true tastemakers are and use them wisely. Think about how anyone in your orbit, whether they are friends, members of the media or product reviewers, can be best leveraged to promote your product. In the consumables business, word of mouth from fashionable and hip brand ambassadors speaks volume for…”

Much of the book details Edelstein’s relationship with Martin, but it’s not a tell-all. It also covers the marketing tactics to position Patron as a premium drink and the negotiations that would provide further investment.  Patron was one of the earliest alcohol names to be branded to sophisticated consumers. Its success grew from influential people who could speak passionately about the drink.

Edelstein does get into relating the Seagram deal to purchase Patron.  A later chapter explains decision details such as packaging.

Chapter 2 will educate the reader about the tequila business. Distilled in a specific region like whiskey and bourbon, tequila experienced bust and boom demand cycles that mirrors Mexico’s history.  The agave, a plant whose juice is fermented to produce tequila, became more industrialized when the Mexican government decreed all tequila distilled must contain at least 51% of blue agave sourced from Mexico.

The couple’s true guidance came from Francisco Alcaraz, a Mexican aristocrat who was “at the forefront of the modernization and standardization of Mexico’s  Tequila industry.”  Edelstein explained the couple’s admiration for Alcaraz:

“Watching Francisco is like observing a true artist in action. He studies the contents of his glass, staring down the center to determine its color and gently turning the tequila around to see how it clings to the sides…Francisco stood out as a connoisseur with an acute appreciation for life’s finest, just like Martin.”

In addition to Alcaraz, there is a highlight on John Paul “JP” DeJoria. An “impoverished street kid” in his youth, JP becomes a trusted business partner who helped land the first Patron distributor. The Patron Way does not reveal much about other employees. It’s just as well, given the volumes of books written on large corporations with memorable leaders such as Apple (see Ivana Taylor’s review of “Inside Apple” and “The Apple Experience” for an example).

What Kind of Reader Will Enjoy The Patron Way?

This book is not filled with research about business couples. If that’s what you are looking for, read You and Your Partner Inc.

Rather — like Guitar Lessons and Beam Straight Up, The Patron Way tells mostly a personal story.

Yet the book’s perspective can be valuable for couples starting to work together.  Those who are working with a partner or spouse will have an interest in how this couple face their business challenges.

There is an appendix section with short direct insights.  But outside of that you are reading a narrative, not a how-to guide.

There’s a pleasant aspect about the author’s tone.  Edelstein conveys everything with a grounded while carefree spirit, all despite the celebrities she met and success attained along the way.  That keeps a good, never-dry tone that makes you want to invest in the couple:

“In many ways, I was still the girl from South Africa who grew up without a television. Often I found myself talking to celebrities without having a clue who they were until pointed out to me afterward. But I enjoyed being in those exclusive environments. It felt like we arrived.”

No matter what industry your business is built upon, you’ll appreciate the perspective in The Patron Way. Read it, or better yet, share it while enjoying your favorite drink. Cheers.

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Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.