Anyone's first day on the job can be tough, especially when it's at one of the largest employers in the state. For incoming president and CEO of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Brian Kelley, challenges continue to brew.
Kelley, 51, was a top Coca-Cola executive for five years. He was named to become the chief operation officer of its 68,000 employees before leaving to lead a much smaller company, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters with 5,800 employees. He succeeds Larry Blanford, whose tenure saw Green Mountain go from a successful regional company to a global player with revenues approaching $3 billion a year.
Reporter Gina Bullard: What do you bring to this company?
Brian Kelley: Experience as a leader. I've lead large companies, small companies, growing and not growing.
Green Mountain Coffee is still growing even after two of the Keurig patents expired in September. Skepticism loomed, but with key partnerships like Starbucks, and innovation like its new Vue system that came out in February, the company says it expects sales to continue to rise 15 percent-20 percent in the years ahead. The Vue offers customized cups of Joe. The machine, priced around $200, lets you change the temperature and strength of your coffee and it can fill travel mugs.
"In many ways bringing someone in from Coca-Cola is... clever," said Allison Kingsley, a business professor at UVM.
Kingsley says hiring Kelley serves as a nod from the Green Mountain board as to where the company, known for its Keurig single-serve products, is going. Kingsley says hiring someone with a vast knowledge of the beverage industry means the company may be doubling down on consumer beverages and probably not coffee. Coca-Cola has a diverse variety of products, selling much more than soda, including orange juice and Poweraid. A growing portfolio might also be in the cards for Green Mountain.
"It's a company that's trying to sustain its competitive advantage," Kingsley said.
Green Mountain's fortunes are back on the rise with a successful fourth quarter. The company reported revenues of $946.7 million, up 33 percent from the third quarter. Green Mountain's fourth quarter did have an extra week, but still came in much higher than analysts' expectations of $902.7 million.
"I think they've had a great quarter. Congratulations. But people are skeptical on their ability to sustain this quarter after quarter," Kingsley said.
"The fundamentals haven't changed," Kelley said. "Ultimately stock reflects long term values and it will and it does."
The company's rapid employee growth could also be a challenge for Kelley, along with trying to find the next best thing or market for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.
"He will be struggling to manage the company," Kingsley said. "It's big and there are lots of questions about its growth, about the SEC."
"Running a big $4 billion company is different than running one half its size. There's operational challenges to it, but it's all about growth," Kelley said.
Kelley did not give specifics about how he will deal with the SEC investigation, but said he will put the noise to the side and focus on the bright future he thinks the company has.
As for the company's future in Vermont-- they have 1,700 employees working in Vermont-- Kelley said Green Mountain Coffee has always been here and there's no reason not to stay here.
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