Coffee Break: Andrew Berlin
Industry: Packaging and Containers Annual sales:  Approaching $800 million Number of employees: 600 Family: Married with five children

Q: If you had one tip to give to a rookie CEO, what would it be?
A: Learn the business from the customer’s point of view. Successful businesses aren’t built in the board room; they’re built one customer at a time with old-fashioned selling skills. Getting in front of current and prospective customers is essential, and it’s something that I continue to do and love to do every day.

Q: What’s new at your company?
A: Revenue growth is not new at Berlin Packaging — we have over 20 years of steady year-on-year growth. But some of the ways we achieve it — and grow organically six times faster than the overall packaging market — are new or notable. For example, in 2012 we made two acquisitions; we supercharged our sales team with a group of new, hungry hires we call the Wolfpack; we put even more emphasis on the customer experience and achieved our highest customer-thrill scores; and we picked target markets (this time it was Florida and New York) for special focus and investment. 

 Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?
A: We are always looking for ways to expand. Over the last three years, we’ve doubled our number of employees. Setting aside politics, I like to say that Berlin Packaging has its own “Jobs Bill.” I’m hopeful our economy has turned the corner, but we’ll be investing and hiring regardless. It’s only through smart strategy and investment that we grow stronger. 

Q: What will your company’s main challenges be in the next year?
A: Of course a slow economy is on our mind. But packaging is a fairly recession-resistant business. Even if you’re economizing with a cheaper brand of shampoo, it still comes in a bottle that Berlin sells. Our main challenge is achieving the high expectations we set for ourselves. We compete in a very large market; so our imperative is to keep executing on the right actions and behaviors to capture more and more of that market. 

Q: Do you have a business mantra?
A: Most companies look to satisfy their customers, but Berlin Packaging strives to thrill them.  

Q: From a business outlook, who do you look up to?
A: I take ideas from many folks and many places. One person that influenced me a lot in my early career was Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike. He attributed much of the success of Nike to the people he hired; he found competitive people who delighted in winning and crushing their competition. Said another way, the spirit of the Nike team was more important than any specific product line or athlete endorser.  

Q: What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?
A: Our products are in every household. We supply over 35,000 different kinds of plastic, glass, and metal bottles and jars and containers and the closures that go with them. We sell to dozens of different industries.

Q: What was your first paying job?
A: I was a cashier in a restaurant — we specialized in ribs.

 Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: While I love business, my family is my No. 1 priority. I cherish spending time with my wife, my two young boys, and my three grown daughters.  

Q: What book is on your nightstand?
A: “Goldfinger” by Ian Fleming — a classic that doesn’t go out of style.