Whether selling coffee or beer (and whether you’re 20 or 70), sound business principles abide

Posted On October 2, 2022


It’s tough enough to build and run one successful business. But starting over in a new industry at 67?

For Hatton Smith, taking on a new challenge has been invigorating. After helping his family’s business, Royal Cup Coffee, become a national leader, Smith became the CEO and largest investor four years ago in Back Forty Beer Company, a Gadsden-based craft brewery.

Smith, who had also played an integral role in helping resuscitate UAB’s football program, saw a company led by people who knew how to brew great beer, but needed capital. He was able to bring that capital and to help the company withstand some rough times and survive in a burgeoning craft beer industry by finding new sources of revenue and reducing costs. Our guest in a recent episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston,” Smith shared some of the steps he took to make it happen.

“I was highly motivated,” said Smith, now 71. “I didn’t want a big fat L on my forehead, saying loser, at that stage in my career.”

Smith, who still describes himself as “a traveling salesman,” primarily fell back on what he has always done best – get out and meet people and get them excited about his product.

“I think people like to trade with people they know, and they like to feel like they’re important,” he said. “Play to your strengths. If I was a great manufacturer, I would have spent time there. But I was a salesman.”

Whether you’re 70 or you’re 20, Smith believes the secrets to success in business are the same:

  • Believe in the mission of the enterprise.
  • Set goals.
  • Lead from the front: “You don’t ask anybody to do anything you’re not going to do, and you really should do more than they do.”
  • Celebrate success: “You’re going to lose a lot, so celebrate success.”

Under Smith’s leadership, the company’s distribution is growing. Back Forty beer can be found throughout Alabama and in locations in Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi and Arkansas.

Categories: Blog, Entrepreneurship, Podcast, What's Working with Cam Marston