Travis Hill - Op-Ed - Richmond Times Dispatch
The General Assembly’s bipartisan decision to convert Virginia ABC to an independent authority three years ago launched the agency on a trajectory to become an even greater asset to the commonwealth by focusing on the need to invest in modernization of the business and identify operating efficiencies.
That bold action gave Virginia ABC greater flexibility in its processes while also shifting its leadership structure. While the change in structure afforded new opportunities for operations, it also emboldened us to shift our thinking — to contemplate not just how to generate more revenue but how to build a more resilient and customer-focused organization with greater confidence around change. We’ve drawn on that shift in thinking to redesign our licensing structure and create online access starting in 2022, streamline store operations to empower store employees and deploy a vision for how we serve customers in a digital world.
Empowered through investments made by the commonwealth, Virginia ABC has spent the past seven years investing in its systems and its people. Over the past 18 months, these investments are what enabled us to continue to serve the commonwealth during the pandemic. As demonstrated by the record financial performance recently announced, Virginia ABC met its responsibility as an essential state service, contributing more than $616 million for designated state programs and services — an increase of $71.1 million over the previous year.
At the same time Virginia ABC was completing its transition to an authority, the commonwealth made the largest investment in our organization’s existence, approving more than $100 million for a new distribution center and headquarters. Completed this summer, the buildings are symbolic of the commonwealth’s commitment to a modern control state model.
This approach focuses on managing a billion-dollar retail organization guided by sound business principles with an eye toward long-term sustainability, while never forgetting our role as public servants, and the part our regulations and revenues play in providing for all Virginians.
Our success is not possible without the incredible teammates we have at Virginia ABC. All of them served the commonwealth during a time of great physical and emotional strain, and for that they are true public servants.
Ensuring the public trust is a motivating factor in everything we do at Virginia ABC. While our revenues help to support public safety, public health and other essential government services, it is imperative that the means to that end uphold values required of us by those we serve. Growing revenues is important, but only if we can do so with a focus on public safety and minimizing negative impacts on our community.
There is no question that the perception of alcohol has changed in many respects, and that sales have increased during the pandemic. Our own education and prevention programs — paired with an emphasis on responsibility found in all our efforts to regulate the industry, operate our stores and market to our customers — are critical components of our service to the commonwealth.
We will not lose that focus as the beverage alcohol industry reacts to meet shifting customer demands regarding access and convenience, and as we make further investments in building our own e-commerce capabilities. We will continue to be worthy of the public’s trust by meeting or even exceeding expectations of customers and the larger community through regulatory and retail programs that properly balance convenience and responsibility.
Our success during this pandemic is reflected in the way we worked together to support licensees and maintain operations for our customers. Every day, our dedicated teammates help us realize the intent of our transformation and allow us to not just survive this crisis but to become better, as a result, to continue to serve the commonwealth.
Travis Hill is the Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org