Lazaridis School of Business & Economics
ESKA Vous Voulez l'Eaux?: Laurier alumnus and CEO of ESKA hands third-year BBA students challenging case
Written by Natasha Chapayil
Laurier BBA alumnus and Chief Executive Officer of Eaux Vives Water Inc. (ESKA Waters), Jim Delsynder, visited Laurier and handed third-year BBA students their next big challenge.
This Laurier grad of ’84 is evidently passionate about sales and brand management, shown through his extensive experience in the field and the insight he shared with Laurier students on how he built ESKA Waters to be the No. 1 brand in Quebec.
Throughout the presentation, students were given an inside view on ESKA’s brand development over the past seven years outlining its successes, failures and vision for the brand. Along the way, students were also provided with prodigious advice regarding brand management and development.
Delsynder shared that an important part of brand development is expansion, and the big question he posed to the class in a case format was: How do you make ESKA the No. 1 brand in Ontario?
Through a brief interview, we learned a little more about Delsynder, his experiences and his values.
What are some of your previous experiences leading up to your position at ESKA?
“My first job was at Quaker. I worked on their food side for about four years and then my last three years were with Gatorade. That’s when I really started to enjoy my job because there is something about beverages. It is a competitive industry and it kind of gets in your blood. Also at the time, they bought Snapple. So, I started selling Gatorade and Snapple and then I left the industry for a year and worked for Dial.
"I knew when I went to someone’s bathroom and they didn’t have Dial soap, and it didn’t bother me that I knew I was in the wrong business. I was reading the paper and read that Perrier had just received the distribution rights to Snapple and I thought ‘Hey, I sold Snapple’ and I wanted to get back into the beverage industry because this isn’t doing it for me… it’s soap!
"So I called up the President at Perrier and said ‘I don’t know if you’re looking for anyone but I’d like to get back in’ and he said ‘Sure, come on in’ and they hired me and then Perrier later bought Aberfoyle and Guelph becoming a very big water company where I worked for 10 years.
"When I left, I head the position of General Manager for Canada before moving to ESKA. I liked building businesses; when I first started at Perrier, they were selling three million cases a year. When I left, they were selling 70 million. Then, all the fun was gone because it wasn’t building anymore to the same degree so that’s when I went over to ESKA and saw that it was a great brand and thought I could build this. When we started, we were selling about maybe half a million cases and now we are over 10 million and getting there. I like building brands!”
What is your favorite aspect of your career?
“I like dealing with customers; I really do. There’s always a sales part of me that will never go away. It’s different, every day. As you start to deal with customers more and more and you get familiar with them, they become your friends. Then, it’s a discussion, it’s not hard selling, and it’s all about trust and the fact that they know that you’re selling them something that makes sense for them. You understand them, they understand you and it’s a really natural thing to do.”
When starting out with ESKA and dealing with brand development issues, what were two things you learned from it?
“I think I learned pretty quickly to try to put everything in perspective. You are not always going to please everybody and there will be one or two people -sometimes more than that- but there will be some people that won’t like what you are doing. You have to look and see if what you are doing makes sense for the brand and if it will affect the brand in a negative way in the long term If it is just one or two people that don’t like what you are doing, that’s okay, because its more important to have the other 95 per cent of the people agree with what you are doing. So it’s really putting the brand first and putting it into perspective.”
What advice would you give to BBA students currently at Laurier?
“Enjoy your job! If you don’t enjoy it, keep looking because you have got to love what you are doing. This way you will be good at it and get up in the morning and you will want to go to work. That’s the key.”