Earlier this month we featured a member of our Vanguard Direct office in Bakersfield, California when we chatted with Shawn Caldwell. As a follow-up, we would like to introduce his fearless leader Gene Coughlin. Gene is the Vice President of Sales for the Vanguard Direct side of The Vanguard International Group. When Gene isn’t steering the sales and distribution of Vanguard’s Peruvian grapes, he’s keeping his co-workers and customers alike delighted with his positive “can do “attitude, a character trait that adds value to the work of building up our 3rd-party supplier sales program in North America.
Let’s get to know Gene a little more!
VG: Has Bakersfield always been home, or did you re-locate for work?
Gene: I grew up here. Moved here when I was a year old.
VG: Have you always been destined for produce? Where did your career start?
Gene: I didn’t particularly plan on getting into the produce business. I graduated college with a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on Marketing. I knew I wanted to get into some type of sales position, but was not sure what industry would fit me best. While looking at options after college, I received a call from a cousin of mine. He said a friend of his, that was part of a family farming business, was looking for someone to help him with sales.
I started with Perez Ranches Inc., in Crows Landing, California. This was a family farm that grew tomatoes, row crops, and melons. It was a great way to learn all aspects of the business…no room for egos here…we did it all – from sales, to driving the forklifts, emptying the trash, and loading trucks.
VG: How long have you been with Vanguard?
Gene: I joined Vanguard in April of 2017. Having been involved with both the California and import grape deal for many years, I am familiar with good grapes. When I learned what Vanguard was planning and growing in Peru, I was excited and thought it was a great opportunity to help shape the future success of the business.
VG: What has been a memorable moment for you during your time working for Vanguard?
Gene: Seeing the development of our Peruvian project first-hand. Growing grapes in Peru is astonishing. What might take 3 years in California can be accomplished in 1 year in Peru. We have amazing growing conditions in Ica and a fantastic team in Peru. You can almost watch the vines grow and the grapes develop as you walk the vineyards.
VG: Whose day do you impact on a regular basis? Who hears from you the most?
Gene: I would say our Peru team, our Vanguard Direct sales team and our customers. We have a lot of great communication within our Sales Office and I think that carries over to being able to relay the right message to our customers in terms of the value we bring to their organizations.
The team in the Bakersfield office: Shawn, Denise, and I worked together for many years at a prior company so by knowing each other’s strengths, we were really able to hit the ground running when we joined this company in the Spring of 2017.
VG: What does your free time look like? Spending time with family, friends? Hobbies?
Gene: Mostly spending time with my family. We have two grandchildren that my wife and I try to spend as much time with as possible. Also, spending time outdoors, biking, etc.
VG: Do you have a favorite produce item? If so, how do you prefer to eat it?
Gene: Grapes! I love the flavor of our new varieties: Sweet Celebrations on the Reds and Sweet Globes on the Greens for snacking. They’re my favorites. Also peaches. Can’t beat a tree-ripened California peach. I’m also a fan of grilled asparagus and eggplant.