Carlson School of Management News

Tapping Into a Successful Career

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chances are if you're a beer drinker, you've purchased a MillerCoors product in the past. Maybe Miller Light, Coors Light, or one of the other 75 brands the beer giant produces. That reasonable price you paid can be credited to the diligent work of 1994 Minnesota Executive Program (MEP) graduate Craig Reiners and his team.

Craig ReinnersReiners is the director of commodity risk management for MillerCoors, located in Milwaukee, Wis. He and his team are charged with managing commodity price risks - from the barley and corn that goes into making the beer, the natural gas to heat the wort kettles, the diesel fuel to move that beer around the country, and the aluminum that goes into making the cans - to ensure the prices are advantageous for the company and the consumer.

"What we do, over a broad multi-year time frame, is position the company in a competitive fashion so we're not paying too much for commodities," he says. "What we're trying to do ultimately is manage the volatility of our cash flows."

Asked what makes his job satisfying, Reiners is quick to point out it's the people he hand-selected to join his team. "The men and women I've put around me are first-class and smart as whips," he says. "It's really about selecting and retaining the best talent. My philosophy has always been to go out and get the smartest, most engaging people who are eager to learn. I would say we have arguably developed one of the best risk management teams in the food and beverage industry."

That emphasis on building a solid team, Reiners says, was instilled in him during his MEP experience when he was working at as an executive for Cargill.

"In my MEP group we had an HR professional, a mathematician that was literally a Houston rocket scientist, someone from the transportation area, and then myself," he says. "It was interesting to look at various business situations and opportunities and get multiple diverse opinions and solutions to issues from different points of view.

That's how I put teams together [today]. I purposely put teams together that are from different walks of life. When we have a business issue, we want to address and attack it from multiple levels. I think that cross-fertilization of intellect eventually gives you a better finished product."

While he and his team work with numbers every day, Reiners admits that expertise wasn't always in his repertoire. Back in 1994, he was equipped with a biology and chemistry degree. His first MEP class? The pre-finance seminar.

"That was pretty helpful," he says of the seminar. "Now, subsequent to that my background in finance has improved - negotiating trading agreements with our multiple counterparties and managing our cash flows in collaboration with our finance group. The seminar was a small part of the overall course work, but for me it opened doors to a whole new area."

Reiners is regarded as a risk management expert and he's often tapped to speak at various functions. In the past couple of years, he's conducted a number of seminars, including two presentations to Carlson School graduate students last fall. More recently, representing over 110 commodity end users, he gave congressional testimony in Washington, D.C. on the regulatory, economic, and market implications of the Dodd Frank Derivatives Title.

Now 17 years removed from MEP, he still reflects on the experience as being a key component to his strategic thinking and career growth. "I think MEP gives you that broader perspective and there were just so many dimensions to explore," he says. "It was tougher than I thought it was going to be, but everything that's worthwhile takes an effort."

For more information on the Minnesota Executive Program visit the MEP Website.

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