Ten Leaders to Know: Rob Feeney (Full Profile)

August 14, 2023 | Ten Leaders to Know


Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Co.

Birth City
Atlanta, GA

Current City
Des Moines, IA

How did you get where you are today?
I was recruited to Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Co. to lead all aspects of our company's territory acquisition and corresponding business integration efforts in 2016, which expanded the business 4x. Prior to joining Atlantic, I spent a number of years in NYC as Director and Head of Operations for Garrison Investment Group ($4.2bn alternative asset management firm). Prior to Garrison, I was Chicago-based as a Vice President at Bank of America Merrill Lynch within their securitization team. I started my career in Chicago at Mercer Consulting as an analyst. I received a BS in Applied Mathematics from the University of Michigan.

What excites you the most about the business you work in?
There continues to be a lot of change within the beverage industry and retail stores in general. With change brings the opportunity to think ahead of the issues and solve for our customers and ultimately our consumers. As an example, when a significant portion of grocery store sales shifted toward online orders, there were different beverage packages which attached at higher rates to online orders v. brick-and-mortar shopping... and store personnel were also conducting the online order fulfillment routines at certain times of the day in the stores. Understanding these changes to the business has allowed us to get the right packages in the stores at the right times to ensure our products are available for our consumers when they are looking for them.

What do you see as the next big trend in your industry?
On the distribution side of our business, there will be continued investment in automation -- from warehouses to predictive ordering capabilities. We have just completed a warehouse automation project in our Des Moines facility which has allowed us to streamline many aspects of our order fulfillment process. This technology allows for greater throughput, accuracy, and improved ergonomics for our colleagues in warehouse fulfillment roles. As technology and data sharing increases (across suppliers, warehouse systems, customers, etc.), there will also be a greater opportunity for predictive replenishment orders within supply chain systems, along with a huge increase in accuracy and traceability (e.g. block chain adoption).

On the beverage side of the business, trends continue to evolve quickly. We are blessed with a portfolio which spans from Coca-Cola and Sprite to Smartwater, VitaminWater, Fresca, Gold Peak Tea, Powerade, BODYARMOR, Monster Energy... Looking ahead, I think the historical category lines will continue to blur as new beverage innovation is introduced. I also think packaging innovation could be a key driver for growth.

Where do you look for inspiration or to generate new ideas?
I love spending time with our teams out in the market. I will clear the calendar and ride along with a driver, salesperson, merchandiser, or technician. You learn a lot about a customer walking through the back door rather than the front door... and you also learn a lot about what matters to your employees when you are shoulder-to-shoulder for the day.

What does effective leadership mean to you?
We are all ordinary people, but an effective leader will inspire a group of ordinary people to do extraordinary things... Jim Valvano used that phrase often and it is spot on.

What is your favorite thing about Iowa?
If you are willing to donate the time, there is the ability to make a meaningful impact in your community.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Do not let your kids convince you to get a dog... you will end up taking care of it.

Why are you a member of ABI?
ABI has a long track record of supporting businesses in Iowa.

Who do you look to for mentorship?
I have a network of business leaders who I look to for advice, often... and as with most relationships, I try to deposit more than I withdraw.

As a business leader, what book would you recommend for personal or professional growth?
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown.