Business transformation is what drives Joe Bayern ’85.
Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Chief Operating Officer, Voss Water
Adelphi mentors: “Lacrosse Coach Paul Doherty was a mentor to me and Sal Primeggia and Ali Hazemi were my favorite professors.”
Memorable class: “I remember highly recommending an Intro to Physics class to my girlfriend at the time. I told her how interesting it was and that it ended up being an easy A for me. She took it, ended up hating it and had to drop the class. She was a little upset with me, but she must have gotten over it because we’re still married today.”
Adelphi memories: “We somehow convinced the Ramones to play at Adelphi and me and my lacrosse teammates were in charge of crowd control.”
Advice for Adelphi students: “I didn’t plan to do any of the things that I did throughout my career. I just came across great opportunities and took them. I think that’s a great lesson: don’t be afraid to take chances.”
Business transformation is what drives Joe Bayern ’85. When he joined Voss Water as the company’s chief operating officer in 2011, Voss was on the verge of bankruptcy. Under his leadership, the company has tripled its revenue. “Where we were four years ago compared to where we are today…it’s night and day,” he said.
Bayern has a track record of reviving companies. After working in accounting and then technology and management consulting for 10 years, he joined the beverage company Snapple and was a part of the management team responsible for the company’s remarkable turnaround in the late 1990s.
“In 1997, our client, Nelson Peltz, had just bought Snapple from Quaker Oats for $300 million—just four years earlier Quaker had paid $1.7 billion for the brand,” explained Bayern. In less than three years, the team Bayern was a part of restored most of the company’s value, selling it to Cadbury Schweppes for $1.4 billion in 2000. “Even though we were close to a billion in revenue, we operated like a small entrepreneurial company,” he said. “There was a lot of excitement around the work we were doing. It was a great experience to be a part of.” Snapple’s turnaround, which has been written about by Harvard Business School case studies, is one of Bayern’s proudest professional accomplishments.
After starting at Snapple as chief information officer, Bayern was soon after named the company’s chief operations officer. When Snapple was acquired by Cadbury Schweppes in 2000, one of the key responsibilities of Bayern’s team, was to integrate Snapple into the other U.S. beverage companies (Motts and Dr. Pepper) that Cadbury owned. At that point, he transitioned into strategy and led the project to combine the companies into one operating company.
Following this success, Bayern was asked to run strategy for Cadbury globally. He and his family moved to London for three years. “We loved the experience, particularly for our kids. It changed their lives and broadened their horizons,” said Bayern.
When he got to London, the challenge was to figure out how Cadbury could differentiate itself from its competitors. Bayern was part of the effort to make Cadbury Schweppes number one in market share in confectionary. He worked on various aspects of the plan for three years, which culminated in the spin-off company of what is now Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (DPS). He returned to the United States as the chief strategy officer for DPS.
After the stock market crash of 2008 and management changes made at the company, Bayern and two of his colleagues left Cadbury to work in venture capital. In 2011, he received a call from an old colleague from Snapple who asked him to join the team that was taking over the struggling Voss.
Bayern recalled his first encounter with the product that had occurred years earlier. “My wife and I were staying in a hotel and she was drinking all of this [Voss] water and she kept saying, ‘this is the best water I’ve ever had,’” he said. “At the time I was thinking, I don’t know about that—water is water, right?”
But Bayern discovered that his wife’s experience was not unique. When he started asking others what they thought of Voss, people instantly recalled the first time they ever had it; where they were, who they were with, what they were eating. “It was an incredible consumer connection that my partner and I had never seen in a lot of the great brands we had run over the years.”
Even though Voss was a relatively small company, it had a big brand name. “We wanted to come on board and make the company as big as its image was,” said Bayern. “The goal is to turn Voss into a billion-dollar brand.”
Voss is currently focused on five key markets: the U.S., Dubai, Australia, London and China. In February 2016, they signed a significant investment deal with Reignwood Group, the parent company of Red Bull China.
“It’s been amazing to see the progress we’ve made in the last four years,” he said. “Being able to shape a company is really rewarding.”
Bayern, who studied accounting at Adelphi and was a member of the men’s lacrosse team, said that the experience he had as a student athlete has been instrumental to his success throughout his career.
“We were a small school taking on the biggest names in the lacrosse world—but my Adelphi teammates and I believed we could win every time we stepped on the field,” he said. “That experience carried through my professional career. No matter what challenge was thrown my way or who I was working with, I always felt like I belonged at the table and had something to contribute.”
It was at Adelphi that Bayern met his wife, Dory Bianco ’86. Joe and Dory, who will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in August, have three children.
Published March 2016
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