Family Fun: A Look Inside The Culture Of D-S Beverages And A Family Succession Plan In The Works

Written by: Brady Drake

A father’s day conversation with his father-in-law, Don Setter, 20 years ago was just
about all it took for Doug Restemayer, current President and Owner, to get handed the keys to D-S Beverages. Just this past year, Doug’s son, Bill, had a similar conversation with his father about returning to the family business.

While Doug still maintains that he is a long way from retirement at the age of 62, Bill’s return to the family business may just be part of a succession plan that’s slowly in the works.

“For me it’s very gratifying to have my son come back,” said Doug who has a second son, Max, who is working in his first year at Anheuser-Busch. “There’s the possibility that he could come back down the line as well which would be a father’s dream, to have both his boys in the business.”

To Doug, who at the time of joining D-S Beverages was in the midst of a 15-year career at Target, much of this journey has seemed like destiny.

“I think it was destiny because, at Target, my boss was the VP of Logistics and his next-door neighbor was the man at Anheuser-Busch who would decide if I could become the Equity Agreement Manager for Anheuser-Busch to run D-S Beverages,” said Doug.

At D-S Beverages, 91 percent of their business comes from distributing Anheuser-Busch products. In order to be an Anheuser-Busch distributor, there needs to be what’s called an Equity Agreement Manager in place. Don Setter was originally the Equity Agreement Manager. Doug became the Equity Agreement Manager during his transition into leadership. His hope is that Bill can eventually take on that same role.

“We have 60 suppliers but one is 91 percent of our business. So, it’s imperative to get their approval on who is going to run the business,” said Doug.

However, for now, Bill will spend the majority of his time learning the business, starting with making deliveries in the trucks. He does have some hands-on familiarity – during summer breaks from college Bill worked on the trucks and as a night loader at D-S. During that time, he says that he worked alongside a lot of people that are still at the business today.

Doug went through similar training when he first arrived at D-S Beverages,
saying “the best way to learn is on the front lines.” He had experience in distribution, logistics and finance from his time at Target, but he had to learn the business. This learning curve was straightened with hours on the truck and in the warehouse.

“We love what we do and it’s apparent in every aspect of what we do,” said Doug. “What we do is just not that easy. We have 1,200 retailers. We have 2,600 different items that we carry. It’s becoming a pretty complicated business and the stuff we are lugging around (kegs are about 160 lbs) is pretty heavy. It’s hard work but, at the end of the day, people still love what they do.”

The father-son duo both admit that Bill’s situation is a bit different than the one that Doug walked into. Doug was handed the keys to the business after about six months, Bill will wait much longer. However, beyond this difference is one key similarity between both successions—the focus on culture.

Culture At D-S Beverages

The yearly Christmas party has become a great way for team members at D-S Beverages to meet each other’s families.

“It was great because Don pretty much gave me the keys from the start when I got to the business,” said Doug. “We did a lot of talking – some about the business, but mostly about life. I learned more about life during those times than I probably did about the business itself. Those life lessons revolved around how to treat people, Don was a master at that.”

While Doug hasn’t applied everything that he saw Don do or everything that he heard Don say (he doesn’t expect Bill to do the same either), there are quite a few key aspects of the culture that have stayed the same throughout the years:

• Family culture
• Solid values
• Care for teammates
• Care for retailers
• Care for the community

“One of the best ways that I learn is by watching other people. I watched Don pretty closely. He had a way of holding people accountable, but he also had a way of making people feel very good about themselves and their contribution to the company.”

It’s one thing to create a mission statement saying what a company’s culture is, it’s another to actually drive and develop that culture. Doug and the team at D-S Beverages have worked to drive that culture with team outings: Redhawks games, overnight trips to the twin cities for Twins or Wild Games, and, of course, having beers after work.

“Over half of my job is thinking about our culture,” said Doug. “How are the teammates doing, how are their families doing, what are we going to do to celebrate our successes. People aren’t going to do a good job if they don’t like where they work and who they work with.”

In addition to these celebrations, Doug says that hiring the right people is a key part of maintaining a strong culture. Employees canblearn how to do the job, but they can’t easily change who they are. Doug maintains one way to make sure a prospective employee fits our culture is through the interview process. But the most important aspect is that employees that join D-S Beverages are actually brought into the company by an employee whothinks they would be a good fit.

Tip For Instilling Culture From Doug

It has to start with the leader and what values they have and what values they want pushed down to the organization.

Of course, none of the great culture or community impact that D-S Beverages is responsible for today would have been possible without the founder, Don Setter. Setter, who acquired what is now D-S Beverages in 1968. He brought a passion to the business that earned him the nickname ‘budman’.

Don Setter
Don Setter

“You would’ve thought there was actual Budweiser in his veins based on how passionate he was about D-S Beverages,” said Bill.

“He never really retired,” said Doug. “Until he became ill he was very
involved in the business.”

Setter passed away in 2016 but his legacy clearly lives on in the business and in the community which is a big reason for Bill coming back.

“It means so much to be able to come home and be involved in the family business,” said Bill who is returning to Fargo after having spent seven years in the beer industry. “Once I turned 30, I was starting to miss Fargo. Thankfully, I was able to convince my wife to take a leap of faith and move here. It’s really important to me to be involved with the family the company which is such a big part of the community here in Fargo. My grandfather meant a lot to me and it means a lot to me to work for this company.”

Share This Article
Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.