Carlos Fuente Jr. has become one of the most recognizable people in the cigar business. While at the helm of Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia., he has seen the company rise to one of the preeminent positions in the industry.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
John F. Kennedy, Nov/Dec 98
(continued from page 6)
Fuente:It's very hard to separate out what each of us does. I think the only time we're divided is when we all sleep in different beds. We're family. And my father taught us that our responsibility is to do whatever is humanly necessary to make the product as great as possible. I think that is something that is sacred to us and we must never forget that Arturo Fuente Cigar Co. is not a company, it's a family.
CA: Does your father work as hard today as he did 10 years ago?
Fuente:Yes. If there was a way I could try to describe my father, he's like Vince Lombardi; what Vince Lombardi was to football, my father is to cigars or to cigar making. He's taught us all and he still teaches us all on a daily basis.
CA: But what area of the business does your father focus on?
Fuente:Every single day he goes from factory to factory. I only hope that someday I can fill his shoes. He's built a company. It shows his brilliance because he's done it without having a formal education. He's taught so many people, in every department of the company. He personally teaches people, he personally makes cigars, he's personally taught people how to ferment tobacco. He's covered all the different aspects of the company, and he still does it.
CA: I can't therefore draw the conclusion that you're the guy in the factory and he's the guy in the fields, or he's the guy in the fields and you're the guy in the factory. It doesn't work like that?
Fuente:It's a very fine-tuned family. My sister is so much involved in the business; my brother-in-law, Wayne [Suarez], is too. I don't look at Wayne as a brother-in-law; he's a brother. Whatever has to be done, we do. I mean, Wayne's in the Dominican Republic spending a lot of time, or he's in the States working there. My sister grew up in the tobacco business and she knows an extensive amount about tobacco, which may surprise some people. But she worked in the factory, just like I did, when she was a young girl, and she's done just about everything in the factory. She has her heart in the business, like we all do.
CA: There must be some division of labor?
Fuente:Although we are really one as a family, yes, we do still divide up some functions. Cynthia is primarily in administration. She spends most of her time in the office today. But Cynthia was for a time in sales and she traveled around the [United States]. But now with three children, she spends a lot of time in administration. Wayne is also in production, coordinating cigar production and shipment orders. He also spends a lot of time in the United States on the sales and marketing side. There is a lot of overlap with Wayne and Cynthia. Cynthia also goes to the factories and checks cigars. Wayne, too--he's always in the factory checking cigars. It's a family effort.
For myself and my father, we've been a team. But my father does everything. Everything. I spend most of my time with the tobacco: between the farms, blending cigars, creating the new shapes and sizes, and working on the packaging. But we do it all. All of us basically do it all.
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