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Virginia Means United Distributors

Virginia Means

Chief People Officer

United Distributors Inc.

Location: Smyrna

Founded: 1940

Industry: Distribution

Previously serving publicly traded and privately held organizations while specializing in aligning people strategy with business strategy, Virginia Means was brought to United Distributors Inc. as the chief people officer to prepare the organization for the next chapter of growth by creating and galvanizing a customized people strategy.

For several months, Means sought firsthand experience across diverse facets of the business, engaging extensively with customers, associates and managers. “Her primary goal was to understand the company’s market approach and success metrics, as well as experience the roles and observe the contributions of associates and managers,” said her colleagues.

During this period, Means rode in delivery trucks, participated in product deliveries, merchandised inventory and worked hands-on in the warehouse to get to know the inner workings of the company. “The immersive journey laid the bedrock for sculpting United’s people strategy and crafting tailor-made programs and resources for associates and managers, aimed at enabling the company’s mission,” said her colleagues.

United Distributors Inc. is an alcohol distribution company with a mission to be the most successful beverage distribution corporation by providing best-in-class service to its five key stakeholder groups: shareholders, suppliers, customers, associates and the community.

In her role at United Distributors, Means created a digital ecosystem during the COVID-19 pandemic that outlines every area of the business with narrated videos and photos. She was also instrumental in creating internal and external podcasts and the Lunch With a Leader fundraiser designed for executives to donate an hour of their time to a nonprofit organization.

As a result, the company was named Fortune Magazine’s Best Places to Work and Means was recognized as Atlanta’s Chief Human Resource Officer of the Year by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

“Virginia embodies the principles she advocates,” said her staff. “Her commitment to mentorship and professional development spans multiple arenas within United and beyond.” Means has dedicated a decade of service with the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America and Pathbuilders and was recognized as the Mentor of the Year within this program. She also contributes to the Women’s Initiative Network on the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Board of Directors.

According to Means, her favorite quote is that life is a team sport. “I believe that we are on this planet to serve one another toward a common goal of making one another’s lives better,” she said. “Authenticity fosters trust and respect and every individual’s journey is unique; embrace your individual path, stay focused on your goals and keep moving forward with determination and enthusiasm.”

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Did you know?

I don’t know that I have a ‘secret superpower,’ but my favorite quote is:
“Life is a team sport.” I believe that we are on this planet to serve one another toward a common goal of making one another’s lives better…

However, what I am often complimented on (does this qualify as a super power?) is my ability to generate creative solutions to problems. A few examples include:
Digital Ecosystem: Pandemic social distancing caused our company to truncate orientation and forego campus tours that demonstrate for new employees how each area of our business fits together as the organizational system that creates marketplace value. So, we designed and deployed a digital ecosystem that outlines every area of our business including narrated videos and photos. This helped our new associates gain perspective about the breadth and depth of our business and the colleagues who work in other areas of the organization.
Internal and External Podcasts: Much of our workforce is in out in the marketplace meeting with customers and delivering our product. This means that classroom style learning is not ideal as it takes our associates away from their important duties. In order to meet people where they are, we designed and deployed podcasts for our internal employees called “The Speakeasy.” During the pandemic, we could not host our suppliers to come in to talk about their products. So, we also launched a fun, upbeat, externally facing podcast that is open to all called, “What to Drink” and pairs wine, beer and spirits with various foods (from caviar to friend chicken), milestones (from the King’s Coronation to picnics in the park), etc. and includes experts from the makers of the products.
Lunch with a Leader: A fundraiser designed for executives to donate an hour of their time to a non-profit organization. The donated hours were auctioned off to the highest bidder (a service provider company that was interested in pitching his/her business to the executive). This initiative raised so much money for the non-profit that it actually moved the organization from in the red to the black.


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