After 35 years of stockbroking for some of the biggest houses and investors in Australia and the UK, the Secret Broker is regaling Stockhead readers with his colourful war stories — from the trading floor to the dealer’s desk.

I was reading about Maggie Beer this morning and how her listed company has, this year, been a top performer in its sector.

I put her success down to the fact that she married well – but not because of money, I hasten to add. (You can step back from your keyboards.)

It’s because when Margaret Ackerman married Colin Beer in 1970, she became Mrs Beer.

That to me has to be one of the greatest leg-ups in Australian commerce. A great surname to attach to a bottle of Australian tomato sauce.

Beer sauce on your pie when watching the footy finals? That’s something even John Singleton could not have come up with; though Jeff Kennett kind of did.

You see, Jeff used to be the chairman of the company that Mrs Beer backed her company into. In case you didn’t know, our Jeff, who now sports the exact same haircut as James Packer, had a dabble in ASX company life after politics.

In true politician style, the company’s shares did not really go that well until Jeff actually stepped off the board. Then the stock took off.

Now, some stocks have done well out of COVID and some have not but Mrs Beer’s company has, as everyone has been forced to stay home and cook. That’s led them to realise how far a $50 note can stretch at home, compared to a $50-a-head meal out in a fancy restaurant. Or pub, even, as it can easily be these days.

A full blown three-course meal, including a bottle of wine at home, compared to three lettuce leaves, a dob of wild beetroot entwined with a squeeze of snail breath and a small glass of Drovers Camp Ewe Rhine? There is just no comparison, or going back.

But Maggie Beer has something extra on her plate for shareholders. A special sauce, if you will.

Never get high on your own supply

I realised this last weekend at a gathering, when I met someone’s ‘relo’, who worked for the home food delivery company Hello Fresh. I asked her who was better, Hello Fresh or Marley Spoon? She had attitude and rudely told me that was a stupid question to ask her, as obviously Hello Fresh is. They were better funded, she said, and all staff get discounted subscriptions.

So basically, she didn’t know.

But it was the “all staff get discounted subscriptions” things she said that piqued my interest. Because companies that dish out staff discounts on their own products are not always the best performers.

What I learnt a long time ago, is that when staff become so enamored with their own product, they never experience any rival products and thus become complacent and less entrepreneurially spirited.

I learnt this from Herb Kelleher, a chain smoking, bourbon drinking founder of Southwest Airlines in America.

He always put his employees first and their loyalty and happiness was then reflected in their attitudes to his customers.

If someone moaned and gave his staff too hard a time, they would be told ‘goodbye, we will miss you’ – nicely delivered via a note handwritten by Herb himself.

Rather than give his staff Southwest Airlines discounts, Herb would encourage and pay for his staff to fly on rival airlines. That way they could all experience how rivals handled their staff and passengers.

From three aeroplanes and a handful of staff, Herb became a billionaire. And many of his 34,000 employees became millionaires, as he never posted a loss or ever had to sack anyone.

Richard Branson still copies this model to this day and we all know how cheerful and loyal his staff are to him and his passengers.

Herb even had his packs of peanuts all reduced down by three peanuts, which saved him 100s of 1000s of dollars a year, to keep costs down.

Attitude can go far and wide, and whenever I am watching reruns of Mrs Beer on TV, she is always smiling and happily talking about her love of food. Can’t wait for the next goody bag at the next AGM, even if there are few nuts are missing.

All I can say is, goodbye Fresh and hello Beer!

The Secret Broker can be found on Twitter here @SecretBrokerAU or on email at [email protected].

Feel free to contact him with your best stock tips and ideas.