The Interview: Jeff Coggin of Coggin Travels

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Special to The Paper

This month, The Paper visited with Jeff Coggin for its September Q&A.

Briefly describe yourself and what you do/did.
I am a travel advisor and a wine sommelier.  My wife Cindy and I own Coggin Travels and we specialize in pairing travel with wine.  We send wine loving clients on vacations to the best wine regions throughout the world.  Our clients have the most fun learning about and experiencing wine in the places where great wines are made.

Best piece of advice you’ve received.

From a personal standpoint, Jesus said “he who finishes last will be first.”  I think it’s important to be humble, kind, and empathetic to the challenges of others, putting others needs ahead of your own.
From a business perspective, when we were forming our travel business, we struggled to find a niche of customers to target.  Our business coach, Harlan Hammack, helped us to identify our niche of wine loving clients.  To quote – “if you stand on the street corner and say that you will talk to anyone about anything, then nobody will talk to you.  However, if you stand on the street corner and say that you want to talk about travel and wine, then those people interested in travel and wine will stop and talk to you.”
I also find myself often referring to some business advice that I received early in my career relative to negotiating.  The party with the least to lose is always in control of any negotiation.

If I had it to do over …
I’ve been married to Cindy for 28 years, but we didn’t find each other until our early 30s.  If I could do it over again, I would find her much sooner.

You are going on an extended solo trip. What three albums and three books would you take?
I am a voracious consumer of news, so I must have my Wall Street Journal subscription.  I also enjoy reading the Washington Post.  This provides a completely different perspective, and I like to be both informed and enlightened.  For music, I’m a fan of the 1970s, both disco as well as the harder genres such as Led Zeppelin.

Tell us one thing about yourself that few people know.
When I was young, during the CB radio days, I had an afro and my CB radio handle was “Hair Bear.”

You are hosting a dinner party for six. What five people, living or dead, would you invite and why.
We have a wonderful round table in our dining room which seats 8, so I am taking some liberties to invite 7 people:
Babe Ruth – for larger than life fun
Ronald Reagan – for wisdom and inspiration
Charlton Heston – to hear about his life in Hollywood
Dean Martin – to hear about the crazy experiences of the Rat Pack
Rodney Dangerfield – for laughs
Mike Grgich – the winemaker who made the USA wine which won the Judgment of Paris in 1973.  He is from Croatia and has a winery there.  I’d love to hear his story.
Anthony Bourdain – to convince him to stay in this world with us.

Name an as yet unfulfilled dream.
It revolves around travel.  What is often referred to as a “Bucket List,” we now call a “Life List.”  On my life list are the wine regions of Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, and South America.  I haven’t yet been to Antarctica or any of the Nordic countries or Iceland.  I hope to one day host a river cruise on the Dnipro River in Ukraine.  It was once a popular destination.  I’m confident that people will travel again to Ukraine in my lifetime.

If you weren’t doing what you are, you would be …
I guess I would still be in Corporate America in some kind of sales leadership position, but I would not be having near as much fun as I am now.  I can say from experience that there is no substitute for the thrill of having your own successful business.

Your go-to food.
Mediterranean.  Pizza and pasta but I love seafood.

Favorite movies(s)
The Mel Brooks movies from the 1970s are my favorites.  Plus, almost anything with Gene Wilder, Charlton Heston, or Rodney Dangerfield.

Dogs or cats?
Dogs – We have property in Northwest Coweta, near Chattahoochee Bend State Park, and we host quail hunts benefitting local charities.  We have a German Shorthaired Pointer and a Field Bred English Cocker Spaniel.  They are champion hunters and the best companions.  I am proud of both.

Your favorite quote and why.
Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.  Don’t be a hog.

Name something that you are extremely glad you did or accomplished.
I retired from Enterprise Holdings in 2019 after a 35 year career in the car rental business.  Fortune smiled on me throughout my career, and I accomplished a lot with a great team of people.  I hit a ceiling and I made the 100% correct decision to leave corporate America on my own terms to start our travel business with my wife Cindy.

What advice would you give your younger self just starting out on their own?
I should have been more confident when I was young.  Some might find that hard to believe but I doubted myself all along the way.  Plus, find Cindy earlier.

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