Working Under the Bad Boy Banner Helped Henry ‘Hen Roc’ Polanco Rise in the Spirits Industry
Henry Polanco, known in the entertainment and spirits industry as “Hen Roc,” started his long career working with the man behind the Bad Boy brand. Like Sean Combs, Hen Roc was able to use the hustle and experience he obtained to elevate his work in the music industry and now in the spirits game.
BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke to Hen Roc about working with hip-hop visionary “Diddy” and how that experience impacted his quest to be the best and helped him succeed in music and now spirits.
How does a college computer science major become a successful executive within the entertainment and spirits industry?
Honestly, my heart wasn’t in computer science, so I decided to follow my true passion and pursue music. I didn’t know where I would land or exactly what I would do, but I knew that I needed to do something that I loved and that I had a true passion for music and entertainment.
How did you use your experience working at Bad Boy Records for 15 years alongside Sean Combs to do well in the spirits industry?
I started working at Bad Boy Worldwide at a very young age. I worked hard, listened, watched, and wanted to learn everything there was to know about the music business. Over the course of 15 years, I not only learned the music but also the business of music.
I was surrounded by the best of the best and wanted to be among that elite group of music industry professionals who shaped and preserved the culture, so I worked extremely hard and did whatever it took. I worked across as many positions as possible, so I could diversify my skill set and establish my name.
Because I wore multiple hats at “Bad Boy University,” as some of us called it, that allowed me to grow personally and professionally. I was laser-focused on winning, so when I graduated, I took some of the same principles that allowed me to successfully navigate my career in music and applied them to jumpstart my career in spirits.
What led you to take your talents to the Hennessy brand?
It was all about timing. Working at Bad Boy was an amazing and unforgettable experience that I would never change, but after 15 years there, I felt like I had hit a plateau.
I wasn’t looking for new opportunities at the time but was open to new challenges. I craved growth opportunities and wanted to learn new skills, so when I got the call from my dear friend Aria Wright, who was associate vice president of the agency of record for Moet Hennessy U.S.A., I followed through and accepted the position as key account manager for New York. The rest is history.
What attributes are necessary to navigate the entertainment and spirits industries successfully, and how much does an entrepreneurial mindset help?
In my opinion, in order to win in spirits, you need to have, at the very minimum, basic sales and marketing knowledge and skills. You need to learn quickly, embody a teamwork mindset, and be able to communicate effectively with others. It’s also helpful to understand the culture of your target audience, be agile, and know how to adapt so that you can make smart decisions under pressure.
Most importantly, you need to be creative and know how to build and maintain relationships because relationships are critical to gaining access and opening doors as you move up the ladder in your career.
Treat every relationship as a business relationship and never deviate from that.
You are in your second year as New York state manager for Camus Cognac. How do you use experience from the nightlife scene to make a brand with longevity matter, specifically to the urban audience?
I was hired by Camus Cognac because of my spirits experience and my relationships that extend beyond spirits into music, film, fashion, sports, politics, art, and even community development. Because my relationships are endless, I’m able to authentically tap into new audiences for Camus Cognac that will stimulate trial and keep the brand relevant and at the top of their mind.
As an entrepreneur who has worked with different brands throughout your career, what advice would you give someone who aspires to be successful?
Read, listen, and learn. ALWAYS LISTEN MORE THAN YOU SPEAK! Be open to new ideas, and don’t block traditional practices because that is how we got here! Respect the foundation because there is significant value in knowing how things were done before technology revolutionized the world.
Develop your own style and challenge yourself every step of the way. Be disciplined, believe in yourself, lead with integrity, establish and practice good habits, and find ways to bridge gaps that exist between generations and cultures.
What’s next for Hen Roc?
My personal goals will always include elevating my family and leaving a legacy for them. I will continue to strive for personal and professional growth as I search for a better version of myself. Professionally, I look forward to refreshing the roadmap that takes Camus Cognac to the next luxury level. I want to continue to open doors for new talent and breed fresh ideas for many years to come.