William Bradley, vice president of community affairs at Anheuser-Busch, grew up playing baseball and had aspirations to play professionally.
“Baseball teaches you about teamwork,” Bradley said. “But the best thing about baseball, in my opinion, is that it really teaches you how to handle failure. The best baseball players hit .300, which is 3 hits out of 10 — which means you’re failing 7 out of 10 times, right? It requires a lot of hard work, a lot of repetition, if you are going to reach the highest level.”
It’s a lesson that has guided Bradley throughout his professional career, he said. After working 24 years at Anheuser-Busch in a wide variety of increasingly senior and responsible positions, Bradley became the vice president of community affairs in 2016. In this role, he administers the Anheuser-Busch Foundation, which has been around since 1975. His group focuses on charitable efforts in the areas of community enrichment, disaster preparedness and relief, environmental sustainability, education, support for military personnel and their families, and responsible drinking.
On November 21, Bradley will be named the 2019 Corporate Executive of the Year at the 20th annual Salute to Excellence in Business Awards & Networking Luncheon, hosted by the St. Louis American Foundation. While he is honored to receive the award, he said that his success is a reflection of all the great people he works with at Anheuser Busch and his business partners. But most of all, it’s a reflection of the support he receives at home with his wife, Tiffany, and four daughters.
“They really lay a foundation for me that keeps me grounded and really permits me to go out without a worry and work hard for Anheuser-Busch every single day,” he said.
Bradley grew up in North St. Louis (“basically on the corner of Marcus and Labadie,” he said) for the first nine years of his life, before his family moved to Spanish Lake. His late father, William Bradley Sr., was a St. Louis city police officer for 35 years. His mother, Amanda Bradley, was a registered nurse for the City of St. Louis. Most of that time she worked at Homer G. Phillips Hospital.
“So I grew up in a household of civil servants, really,” he said.
He went to high school at Hazelwood Central, then earned his associate’s degree from St. Louis Community College – Forest Park, where he also played baseball. His bat and glove were critical to his transferring to Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama, where he graduated with a degree in business (with an emphasis in marketing).
He was recruited to Anheuser-Busch by Lincoln Scott, an African-American human rights professional (since retired), who exercised at the Vic Tanny health club where Bradley worked shifts while he tried, and failed, to make it as a professional baseball player.
“I think, candidly, it was at a time when Anheuser-Busch, like many other corporations, were looking to expand the diversity of the pool of candidates they were looking at,” Bradley told The American.
One of the first questions Scott asked him was whether he had a degree, because many of his peers working at the gym did not. Suddenly that business degree, which was not helping him get signed to a Major League Baseball club, came in handy. “I think that advanced the conversation,” Bradley said. “That was probably a qualifier.”
As Bradley the ballplayer already knew, getting a look was not the same thing as getting a job. After he submitted a resume to human resources, as directed, he went through 18 months of interviews for different job opportunities at A-B that he was not, in the end, offered.
“I just continued to do my due diligence, like you did back then – you know, persistence and follow-ups,” Bradley said. “Back then, it was thank-you letters. Then you just dealt with that disappointment of not getting offered a position.”
It was after Bradley had been promoted into management at the health club that A-B called him in about yet another position – this time, as a member of the contemporary marketing team, one in a class of 40 individuals, 20 males and 20 females.
“I’m just going to go down there, and it'll be a waste of time,” Bradley thought. Then, he thought, “It never hurts to get some practice on your interviewing skills,” and he knew that working at the gym was not a career opportunity for him.
This time, he got the job at Anheuser-Busch. Now 28 years on the job later, he is a vice president of the company. But he always keeps in mind the lessons he learned in baseball that have transferred seamlessly into the business world.
“You have to find your processes that work,” he said. “You have to be driven; you have to work hard each and every day. And if you don’t, there’s someone else out there taking more ground balls than you, more swings than you, who is going to take your spot on the roster.”
The 20th annual Salute to Excellence in Business Awards & Networking Luncheon will be held Thursday, November 21 at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac, with a networking reception at 11 a.m. and luncheon program at noon. Tickets are $100 for Preferred/VIP seating and $75 for general admission. Call 314-533-8000 or click here to purchase tickets.