For UpCountry's first couple of blogs we talked about how the craft beer industry is changing rapidly. You can read about it here and here. The days of opening a brewery and a decade later automatically being a large regional brewery making 250,000 bbls plus per year and selling in 30 states are long gone.
With over 6,000 breweries in the US and more opening every day, even an industry stalwart like Greg Koch from Stone Brewing (currently in a lawsuit against MillerCoors) half jokingly hinted that he would not do it again. In response to a tongue-in-cheek text saying Greg should consider getting into the brewing game, he counters with:
I dunno. Sounds a bit “me too” for me. Sounds interesting but I generally prefer more unique paths. Kudos to the brave souls that are getting into it these days though. ? https://t.co/WOVhdtZpKn— Greg Koch (@StoneGreg) January 26, 2018
Of course Greg was being whimsical and funny and, well, Greg. But there is a nugget of truth in his answer. I have been doing this "brewery thing" for over 20 years now and I know how hard opening a new brewery can be. With UpCountry Brewing I'm now learning first hand how the challenges of opening today in a crowded marketplace are drastically different from those of opening a brewery in the late late 1990's and early 2000's.
So how do you succeed in in opening a brewery in today's market? For now let's forget the usual business school answers of creating a business plan, knowing your marketplace, and having twice the capital you think you will need. That's all true but success starts at a much deeper level than that. I adamantly believe there are three keys to being successful in the beer business today. Actually any business today. Those keys are 1) passion, 2) know your why, and 3) be relevant to the market.
Passion. Simply put you have to love, love, love the beer industry. Did I say love? I did. You can be be the brewer, the brain behind operations, the packaging genius, the sales guru or even the accounting nerd. It really doesn't matter. What matters is that you have a passion for beer. And a passion for the business of beer. You will need that passion to sustain you and get you through. Through the 18 hour days, through losing money, through paying your employees while not taking a cent for yourself. Through the dumped batches, through the broken equipment, through the downed chiller. Through the never ending calls from telemarketers, through hearing from vendors needing payment, through dealing with the governmental bureaucracies of the TTB, IRS, OSHA, Dept of Revenue, Dept of Agriculture, ABC, and the city permitting office.
You will deal with all of that every day. But you will not care. Why? Because you love what you are doing and would not dream of doing anything else. Because there is no better feeling than when someone comes to your taproom and tells you that your Cherry Pineapple Pizza Porter is the best beer they have ever tasted. There is nothing more validating than being at a bar across town or across the state and meeting people who tell you about the great time they had at your place last year. It's an amazing feeling to get calls from people who want to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and even get married at the brewery that came from nothing more than your vision and persistence.
It's that passion that will allow you to overcome all of the hardships headed your way when you start your dream brewery. Because at the end of the day it's not about the return on investment or the EBITDA. (Don't shoot me Frank, I know those are important. But they are not THE thing.) Deep down you know it's really all about the beer. Oh The Places You Will Go!
Know Your Why
Check out this Simon Sinek video. Seriously, please watch it. The entire segment is extremely powerful but for our purposes watch up to the 5:50 mark. I believe in this concept so much that I regularly show this video at full company meetings.
The Golden Circle. People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
To succeed today in craft beer you must know your why. It's not easy to define. It will take some time and you must dig deep and really understand yourself and the business you are trying to build. More importantly, it must motivate your team and be something that everyone can believe in.
Next time we will dig into the "WHY" behind UpCountry Brewing.
Do you have the passion? Do you know your why? I'd love to hear from you.
Cheers, John C.