Beer Businesses Changing Hands

If you’ve ever seen a sign outside a business stating “Under New Management” then you know things change.

Starting and operating a successful business is a unique proposition. For those of you who have done it, you know what I mean. For those of you who have not – either congrats or please withhold your opinions when someone does in fact sell their business to another.

There’s a lot of movement right now in beer – one beer business (read: brewery) selling to another person or entity. It’s really no one’s business except the parties involved.

Say you start Beer Business A. Your plan – aka dream – had long been to open your own brewery, employee people, bring the neighborhood together and build your dream. It’s a noble and common actuality.

Say you don’t have any inkling when you first develop your business plan on the exit strategy. Fine. Say you’re 5 years in and it’s a lot of work and you either keep your head down and keep plowing ahead trying to figure it out  or you start thinking ‘what’s my bigger plan?’ Say from there you decide to build it to the point where you can in fact sell it. All your hard work, thousands of hours of sweat equity and money can come back to you in the form of a sale. That sound rather good to some people. And some have planned for that eventuality to begin with, having had this particular exit strategy in mind all along.

Would you begrudge a hardworking friend the benefit of the fruits of their labors?

It’s what some would say is part of the America Dream: create a business from nothing, build it to the point of viable attractiveness to another person and then sell it. Kudos to you if that’s your plan: it’s a solid ordinary occurrence.

Celebrate the good things - including beer business sales.

Celebrate the good things – including beer business sales.

With all the kerfuffle lately over beer businesses deciding to sell to other parties, I’d take this tact: those maneuvers are theirs and theirs alone to determine. Anyone outside of the founders and owners are really not in a position to make any sort of armchair judgement or comments on who sold or, more inaccurately and cattily – ‘sold out’ – to others. Leave it alone.

The comments by a new owner or previous owner may ring hollow with the “nothing will change” line. of course things will change – there’s a new owner, how could things not change! Swing with the punches you’ve set yourself for. When you sell something, you no longer have control.

The beer community is better when we all support and sip as we so choose. When we judge, comment, and make unkind remarks about people who have built their own American dream we bring it all down.

Like the beer you like, accept who makes it or choose something else politely and kindly. With the virtually endless choices these days, we can play nice and still build diplomacy and community by welcoming everyone who wants to partake to do so in their own way.

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Quality Is Queen

What’s on the collective mind of the professional beer community? Quality.

On the heels of the brewery explosion – which is still mushroom clouding – smart brewers and business people in the beer world realize and know quality is queen.

Deschutes is a great example of quality driven beer.

Deschutes is a great example of quality driven beer.

Here are a few indicators:

  1. Having been invited to be a panelist at the inaugural CIA Crafting Beer & Food Summit, Napa CA, we were asked to talk about the Business of Beer. Nicole Erny was right on in her comments and I’d echo the same: quality + business = success.
  2. Consistency is also queen. Inconsistency of brands which are supposed to be consistent is not the way to build a business nor a clever marketing ploy to promote a brewery’s beer. Inconsistency is different from variety and variation of beers that get the green light to vary.
  3. When an entry-level consumer tries a beer which is not to style or brand, then we’ve all f’d it up. That sort of experience is a tough one to overcome. Plus if the consumer likes the non-quality beer, then we’ve just warp speed damaged what the experience is supposed to be.
  4. The Brewers Association recently released the Quality Management Book, written by Mary Pellettieri – and gave a complementary copy to every BA member. PLUS they already had the Draught Quality Manual out for establishments pouring beer on draught.

Quality is queen. It should be, as a quality product should be the goal and daily driver of all businesses. There’s a lot of poor quality beer out there, created by brewers who are too blindly passionate to realize that poor quality beer brings everyone down and hurts the industry community.

Ground zero is you and me. As the buyer and consumer of beer, we must demand quality, get to know beer, and speak up for quality.

Rally time is here. Join me in the call for quality.

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Why A 12 Point Beer Business Inspection Is Important

Yesterday I posited 12 questions per your beer business, the 12 Point Beer Business Inspection. If you answered them with clarity and completeness, you should be in business. If you cannot, you need to take time right now to clarify them – they point to your goals and purpose of being in the community.

1. Why are you in the beer business? Do you know this answer? If you do, keep asking yourself as time marches on. If you don’t, it’s overdue. Is it to make a living? Is it to educate? Is it to share your passion? If you’re in business of any sort (for profit or not-for-profit are both business structures), it needs to include revenue generation as well as outreach. Not making any money for your living expenses makes you a burden on others. And it’s doubtful that’s what too many people want at all.

Do you know where your beer business is headed?

2. Who do you make your beer for? (get ready for Broken Record Pattern = BRP) You must know who this is. If it’s for your friends and neighborhoods, move to the densest neighborhood you can find. Make sure you treat them with kid gloves. More realistically you need to develop a vision in your plan of who you are making your beer for – or selling it to – in order to make a living.

3. Why do you make or sell your beer? Is it simply a passion you want to manifest? Is it a hobby you can afford to undertake? You must always ask yourself “The Why”. Without it “The What” is not very useful. I.e. – who cares what you make if you don’t know why you make it.

4. Who have you specifically identified as your target market? BRP Know this in order to avoid the burden syndrome (on yourself and own finances and mental health as well as those around you). The first few immediate circles of friends and contacts will only take you so far. And most likely you need many, many others to take you where you think and plan you want to go.

5. How far out does your target market range? Do you want to be a neighborhood or local joint or a state or province wide brand? Any sites set on national or global targets or goals? BRP

6. What do you do to thank existing customers? How do your customers and patrons know you appreciate them? How do you acknowledge them and express this regularly, in person? This is really important. The Internet has both exploded our access to everyone (literally) and also lead some to believe civility and in person interactions are less critical. They’re not. They are more critical than ever.

7. What do you do to attract new customer share? Every business can always use new customers. Never rest on the laurels that you’re set or you’ve got everyone in the door you need. This attitude – of always being aware you need more – should be pervasive. Starting with staff first – ALWAYS be open to that person who contacts your company curious about opportunity. Smart businesses will adopt the mantra “we’re always looking for good people.”

8. Who is dedicated to marketing your products? Marketing is bringing your product to market. And you’d have no business chance or sense if you negated or ignored or other wise chose to be ignorant of this fact. Marketing is both an essential part of a beer business and one the customers want – they want to know who you are and what you’re about. Telling your story is a HUGE part of building your brands and business.

9. What education events do you offer your market? Education makes the world improve. Be part of that progress by making sure to 1. Educate your staff often and effectively and to 2. Educate your consumers. Education, education, education. In the beer business, it’s more important than location.

10. How often do you ask your customers for input and their opinions of your products and services? I’ll just tell you the answer here: Daily. You need to talk with customers every day you’re open for business. Talk, engage, learn, listen, keep asking them for their thoughts. Talking with customers is like gathering seashells. You collect a bunch in the excitement of the adventure, then you sort later. Do the same here.

11. What’s your plan to sustain and grow market share? The initial buzz and honeymoon of a new brand should be thought out. Be patient and only launch when you’re ready, based on your business plan. Then know that continuing evaluation and adjustment is part of the landscape you’ve chosen to live in.

12. What’s your exit strategy? If you had a plan to start, you should have an idea of your plan to end.

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Women Enjoying Beer Is Not A 'Club'

Here’s an example of a relatively common email query that Women Enjoying Beer receives.

From Ryan: My mom has never liked beer, but now she is taking an interest in it. Is there a chapter of yours down here in LA?

Our response: Good afternoon Ryan –

Thanks so much for the reach out. Glad to hear your mom is getting into beer – do you enjoy it as well?

Women Enjoying Beer is a business that is twofold: focused on consumers (education, research, events, etc) and helping beer oriented businesses properly marketing craft/beer to women (consulting, training, education, speaking, etc.). We most certainly partner with other businesses to host terrific women & beer events. We’re not a club or chapter organization though. This is a full time, full fledged business to develop and serve the female beer enthusiast.

So – no, we don’t have chapters (we do have a regular meet-ups where we live in S OR). Yes – we certainly do events all across the country and globe with partner businesses interested in creating more female beer enthusiasm, some of them repeated because of the success therein. For example we were just in San Fran for the Craft Brewers Conference and did a few events there. Always looking for more venues and requests to get to the women who are enjoying and learning about beer (men too!).

Hope that provides enlightenment and the answer.

One way to learn more is for your fine Mom to share her email address with us – we send out periodic emailers with info, events, and other beery information. The contact information is always safe and secure (never shared, sold, rented, borrowed). She can get in touch with us here. We also have fun WEB Beer Gear to show beery pride and give as gifts. A new shipment of shirts just arrived last week as well – we’ll have the colors and pictures up soon.

Again, thanks Ryan.

Ginger Johnson
Women Enjoying Beer (R)
Bringing Beer To Life

WEB is leading the Craft/Beer Industry in Marketing Beer to Women
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