To follow up from Katy Ludington’s post I want to share my thoughts on Beer School. When I told my friends, clients, entrepreneurs, and others about what I was reading they would ask, “so you’re one of the thousands who wants to start a brewery? Good luck.” I say , “well that has always been a dream, but I am reading it for another purpose: to hear how Steve Hindy, former banker, and Tom Potter, former journalist, start from brewing in their apartment basement to running a successful brewery and a more successful distribution company.”
This book is not just about how to make beer and build a successful brewery, but how to build a successful startup. Tom and Steve describe their successes and failures and describe why and how they accomplished them. What I learned the most from their story is how to stay nimble and flexible in an ever-changing market.
One of the most challenging lessons for any startup to learn is adaptability. One must be willing to adapt and evolve in order to seize unforeseen opportunities in the marketplace.
Steve and Tom’s idea was on making the best beer they could possibly make. But their primary obstacle was how best to distribute their product while raising awareness of their brand. They knew their beer was good, but had no idea how to spread awareness and get the public drinking it. A friend offered straightforward advice – “You need to distribute the beer yourselves. No one knows how to sell it like you do…”
Discovering a competitive advantage and seizing it, is a must for any successful startup. Even though handling distribution was never a part of the plan, Brooklyn Brewery sought advice and they evolved. “Distribution would become the Brooklyn Brewery’s great detour. It wasn’t what we were looking for, but it was something we bumped up against.” Because many times, in order to become successful, you need to take an adjacent path than what you were planning.
Rarely does a startup reach success by sticking to an exclusively homemade game plan that prevents any form change – that’s what existing corporations do until their profit margins dwindle. Every business, especially startups, must be willing to listen to advice and evolve because “It may be the advice that changes your business even when you were not even looking for it.”
Young startups must take these “detours” in order to be successful. Rarely has a startup reached success by doing everything the way they wanted it to happen or sought out to do it. Things come up. People change. Times change. You must roll with the punches and evolve to survive. Tom and Steve did and they have made one of the most successful microbreweries in the world.