Before I agreed to do another year of this turning pro story assignment, I looked at what I had
written over the last year. I wanted to see if I had really said anything of significance. I wanted to feel that I had provided some sort of value to readers, other than just a momentary distraction. Honestly, I feel like there is some great stuff mixed in there with some OK stuff. Some useful advice along with some not so useful advice. I guess I had hoped to see some sort of unifying theme or message that would help at least one person in their struggle to open a brewery.
OK, here it is: You can only build a successful brewery on successful relationships. I suppose that is something you might find on a business school bumper sticker, but I’m beginning to think that relationships are even more important in the craft brewing world than in most other industries. Yes, there is that level of relationship, from brewer to brewer, where you can email any of your peers and assistance is freely given, but there are other critical relationships that you must foster, such as with suppliers.
You cannot survive in the smaller craft beer world solely on price. Whether it is the materials you buy or the beer you sell. Certainly, you can nickel and dime someone on price (I’ve done my share), but you also need to know when to step back and look at the service provided, the relationship being built. Sometimes you pay a little more now and save huge in the end. However, money is not the only measure of a relationship and a good relationship may save you a lot more than money some day.
You also have opportunities to develop relationships when there is adversity. I have one supplier who has had a number of issues with damaged and delayed shipments. Some folks tell me to switch suppliers, but I
refuse to make the move. I have a great relationship with the representative and that is important to me. In fact, that relationship has already saved me in many other ways, because there was someone thinking about how to help us outside of just selling us more supplies. They wanted to improve the relationship, because we wanted to, and that has helped us tremendously.
The same rules apply to distributors, retailers, and even end consumers. Every contact, every transaction is a relationship. Nobody wants to be taken advantage of in a relationship and nobody wants to feel like the
other person just doesn’t care. Keep this in mind.
Also, understand that every relationship will have its ups and downs. Mistakes happen. Do not concern yourself over the fact that someone made an error. Instead, value the process of resolution. A relationship where both parties try to ensure the success of the other is very powerful. Instead of you worrying alone about how to be successful, you have other people deeply connected to you, looking out for your interests. Those relationships are a good way to ensure success.