Success on Tap: What Business Builders Can Learn from Craft Breweries


“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

Ben Franklin (supposedly) said this. I can’t help but wonder what he’d think of our modern craft beer scene and its most loyal beer enthusiasts. (Hint, millennials, women, Hispanics and other important segments aren’t drinking much Bud Lite.) In case you haven’t noticed, the craft beer scene has exploded in recent years. That said, I think business builders of all types can learn a lesson or two from its success and growth.

Even locally, the craft brewing industry is exploding.Key craft beer attributes include: small, independent, high quality and local.

Through our wholly-owned subsidiary, IPMG, The NIIC was one of a larger group of initial investors in Hop River Brewing. While we know there is a high business mortality rate of craft breweries, we invested in Hop River because of its great beer and communal atmosphere, its outstanding adaptive reuse of a downtown destination, its “all in” visionary founders (Ben & Paris not to be confused with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream) and strong and cohesive business model (see the national press coverage). The NIIC is quite excited to support Hop River’s concept development to launch as it has, in the words of Hop River Marketing Guru Mary Corinne, “quickly become recognized as a meet up place for local artists, entrepreneurs, outdoor enthusiasts and young professionals”.

  1. Embrace your rivals (1+1 might just get you 3).If you look at the craft brew community, there’s an element of comradery and loyalty. Proprietors hang out with their “competition” and even exchange advice. It’s not uncommon for brewers to form unofficial alliances to grow the craft beer/brewery scene in their region and beyond. There seems to be an attitude of “when one microbrewery succeeds, they all succeed.” Consider for example the Northern Indiana Beer Trail Collaboration Brew Day as an example of the local industry players coming together.
  2. Engage the “right expertise”, build the culture and value your team.As breweries or microbreweries are small by nature, their qualified and experienced staff (brewmaster, marketing/packaging, predictive data analytics and the customer experience) are the lifeblood of their operations. And it’s not just lip service. New Belgium Brewing seems to have set the gold standard for employee perks. According to Business Insider, “For instance, employees receive a branded fat-tire cruiser bike — a tradition started in 1999 as a nod to the brewery’s flagship beer— at year one, a one-week trip to Belgium at year five, a $1,000 travel voucher at year 15, and a four-week paid sabbatical at years 10, 20, and 30.” How cool is this culture?
  3. Never rest on your laurels (always be innovating the product, experience, brand, and the business model).

Beer is a dynamic and evolving product, meaning one ingredient or change in the process can completely change the taste of a batch. Brewers know that the first batch is just a starting point—there’s always room for improvement. They aren’t afraid to solicit their customers for input and are open to experimentation, so they can refine a recipe or scale a recipe (you just can’t take a home recipe and expect it to be a commercial success!) Businesses in any industry can follow suit. Getting started is the hardest part sometimes.

Success doesn’t happen overnight. That’s where our business coaching and business development services comes into play. How can we help you? Whether you’re securing capital or talent, connecting with tech specialists or services providers (e.g., lawyers, accountants, bankers) or just wondering if your idea is viable, our venture advisory services will advance you and your business.

Our comprehensive skills and proven venture advisory services program is available to all entrepreneurs working with us. You’ll learn from our team of accomplished business professionals, coaches and trusted advisors. Individuals with specific skills, capabilities and industry experience will support you as you think and act on your entrepreneurial passion and vision. All it takes is to just start. Call one of our concierge’s for an appointment at 260-407-6442. For those that can’t wait, here is a link to some questions to consider for your first visit with us.

Note: Last week I was on vacation and missed my weekly installment, so this blog is a catch-up to get me back on track.


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