How Two Breweries Grow Company Culture
March 21, 2012
By: Roberta Matuson
The beer industry, long known for being recession-proof, has been one of the few bright spots in the current economy.
Business is flowing steadily, particularly in the craft brewing segment of this industry. Many of these companies are startups and small businesses, where the owners are the brand.
In addition to being head strategist and marketer, these business owners find themselves in the roles of chief bottle washer and forklift driver.
Fermenting a Healthy Company Culture
It’s often a challenge to do workforce planning when so many variables are unknown.
For example, will you be able to penetrate markets that have been owned by the “big boys” of the industry? And if you do, will production be able to keep up with demand?
In situations like these, it’s a good idea to create several workforce plans. You can call one Plan A and the other, Plan A+, in case business goes better than expected.
Bill Butcher, founder of Alexandria, VA-based Port City Brewing is a guy who believes in thoughtful workforce planning.
“I spent three years putting this project together,” says Butcher about starting up his brewing company. Butcher knew he needed to hire a top brewer to make his plan a reality.
Being a new company, he didn’t have anyone in the talent pipeline that he could hire for this critical position.
He posted his job opening and took his time sorting through 150 resumes, conducting interviews with over 20 candidates.
“I don’t rush into personnel decisions because people are so important. I don’t take the decision to hire lightly. I do take my time in hiring people.”
Butcher wanted to make sure his new hires had a good fit personality wise for his company culture, “and that I have found the very best skills and talent I can find.”
Brewing the Talent Pipeline
Bill Graham, co-owner and co-founder of Ska Brewing Company in Durango, Colorado has been around for a lifetime in craft brewery terms. He and his co-founders have been brewing beer since 1996, long before craft brewers were cool.
Graham’s approach to workforce planning used the tried and true aspects of recruitment that all businesses use: competitive salary, a retirement package and health insurance.
When pressed further about his secret ingredient to a successful company culture, Graham revealed that it was beer.
“What makes beer unique, is that it is fun. Our product makes people happy, and therefore we feel that should translate to our people here at the brewery as well.”
Ska Brewing Company also takes advantage of its location in creating a great place to work.
“We are in the mountains of sunny Colorado. So that means our top managers are given ski passes and we have a lottery for a few other passes for the rest of the staff.”
Throw in an employee wellness program that includes health insurance, a corporate sports club membership, Monday Employee Yoga (one hour of instructed Yoga at the Brewery for $5.00) and a Wednesday evening Durango Wheel Club road bike ride.
Workers also have access to an Employee Tap at the Company Tasting Room, where they can charge a few pints to their tab. Port City Brewing also includes beer on the list of employee benefits.
Butcher is also working with his team to give back to the community.
He explains: “Last week, we launched Project Shamrock. Our team came together and designed a float for the local St. Patrick’s Day parade. The human six pack. A big five-foot tall, wooden six-pack rolled down the streets of Alexandria, with six of our employees in tow.”
In this industry, it’s all about the beer and community.
© 2012 Human Resource Solutions. All rights reserved.
Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions and author of the highly acclaimed book Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top-5 Leadership pick. Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta's monthly newsletter, HR Matters. Register today for Roberta’s free Profitability Accelerator Teleconference Series.