I’m not bragging, it’s just the facts. I’m passionate about great beer and BBQ and it seeps into my professional life.
When COVID19 started to emerge, like everyone else it has flipped my world upside down. I could not begin to imagine a clear path to success.
I started preparing myself for the worst possible outcomes — close up shop, cut our losses, or go dormant for a period of time and reimagine when the dust settles.
However, over the last 3 months, amidst the confusion and uncertainty of a pandemic, I’ve been lucky enough to witness one small corner of industry that has been innovating with the frenetic speed of a burgeoning start-up — the small breweries of America.
Whether it’s overhauling their production line from beer to hand sanitizer, adjusting customer service with curb-side bottling, or re-thinking distribution within the taproom, nearly every aspect of the business is being adjusted in the span of weeks.
And now many of these breweries are not only surviving but thriving in the uncertain environment that this pandemic has created.
How did they do it? They are applying a few techniques that are relevant for all of us:
Accelerating Insights by Talking with Your Competitors
One of the crucial things small breweries are doing differently, one most of us wouldn’t typically consider — they are having great discussions with fellow breweries.
They meet to discuss everything from operation rules, strategies to produce/sell their products, and how to keep personnel employed. By sharing information, everyone can figure out what’s working and what’s not.
It’s an obvious strategy that any other industry could employ, but most companies generally don’t.
This tight-knit community has a bedrock of familiarity that allows them to look past the competitive distrust that is common in most other industries in doing so, they have been able to gather information on everything from government regulations to operating procedures to creative marketing solutions.
Most people in the brewing industry know and enjoy each other’s beers, swap recipes, and tour each other’s facilities. They’ve sought advice from one another in the past, worked together on collaborative brews, and even worked for each other.
Evaluating What’s Working and What’s Not Working
Another thing breweries are doing is implementing quick and low-cost changes to their businesses to see what works.
In digital product development, we call it “rapid prototyping”; it’s something that is incredibly valuable to test the market.
Research. Make. Test. Repeat.
Someone saw that hand-sanitizer was running low in inventory, did their homework to assess if their equipment was capable of making hand-sanitizer, and then decided to test out a commercial batch for sale. It worked!
Modernizing! Going Digital from Analog
It’s on everyone’s mind these days. How can we sustain (and grow) under quarantine conditions for long periods of time? What is the new normal? Under normal circumstances, most breweries conduct their business in-person.
Sales are done with in-person meetings with distributors; people come into taprooms to purchase the beers directly from the brewery, and services are normally done on-premises. Right now, very little of that can happen.
So breweries have gotten creative — shipping their samples and doing virtual calls, selling growlers in batches instead of one-off drinks, pre-ordering sales online and preparing in advance, leveraging analytics tools on production to curtail waste and excessive inventory.
In a nutshell, the brewing industry is implementing logistical best practices and modernizing their infrastructure in response to a rapidly changing, challenging new economic environment.
Where Do We Go from Here?
These are clearly unprecedented circumstances.
With just about 30 million people unemployed (and counting) and an ever moving target for ‘opening up the economy,’ we do have to prepare ourselves for a more gradual ramping-up of the economy. A lot of jobs won’t be coming back as we know it. Our economy will be scarred by the pandemic and undoubtedly look and act differently than the one we knew.
Every industry could potentially benefit from applying some of these innovative practices over the next few months.
At this point, it would be an exercise in finding stable ground to build upon and grow again. Being in the digital product industry, I do find it exciting to see how industries are transforming at this rapid pace.
How Can We Help?
On top of owning a brewery and BBQ joint, I also manage a digital product agency.
Managing a company that offers digital product teams for hire and a playbook for innovation, I’m very lucky in that I get to gain a lot of insights from a broad range of industries.
We’re very much creative problem-solvers for hire — for digital products.
If you’re interested in talking about how your company or industry is being affected and how you can identify quick transformative opportunities, please feel free to reach out.
Call my cell: 917.753.0117
In the meantime, I’ll be picking up a growler of hand sanitizer from my local brewery 😉