​Why Nicholas Feels Growth is Still There for SanTan in These Categories​​

This is a part of a continuing series of Q&As with members of the brewing community from across the US.
Brewer Magazine will share business and personal insights from Brewmasters, Head Brewers, Brewing Managers, Sales Directors, QCQA Managers and others each weekend to help you get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.

Gary Nicholas, Operations Manager, SanTan Brewing — Chandler, Arizona​

​BREWER: Why did you enter the craft beer industry and what makes you love being a part of it and staying in it?
​NICHOLAS: I had been working at a consulting firm in Chicago, but wanted to get back to working with my hands to make a tangible, physical product. I had been a chemistry major as an undergrad and homebrewed in my dorm, so I knew that my bench skills would translate into the industry. I’ve remained in the industry because there is a genuine joy in seeing customers take pleasure in something you had a direct part in making. I’ve also discovered that I love teaching and developing teams, which has led to a niche working with industry organizations like Master Brewers and the Brewers Association on a variety of technical subjects.

BREWER: What do you feel have been new challenges in your position that have helped push you and make you better at your job?
NICHOLAS: In addition to brewing beer, we’re also a distillery, which is not an area that I had any experience in prior to joining SanTan. As I’ve gone through my own learning curve on spirits, I’ve had a chance to revisit how I approach ​and​ learn new material.​ ​Thinking regularly about how new members of your teams learn new information and tasks should be a given for leaders, but it’s exceptionally helpful to periodically get out of your comfort zone and go through the experience yourself.

BREWER: How has the definition of growth for your company evolved and how have you adjusted to be successful in that new definition?
NICHOLAS: That’s tricky to answer because of the amount of turmoil the industry has seen over the past few years. We focus entirely on selling our beer ​and​ spirits right here in Arizona, so growth via entering new markets isn’t a thing for us. A quote* that really resonates with me is that consumers aren’t looking for more options to choose from, rather they want to feel more confident about the choices they make. Our takeaway is that being a trusted partner is central to that. Our company motto is “Uncommon Quality for Everyday Occasions,” and we strive to live up to that. We pay a lot of attention to what our customers respond to positively, keeping track of inventories in the market so that consumers experience our beers at their best, and working to minimize waste across the operation. There isn’t anything fancy about that, but we realize that what little slack or buffer space had been in the market has evaporated. Grand statements make for good copy, but profitability is in the little things.​ (*Quote is from Scott Galloway, by the way.​)​

BREWER: What strategic growth opportunity do you feel is still “out there” for your brand and how are you working on capitalizing on it this year?
​NICHOLAS: Because we’re a distillery as well as a brewery, we’re well positioned to grow into the RTD/canned cocktails market. The range of flavor profiles we can access with various spirit bases, the experience we’ve developed through working with botanicals, and our technical expertise from packaging beer all combine to put us in a strategically advantageous situation. ​  Between our beers, our bottled spirits, and the RTD side, we present a genuinely diverse portfolio to buyers who are simultaneously overwhelmed and underwhelmed by the options available. We can’t compete against national brands with marketing dollars, but we can ​and do focus on being solid local partners with our accounts and supporting them by having the right options at the right time.

BREWER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry, what would it be?
​NICHOLAS: Invest in your people. Your staff is the most valuable resource a brewery has, so devoting resources to supporting them makes a world of difference. This starts with respect, which has to be more than a slogan. From there, recognize that production is a function of safety, quality, and efficiency. If we support our teams and help them focus on those areas, production targets will take care of themselves. It’s not how many barrels you brew and package in a week: it’s how many of those are done correctly that define a successful operation. And that is about the people in the brewery.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *