Cultivating Growth Through Key Future Hires

Planning for the future, especially in a time where the future is so uncertain because of the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 in 2020, can always be a trepidation time for any brewery. Once a brewery gets the first pieces in order and beer is being sold to consumers, working toward other aspects — such as marketing, quality, service, and so many other positions — have to be added to see future growth.

For Twin Oast Brewing, co-founder and operator Cory Smith feels that the growth of the Ohio brewery is going to lie with a marketing manager. Located near a high-tourism area like Sandusky, Ohio — which has Cedar Point along with a chain of small islands off the coast of Lake Erie — Twin Oast relies on the summertime to boost sales.

“We have to work to draw people in the other eight months of the year,” Smith said. “Making Twin Oast top of mind for people is effective in making the off-season hurt a little less.

“I also believe that good marketing can shape a brand. We want to be known as a brewery and a destination. It is important that people know about our festivals, live music, food specials, etc., but great marketing can remind people that at the end of the day it’s all about the beer for us.”

The pandemic has drastically altered Urban Artifact’s business model. With 40 percent of its taproom sales gone because of state mandates, the Cincinnati brewery leaped into online sales. That move showed the need for its next major hire to be centered around supporting both the digital and physical markets, with a focus on market, sales, and design.

Finding that person means online postings in a multitude of places. Bret Kollmann Baker, the brewery’s Chief of Brewing Operations, said they look at various industry and generic job websites and forums, online groups, and social media posts.

“We generally hire for a broad understanding of the skill set needed and expect that people will learn and get better with time,” he said. “We look to hire people who share similar core values of our company.”

Modist Brewing recently posted, briefly hired, then had to immediately lay off for the position of Events Manager because of the pandemic.

“The events we throw at the brewery have always been an important echo of what our brand is all about,” said Daniel Wellendorf, co-owner and head of marketing. “We felt we could finally have someone focus on solely events rather than it being handled by a group of us.”

The Minneapolis brewery posted on its social media and website for the position and Wellendorf said they received a ‘stupid number’ of applicants (more than 100). Being creative even in advertising the position was vital to find who they wanted. Wellendorf said reflecting the brand’s personality was included in postings.

“If you make it basic, you’re going to get more basic applicants. If you make it fun, you’ll get a wider variety,” he said. “This most recent posting’s job description was layered with humor and a fuck ton of curse words while also showcasing our company’s passion to make great beer.

“The results were incredible: we got applicants from all walks of life, and all sorts of industries (music, fashion, beer, data-driven analytical software), and gave us a great shot at landing on a great fit (which we did).”

Although they were looking for relevant experience, the job description was designed to value brand fit over anything else, Wellendorf said.

“We would take someone ‘who gets it’ over someone ‘who knows it’ every time,” he said. “There are lots of things people can learn, but being a naturally good fit wins every time.”

The biggest thing in the job interview process for Topa Topa’s Jack Dyer is to not paint with a broad brush.

“We hire differently for different departments,” said the co-founder of the Venture, California facility. “Ensuring a proper fit with the team and managers is critical. Some positions require prior experience while others lean heavily on personality.

“At the end of the day, we want to add enthusiastic folks who have a thirst for learning and a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves.”

As Topa Topa approached its fifth anniversary Dyer said they have had exponential growth year over year and have been forced to continuously bring on more staff at all levels.

With plans to open a fifth taproom, Dyer said service in the taprooms will be key. Other potential hires in the upcoming year would come in the Sales and Marketing departments as the brand plans to expand its wholesale reach throughout California along with fellow production team members to help in growth of volume.

“For taproom hires, we tend to focus more on individual personality and fit to our brand than we do on previous skills,” Dyer said. “We can teach our taproom folks about beer, having the right attitude and warmth are the most important things we look for when hiring for that position.

“For any technical brewer position, we require previous experience, as we do for sales and marketing.”

Innovation Brewing recently added a distribution manager to the team. Owner Nicole Owen said it was a vital addition for the Sylva, North Carolina brewery to achieve successful growth as the management team has very little personal experience with distribution.

“We hired an experienced person who brings their years of knowledge to the team to help facilitate a successful relationship with our distributor and a sustainable growth plan,” she said.

Living in a rural area (about 50 miles west of Asheville), Owen said luck is sometimes a factor in finding the right people with experience for a niche job such as distribution manager.

Owen said they have learned a lot about since hiring their first few employees more than six years ago as the brewery now has a staff of 30.

“One main thing that has improved our process has been to bring multiple key members of the team to the interviews rather than having one person conduct interviews,” she said. “This helps to get multiple perspectives and brings questions and insights from different areas of the company to the table.”

Kollman Baker said it’s important to take as much time in the interview process as you need.

“From the actual interview itself to the interview and hiring process, the last thing you want to do is mess it up,” he said. “If you did not get a pool of applicants that you are happy with, don’t fall victim to the fallacy that you have to hire someone after you interview a set of candidates. If no one wowed you, start again.

“It can feel stressful to want to rush this process, but that is short-term thinking. Patience and persistence pay off, especially when hiring.”

Smith echoed that patience can be difficult.

“If I have a great interview with one person, and think they are the right fit, I have the tendency to react quickly to that instinct,” he admitted. “I’ve learned that doing multiple interviews with the same person can give me deeper insights into who they are and how they operate.”

Smith said he has learned to ask people to put themselves in certain scenarios that will show how they react under pressure.

“I can’t say this will necessarily streamline the process, but it will make sure that I’m getting to see people outside of “interview mode” and more how they behave and communicate in everyday situations,” he said.

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