Keys to Early Hires

Jack Lamb understands that with a brewery that begins small, an intricate number of businesses actually start to develop as that facility starts to mature. Your brewery isn’t just making beers and being a manufacturing facility; the company is slowly also becoming a ​wholesaler​ ​and retailer​ as well​. And ​there are many key positions needed to keep things running smoothly.

​“​Solid interdepartmental logistics are crucial for success​,” said the CEO for Aslan Brewing. The Bellingham, Washington brewpub opened in 2013​.

With every hire, you fine-tune the search mechanisms​, noted Smog City co-founder Laurie Porter, who along ​​with husband Jonathan, opened the Los Angeles brewery in 2011​.

Originally, ​Smog City launched with ​the Porters, an assistant brewer, and one taproom employee.

“​As we grew, that taproom employee kind of filled any roles needed throughout the business and eventually he became our ​No. 3​ in charge, ​[​Operations Manager​ Ryan Trousdale]​​,” Porter said. “Everyone wore a ton of hats in the beginning​.

“It was fun and satisfying but ultimately not sustainable. So we had to make changes to how we hire.​“​

At Aslan, ​Lamb found that aside from typical brewers and cellarmen, a warehouse manager was key ​for the brewery ​to ensure what was being produced was ready for the next step. ​“​Whether that is preparing orders for the distributors or ensuring the restaurant was stocked every day, the warehouse manager makes sure the beer is where it needs to be​,” he said​.

On the sales side of things, ​Lamb said Aslan found that sales reps are essential to have on the streets.
​“​There is only so much networking we can do as owners, so you need someone out there telling your story full time​,” he said​.

In the administration, ​Aslan has leaned a lot on ​its director of marketing and events coordinator.

“​Together, they can make your dreams come true in terms of pulling off a huge event or communicating your story to the public,” Lamb said.​

Trevor Davies, the Director of Sales & Distribution for New Glory Brewing told Brewer there were four key hires early on for the six-year-old facility: a manager to run the overall operation, an assistant brewer, a graphics and social media director, and a sales rep.

“We learned pretty quickly that you need to hire more qualified employees, and it takes much more stress off the business,” Davies said, “even if you have to pay these employees a bit more money.”​

Smog City’s first two employees came to ​the Porters, ​recognizing a need the company had.

“​​We can’t claim any great move there,​“ Porter said.​ ​“They both took the initiative to step up and say, ​‘​I see you have a need and I’m here to help in any way possible.​‘ “​

The most important characteristics ​Smog City look​s​ for in employees is great problem solving and initiative.

“​We want them solving problems ​before they happen as opposed to resolving problems, asking what can we do next, what can we do better, what’s best for the company and the beer​,” Porter said. “​Passion for the craft is extremely important, so if they have the passion, commitment, a great attitude​ — ​a ​‘​can​-​do​‘​ approach​ —​ and ability to look at the big picture​ … those are key skills necessary when building a small business with a small team.​“​

​When starting the hiring process, Porter said that ​the accuracy of the title of the position is important, ​as well as including ​the skills needed​.

“The fit with our company culture is important, but what we have learned above all else is that smart, dedicated and detail-oriented people can learn pretty much anything they ​want to learn,” she said. “We look for creativity in problem solving and passion and positivity and often that will get us to the end goal, a great fit for our company.”

Lamb said he has learned he needs to have solid written expectations in place before setting employees loose. He always first looks in-house for opportunities. If there is someone ready and able to move up within the company, Lamb said he tries to make it happen.

“On-boarding is always a long process, but it is super important to do it right in those first couple of days,” he said. “It seems no matter how much we inform an employee of the happenings at our company, we seem to leave something out, so this is something we are still striving to improve.

“At the end of the day, we know we can teach someone new skills. The real required qualifications have to do with a work ethic and attitude.”

As Smog City has grown, Porter has had to acknowledge that the company has a wider spectrum of needs.

“Now we are looking for big-picture people and great taskmasters,” she said. “We need staff that can do their job best and need fewer people that fill in multiple positions throughout the brewery. We’re becoming more streamlined.”

Porter noted that resumes mean less and less these days. ​She added that having the necessary experience is important, but how that translates to abilities, attitude or knowledge is up for debate.

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