Strategies for Thriving as a Manager

Photo courtesy Reuben's Brews

Adam Robbings has years of management training, but what the co-founder of Reuben’s Brews in Seattle sees in people who are just becoming managers when they don’t have that type of background is that people management is the toughest to learn. 

“This includes the full lifecycle of people management,” he said, “from hiring to performance management to knowing when someone isn’t a fit. 

“This all takes a lot of training and experience and we can all focus on this more.”

In a recent Brewer Mag Fundamental article from the March/April issue, “The Tools Needed When Moving into Management,” emphasized the significance of strategic planning, clear communication, employee empowerment, and a strong alignment with company values for sustainable success.

But what a lot of the founders and owners of these breweries also shared are the highs and lows of stepping into a role of management.

“Your role is fundamentally going to change,” Robbings said. “You were promoted because you were good in your role, now you’re managing others doing that role. That’s a skill set you’ve never used before, know what you don’t know and ask as many people as you can for advice, read as much as you can, (and) leverage as much of your company resources as you can — like employee handbooks, trainings, and such.”

The best thing about being a manager for Boomtown’s Samuel Chawinga is being able to work with everyone in the company. Yet, the worst part about being a manager is coming to an impasse with an employee.

“The beer industry is full of passionate people who could be doing a lot of other things making more money,” he said. “They are almost always great people, and not being able to work together for whatever reason is never easy.”

The best and worst for The Alchemist’s Jen Kimmich is both employee and customer relations.

READ MORE: Taking An Environmental Stand: The Alchemist Brewery

“(There are) so many challenges, but also so much reward,” she said. “For every disgruntled customer, we enjoy the most touching feedback from another. For every ‘bored’ employee, we have 20 more who love their job and take pride in every day.” 

Kimmich, along with husband John and other managers for the Stowe, Vermont brewery are managing employees but they are also managing their public spaces that are full of a wide variety of people, “beautiful, diverse people on a big, wide spectrum,” she noted. 

“Thankfully we have a lot more highs than lows. But no matter how successful we are (or anyone is), the lows never go away. There will always be an occasional disgruntled employee or unruly customer. 

“Our job is to make sure our team has the tools to deal with challenging situations, from implicit bias and harassment intervention training to neurodiversity education.”

One of the things that keeps Carey Falcone, a co-founder and the CEO of New Realm Brewing, up at night is feeling the pressure of operating in a challenging industry where it is critical to make data-based/strategic decisions that ensure the long-term success of the organization.

“The craft beer industry is extremely challenging right now. Some factors include: Taste profiles have shifted, causing a reduction in traditional craft beer shelf space at retail; Increasing costs with minimal price increases causing margin erosion; and High inflation is putting pressure on disposable consumer income.

“(But,) the best part of being the CEO of NRBC is that I get to work with amazing people every day in an industry that I love. I deeply care about every member of the New Realm family.”

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