The Business Model That Malland Says Makes Employees ‘Buy-In’ to Brand

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.

Justine Malland, Regional Sales Manager​, ​Bale Breaker Brewing Company​ — Yakima, Washington

​BREWER: ​Why did you enter the craft beer industry and what makes you love being a part of it and staying in it?
​MALLAND: ​I was in that “post-college-what-does-it-all-mean” funk, when I came back to my hometown, Yakima, ​Washington. During the fall, I noticed an influx of all these happy, smiling people. They seemed excited and passionate when they talked. They were laid back and friendly, happy to have a conversation with a stranger over a beer. I approached a big-bearded man in a group of many and said, “What do you guys do for a living? You are clearly talking about work, but you seem so happy! Whatever it is, I want to do that!” Come to find out they were all brewers in town for hop selection. The next year, I found myself in an office at Roy Farms, a 100-year-old hop farm in the Yakima Valley, where I worked for a few years before transitioning from the hop-side to the brewery-side of the industry. While the craft beer industry does have its challenges and no job is “stress-free​,” I still find that the people in this industry are some of the most passionate, committed, and friendly people you’ll find anywhere. I don’t know that there is a more community-based, passion-driven, sustainability focused industry out there​ ​—​ ​I especially feel lucky to work for the brewery that I do. I am so proud to be a part of this team!

BREWER: What do you feel have been new challenges in your position that have helped push you and make you better at your job?
MALLAND: The obvious challenge for everyone, that can’t be ignored, has been the pandemic. I think every brewery out there had to change their sales strategies, fast. But in the long term, it made us more adaptable, more prepared for change and unpredictability. A lot of people talk about the pandemic as if it were in the past, but a lot of areas are still bouncing back, and the market can still be full of challenges and surprises. You have to be ready to pivot. And after being shaken so hard in 2020, I feel more prepared to adjust, create new strategies, find new targets, and reroute travel plans—just ready to tackle the unexpected. As a brewery too, we are stronger for it. It really makes you value good leadership and team loyalty. When you come through this whole thing knowing how supportive and collaborative your team truly is, it really pushes you to work harder.

BREWER: How has the definition of growth for your company evolved and how have you adjusted to be successful in that new definition?
MALLAND: After focusing on established markets for years and targeting growth in our backyard, we launched a new market for the first time in years. In 2021, we launched Bale Breaker products in southern Idaho! Going into a new market is exciting, but it comes with its own challenges. Every market has its own unique demographics, seasonal waves and trends, and Boise is no exception. We are very excited to continue expanding our customer base in southern Idaho and to introduce new customers to our style and our story.

READ MORE: Yonder Cider, Bale Breaker Announce Grand Opening of Joint Taproom

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?
MALLAND: We are really continuing to innovate. For the beginning of our journey, Bale Breaker focused on establishing our IPA game, which is what we are known for​ —​ what would you expect from a brewery located on a hop farm!? But, in the last couple years, we’ve played with more styles in the market, like stouts, sours, barrel-aged beers, etc. In 2021, we launched a classic, tried-and-true Pilsner that is continuing to showcase the wide variety of talents of our brewers. This year, we surprised consumers with a clean, crisp craft seltzer, YOXI, which is definitely making a splash​ —​ especially among industry folks. It has a really clean flavor profile and finish, making it stand out. Our production team is so talented, it is really fun to see them showcase more styles to our loyal Topcutter drinkers.

​BREWER: ​If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry, what would it be?
MALLAND: Employee empowerment! To many people this would sound more like a facet of company culture than a business strategy, but I honestly think it is a key to success. When you invite your employees to be a part of the conversation, at all levels, to make decisions, to present ideas​ —​ you not only engage your employees, but you also give them ownership of their actions and ideas. Bale Breaker is a great example of this. They have such a collaborative business model. You get so much more buy-in from your employees when you incorporate them into decision-making and empower them to really feel part of the structure. There’s still a lot of micro-managing and strict top-down business models out there, and I’m excited to see the industry evolve past that.

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