6 Things Businesses Can Learn from Craft Beer

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Business and Craft Beer

Craft beer is pretty great.

Besides the obvious points that, well, it is beer and beer is great in general, there’s a lot more that pours into it. Craft beer stands for uniqueness, originality, quality, persistence, hard work, passion and spontaneity.

Unlike its Big Beer competition, craft breweries know few boundaries and put experimentation and fun at the forefront of everything they do. It’s an industry overflowing with originality and, better yet, camaraderie.

In mid-2016, the Brewers Association recorded 4,656 United States craft breweries. That’s a record, and nearly 48 times the number of craft breweries as there were in 1981, when Sierra Nevada first came on the scene. Yet through the decades, craft brewers have remained a merry band of brothers (and sisters). It’s an industry of independents, one that just doesn’t seem to take no for an answer.

There’s a lot we can learn from craft brewers, both in business and on a personal level. Take notes:

1. Know thyself

Almost straight out of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the most important thing in business is to really know what you’re all about. What drives you? What motivates you? What keeps you up at night? Craft breweries must establish their inner “why” right out of the gate. Personality and reputation reign supreme.

Business Lesson: Without establishing an original brand voice, you’re doomed to get lost in the shuffle.

2. Know thy enemy

Sorry, still riffing on Sun Tzu. But knowing your competition inside out is imperative to success. For example, did you know that 89.5 percent of the market is controlled by The Big Three, according to 2014 statistics? Craft brewers are acutely aware of this when they enter the market.

When the Davids are faced with these Goliaths, it’s second nature to flee. But instead, craft breweries have learned to collaborate and stick together in the face of uncertainty.

When the Davids are faced with these Goliaths, it’s second nature to flee. But instead, craft breweries have learned to collaborate and stick together in the face of uncertainty.

Business Lesson: It’s important to be aware of what you’re getting yourself into and know that many have gone before you and found success.

(MORE: Know Who Brews Your Beer)

3. Know more

Just like craft brewers must do their homework to learn trademark law and potential legal ramifications when naming a new beer, so must you in whatever endeavor you plan to undertake.

Business Lesson: Knowledge is power and will come to your rescue in almost any situation you find yourself in.

4. Know the future

Sure, no one can really know the future. But you can do everything in your power to stay ahead of the curve. Like any conscientious business owner, craft brewers must be vigilant about foreseeing potential issues and getting ahead of them.

Business Lesson: Problems are easier solved when you see them coming.

5. Know when to fight and when to befriend

Legal battles will happen. They can, however, be avoided by simply picking up the phone and sorting the problem out with an actual conversation. Craft brewers don’t always have big budgets and many resort to settling differences over a beer. Your business may not encourage drinking during negotiations, but the principal of face-to-face communication is the same.

Business Lesson: It’s a small world we live in, and you don’t want the reputation of being combative, petty and stubborn. Reputation reigns supreme, remember?

(MORE: What ‘Selling Out’ Is Really About)

6. Know thy neighbor

Collaboration is how many craft breweries survive. Silos don’t tend to function as well, especially when a crisis hits. Learn to be friendly — genuinely friendly.

Business Lesson: You’ll be amazed at the progress you or your business can make with others on board versus a solo venture.

Craft beer is remarkable for more than just its tasty product. Its industry teaches many key lessons in how to succeed in business and in life. We’ll keep on learning them, one sip at a time.

Keith Schlabs is the co-owner and Beer Caption of Flying Saucer Draught Emporium. He shares his thoughts, stories and musings at Captain Keith's Blog.

CraftBeer.com is fully dedicated to small and independent U.S. breweries. We are published by the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers. Stories and opinions shared on CraftBeer.com do not imply endorsement by or positions taken by the Brewers Association or its members.