Growing Pains: 6 Tips for Managing Proactively During Brewery Growth

This is the second in our Growing Pains series, a look at how to survive the setbacks that sometimes accompany brewery growth.

Periods of growth are exciting times, but they can also be stressful, overwhelming, and very, very busy. In the midst of all this chaos, it’s easy to create a pattern of reacting to situations rather than planning for them, particularly when managing your growing team.

Managing proactively is the opposite of this pattern. Although it takes some planning and time to begin with, in the long run it can cut down on stress and chaos while creating a better and more efficient brewery team.

1. Build space into your schedule

One of the first things to fall by the wayside during brewery growth is the concept of “free time”. Breweries are busy places to begin with, and growth brings with it a whole avalanche of meetings, people to call, and emergencies that need dealing with. It’s this last problem which illustrates the need for building space into your schedule: if you have to deal with an emergency, what will you sacrifice for that time?

Keeping time open isn’t self-indulgent. It allows for unexpected situations, as well as giving you the breathing room to plan for the future.

2. Analyze procedures and guidelines

Smaller breweries with fewer moving parts can afford a few bulky, cumbersome procedures. For larger breweries, the backlog they create can quickly become overwhelming.

Before your growth really picks up, streamline as many routines as possible. Duplicate steps, particularly across procedures, are an easy place to start looking.

3. Create room for new team members before they’re hired

If you know you’re going to be hiring a new brewer at some point in the next few months, don’t wait until they’re signing on before you start making space for them in your team.

Paperwork and budgeting should be in place before you hire, but you should also have an understanding of how they’ll fit into your current team. Who will they report to? Who will help them settle into their new role? Even writing down a few notes in advance will help you later on.

4. Don’t neglect primary locations for secondary locations

Growth sometimes means new locations. Given how much attention these require in their early stages, it’s tempting to cross your fingers about the primary location and put out any fires there as they appear.

Opening a secondary location causes changes throughout the company, including at your primary site. Many of these ripples are small, but each of them has the potential to cause setbacks if not planned for. The best way to stay on top of your team’s needs is to keep the lines of communication open, so consider nominating a team member to check in with you regularly and keep you up to date.

5. Choose your designated second opinions

No matter how carefully you plan, there will always be surprises and emergencies. In the midst of these, the best way to avoid managing reactively is to cultivate a second opinion network. Choose people you trust who do not report to you directly, and make sure they know they can speak freely.

In some situations, privacy or other concerns will prevent you from being able to share the whole story. In this case, treat the internet as your second opinion. No matter what your team is going through, someone else has probably dealt with a similar problem (and asked for advice online).

6. Be prepared to start again

Managing through growth isn’t something you can plan for once and then set aside. Its very nature requires you to engage with your planning, your goals, and your team on an ongoing basis. As your brewery’s situation changes, so should your understanding of what it — and your team — needs in order to thrive.

As with so many other parts of management, open communication is the best way to avoid blind spots and manage proactively. Aim to become comfortable within planning and moving forward, rather than slinking back to the comfort of the known.

Finally, don’t forget your own needs in the rush. You’re part of the team as well, after all. If you find yourself burning out, go back to the beginning of this list and allow yourself the time and space to take a deep breath.

Brewery growth is exciting, stressful, occasionally terrifying, and very much worth it. By managing proactively, you’ll guide your team through the rapids and out to the other side.