great employees, keep their sanity as the business transitions from something new-cool-fresh to something ongoingwith-a-potential-legacy, or at least a payout-during-an-exit. Here we can offer a chance to save $.01 on a COGS by buying raws a different way, or introduce them to a great future employee, maybe even find a way to collaborate and share the lift on something like shipping to an out-of-state distributor together. The didn’t-make-it-through-anotheryear-of-running-their-business-at-asuccessful-level faces…they’re gone. We missed an opportunity to help them think of a new way to sell product, or a distributor/ market introduction, or just a beer to commiserate and leave them feeling less alone and in the dark because you’ve been through the same thing they have. Mentoring doesn’t end because you’ve been around for two, five, or 10 years... mentoring just doesn’t end, period. The reason for that is because you still need mentoring yourself. You still need
someone to help you with the next big question that you can’t answer alone, and if you’re willing to accept that kind of help, then you have to offer it in return. Additionally, mentoring isn’t just an altruistic pursuit. Every time you share your knowledge you elevate the community, and as a result, we have peers making better booze and our customers seeing that in the market. By way of example, have you tried to sell a “white whiskey” lately? Probably not, because early on so many people were making bad white whiskey and the market was put off. We can avoid those pitfalls for our own business’ success by teaching others to be successful in their pursuits. Proactively, make mentoring part of your business model. For instance, we have a board of advisors, from industries other than beverage, who we can rely on for their experience and knowledge. We meet quarterly, often call between meetings for specific advice, or slow down and ask ourselves what would one of them do
when presented with the question we’re trying to answer in that moment in time. In 2010 there were 200 of us at Huber Starlight Distillery doing the ADI conference and tours. It was pretty easy to get to know everyone and be a part of that small group. Now in 2019, there are 2,000 attendees to ACSA and ADI conferences, and you can’t make a connection with all of them. However, you can be impactful, you can be proactive. Don’t wait for an ask, you make an offer. I really dig that in 10 years we’ve tilted to more booze makers and I see no reason that we can’t overcome another level of industry badassery so long as we don’t lose the focus of mentoring each other, always, and at all levels.
John and Courtney McKee are the owners/ founders of Headframe Spirits and Headframe Spirits Manufacturing in Butte, MT. John spilled coffee on his lap while he was writing this article on an iPad in the car on the way to a soccer game and he should have been mentored to do fewer things at once.
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