Context and Endgame: The Brewery Benchmarks Assessment Step 1

This portion of the Intelligent Action Series walks through our Brewery Benchmarks Assessment process, step-by-step.

Step 1: Context & Endgame
Step 2: Financial Analysis
Step 3: Taproom, Distribution & Operations
Step 4: The Annual Goals
Step 5: Leadership & Vision

If you believe an assessment is the right move for your brewery this year, reach out and schedule a call to discuss your brewery’s current situation and how we can help.


Begin with the end in mind.

Is the Steven Covey-ism I’m trotting out right now.

Because it’s the first step in any successful endeavor in which luck is not involved.

And it’s also the starting point of our Brewery Benchmarks Assessment process.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now:

I’m in the business of removing excuses.

Which is why with the next few posts in this series we’re walking through that excuse-elimination process, step-by-step. You’ll walk away with at least the ammunition you’ll need to start taking Intelligent Action.

First up…

Step 1: Context and Endgame

Begin with the end in mind is the simple idea that we need to know what success looks like in order to get there.

So before we dig into the meaty stuff (financials, taproom performance, operations, etc.) we first need to know things like:

  • What has the trajectory of the brewery has looked like so far? Are you down YOY and need a major shift to break the negative pattern? Or are you on fire – on the upswing and looking to maximize your gains? These questions will determine where we place the focus within the brewery, how large of a shift is needed, and how quickly we need to take action.
  • What key decisions or events are on the horizon? Going through the effort of this assessment process is typically best justified when there is an upcoming decision, shift in the market, or internal inflection point (e.g. you have your “come to Jesus” moment about the future of the brewery) that introduces risk, uncertainty, or opportunity. Get clarity on what those decisions are ahead of time, so that you know which financial, operational, and leadership factors to pay close attention to.
  • What’s your endgame? Are you in this for the long haul, and have the passion and drive to work it for life? Are you gunning for the big exit, and are willing to do what it takes to get there? Did you stumble into the game and haven’t quite gotten that far yet? Again, big questions that have big impact on what recommendations are most appropriate. Example: we need to be on an aggressive BBL/revenue/EBITDA increase curve to even consider an exit as a possibility… which could be a horrible mistake to pursue if this is your lifestyle business.

As we discussed previously, the moves you should make next vary wildly depending on this context.

A distribution-focused brewery owned by a pair of hungry, fire-in-the-belly co-founders with a highly involved pool of savvy investors who are all interested in the 5-7 year exit…

Should receive an entirely different set of strategic recommendations than that of a taproom and food-heavy, family-owned brewhouse happy with their current position, but looking to maximize profits and eventually pass on the brewery to the next generation.

The Context Questions

Here’s what we ask to suss out these specifics:

  • What’s the goal? What issue are you trying to resolve? What are you trying to get clarity on?
  • What’s the endgame? Do you want to work it for life and pass it to your kids, or are you in the game for the sale/acquisition exit?
  • How long have you been in business and what has the growth trajectory been like?
  • How much expansion has occurred? What was your opening brewing capacity and what does it look like today?
  • How many investors do you have and what are their expectations?
    Are there any peculiarities about your business or market? Activity level, legal restrictions, etc.

This sets the frame for the interpretation of the numbers and benchmarks we’ll look at next.

Today, ask yourself these questions.

Give yourself the thinking time. Get something down on paper.

Next, we’ll dive into our bread and butter: finance.

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