I do scratch my head at the way monolithic figures in good beer are received. It tends to be without question and a certain type of adoration. The type of adoration usually reserved for sports heroes before they fall from grace. For favorite elementary school teachers or the guy who always helped shovel older neighbours driveways. Until you find out about them. So I presume there is something more to find out about people, am aware that there is usually a backstory.
That might appear to be an odd way to introduce a quotation from Jim Koch, the head of Boston Beer. See, I don't care how he throws around junkets in the direction of younger well placed beer writers and tire of the dedication to the immersive theme he presents but otherwise his story and the story of his business is fairly impressive. Impressive to the degree that I am also aware that his business ambitions do offer potential impositions on the actual smaller craft brewers out there, the brewers I tend to prefer. But, we must remember, he did not create ambition, competition and scale. He lives within it and has excelled. So when I read this article, the sort I normally pass on expecting only puff, I was pleasantly surprised with the deeper context layered within the normal beer "community" line:
“Nobody loves your product better than you do. Nobody is more passionate about it. You are going to be -- like it or not -- you are going to be the best salesperson for the product,” says Koch. Almost three decades ago, when Koch was getting Sam Adams off the ground, he went from bar to bar with cold beer in his briefcase selling his brew to bartenders. “I had never sold anything in my life, I was scared to death.” Koch didn’t know how to sell effectively, and he was turned off by the typical salesman role models he knew of, namely used-car salesmen or Willy Loman, the main character of Arthur Miller’s “tragedy of the common man,” Death of a Salesman. Over time, Koch learned that selling is really about figuring out how your product can solve a customer’s problems.
I am a lucky guy. I got to work with my mother in retail years ago and learned a lot of lessons about life, business and her watching her run the shops. She passed away last weekend and, as you can imagine, I am not much in the mood for writing about beer. Not much interested in beer at all, frankly. Wine and the hard stuff appear to be the thing for these moments. Yet, as I learned back then, there is in any business - including in the business of good beer - an opportunity not to just do something good but to be inventive in finding out how one can do a particular level of good within the context life gives you. For me, this week, what Koch is describing in the brief answers he gives in the article is a form of that. Its really about how to treat the customer with respect by ensuring the products and the services provided to the customer have integrity and provide the value and quality as were promised. Sort of the opposite of that vacuous throw away "passion" - it's more about commitment, dedication. The long game is won by those who remember it is the second and successive sales to satisfied returning customers that are a hallmark of business success, not the first.