Five Business Lessons from BrewDog

I’ve just finished reading the excellent Business for Punks: Break All the Rules - the BrewDog Way written by James Watt, Co-Founder of BrewDog.

Unfamiliar with their story? Let me refresh your memory. In less than ten years BrewDog have gone from a two man operation to employing over 400 staff, shipping to more than 50 countries, operating 25 bars and in the process becoming the fastest growing food and drinks producer in the UK. In short, it’s a fantastic growth story and I’m delighted one half of the BrewDog leadership team has decided to tell their remarkable tale of turbocharged, heady growth.

The book continually focuses on what it means to be a ‘punk business’ and if truth be told it is more of a manifesto, rather than your typical business book - and therein lies what makes it such a page turner.

Among the many excellent anecdotes I noted five valuable lessons which any aspiring business owner should take note of:

1. Stand for something
By announcing a mission to revolutionise the UK beer industry and redefine its beer-drinking culture, BrewDog started a movement. This noble goal based on values which its employees live every single day helped craft a narrative that people are excited by and want to be part of. The real lesson here is that by aligning with a purpose and standing for more than simply profit, BrewDog created a community that has and continues to attract an army of loyal customers, fans and investors.

2. Develop a personality that people love (and hate)
BrewDog is an alternative type of business and from the beginning its founders focussed on creating a humorous, irreverent and quirky personality for the brand. By doing so they have built a passionate connection with their audience who have been key to its hockey stick growth. These traits also rubbed some people up the wrong way, but Watt argues this is no bad thing. He states that being hated shows your brand is not boring and that you stand for something, which likely means there's also people who love your brand.

3. Never compromise on price
In a market characterised by big corporations creating volume beer that sacrifices flavour to compete on price, Watt and his Co-Founder made a decision to do just the opposite. Instead, they set about creating a market and educating a new breed of customer - one that’s willing to pay a premium for their product. Lowering your price is often a race to the bottom and hard to reverse, so BrewDog steadfastly refused to get involved with this practice.

4. Leverage the power of content
BrewDog is yet another shining example of a company leveraging content through inbound marketing to attract, convert, engage and delight its customers. They have a well established blog, email newsletter, TV show and social media presence which helps them reach people on a daily basis and increase mind share. By creating excellent content they have managed to out-teach and out-sell many big established players.

5. Make speed your competitive advantage
A whole chapter is dedicated to the importance of speed and how moving at high velocity enables BrewDog to outmaneuver its competitors. Time and time again BrewDog gained first mover advantage by being agile and responsive - with speed build it into every aspect of the business.

To emphasise the cost benefit of speed, Watt shares that BrewDog has overheads of more than £100,000 each day and by making something happen a day earlier they can save a percentage of that £100,000. If they make something happen a week quicker they save a percentage of £500,000 and so forth. These savings can then be reinvested in growing the business.

I’ve been a fan of the brewery's beers for several years now and having downed the book, I felt compelled to invest in the business with its Equity for Punks IV initiative (along with 15,000 other micro-investors who have literally bought into this success story).

If you’re looking for an alternative business book, which breaks new ground and challenges assumptions, then read Business for Punks: Break All the Rules - the BrewDog Way. It’s clear the BrewDog leadership team are not afraid to tear up the regular business playbook and create a new one fused with the right ingredients for the internet age. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining and insightful read.