Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Public Accountability

Opening a brewery is something that I started to take seriously in August of 2006, when I reduced my hours at Whitney's to 4 days a week so I could focus on the planning process. I was pretty naive to think that I was ready to start getting specific quotes on equipment and construction, but I managed to create a generalized cost estimate of a new brewery. I wanted to open a packaging brewery at the time, but didn't have any experience working in one, so I took a temporary brewing job and spent most of 2007 at Otter Creek in Vermont. I thought that I'd have gobs of time to work on my business plan out there, but the only thing I really accomplished was deciding that bottling lines are for suckers. Working on opening a brewpub became my full-time job when I moved back to Madison at the end of December.

A former co-worker once told me "you can do it cheap, you can do it fast or you can do it right. Pick two of the three." I've definitely taken the "right and cheap" approach so far. It wasn't a big deal when I was at Whitney's because I was still making money and I wasn't dragging anyone down with me. I asked Jane to be my business partner shortly before I moved to VT, and she thought idea of owning a brewery was so cool that she put other large-scale plans on hold to do it. Thanks to guilt, planning for an opening date of "someday" became less acceptable. At least Jane is just as responsible for our timeline as I am, though. When my job in VT ended, Rachel and I decided that she'll pay the bills while I work on opening a pub. It would be more expensive than if I were to get a job, but I'd get the business started faster and we'd still have enough money to live comfortably.

Even though I'm moving faster than I was, it's tough to shake the fact that I'm still at the same place I was at in January: sitting at a computer and writing a business plan. Not that the business plan doesn't need to be written - I'll need it to convince people to give me hundreds of thousands of dollars, which will be necessary to secure a location - but it feels like I'm going slower than I actually am. The reality of the situation is that I've been working way more than 40 hours a week to do things for the business that need to be done. If Rachel wasn't able or willing to support both of us financially, it would probably take me years to catch up to where I am today. I did the same thing for Rachel while she went back to school, but I don't think she felt like as much of a mooch as I do right now. School is usually perceived as a productive activity, while working on a business from home sounds an awful lot like "free time". Opening a brewery isn't like turning homemade birthday cards into a business: it takes a lot more planning up-front and probably won't make nearly as much money in the long run :).

In an effort to speed things up, or at least convince myself that I'm working effectively, I'm going to try setting weekly goals and using this weblog to hold me publicly accountable for meeting them. Every week, I'll briefly report on what I accomplished in the previous week and what I hope to accomplish in the following week. It usually takes me a long time to write any given blog entry, so I'm not going to do it during regular working hours. I'll even try to post my updates on the same day each week, but I haven't decided which day yet. Are you ready to keep me on track?


Stephanie Says said...

If you open it, I'd love to work at it.


Joe said...

You'll know where to find us!