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Intro and Advice Seeking

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First, the introduction - I'm the Head Distiller/Operations Manager at Conecuh Ridge Distillery in Troy, AL. Our brand is Clyde May's whiskey; it's been sourced and co-packed up to this point and this new facility will begin in-house production. I've been distilling since Sep 2018, and was the Senior Distiller at Nelson's Green Brier Distillery in Nashville, TN - I'm not new to production. However, I am new to the entrepreneurial side of starting a distillery and this is my first official "management" position. 

Now, the solicitation - I'm a big believer in surrounding myself with people that are more knowledgeable and experienced than I am, and that's where I'm hoping you all come in.

Is there something you wished you had known earlier? If you could start over again, what would you do differently? 


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  • 5 weeks later...

Good luck on your new position.  I have worked with many start ups and there are many details and pitfalls that come up. I work with the cooling equipment sizing and general layout for distilleries, so if you have questions that pop up, give me a shout and I can give you advice to that part of your distilling.  Mike G.


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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi Tyler and congrats on the management position! Let me know if you have questions regarding your in-house new bottling line. Our specialty is Small-Scale bottling (which can mean different things to different people) and we've helped LOTS of folks within ADI.

We also have great partners who do the more automated bottling lines.

Please reach out with any questions.

Thanks Tyler!


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Congrats on your new role! That is awesome.

Goodness....things I wish I knew earlier...is there a character limit on these posts?? haha.

Making whiskey is the fun and romantic part about the business. Selling it is the hard part. It is a hell of a lot easier to scale a distillery than it is distillery sales. 

Understand your weaknesses and hire people that are better than you. 

People have been doing this for thousands of years. Good Lord, there aren't hardly any secrets so let people take pictures in your distillery! None of our brands, technicques, tactics, etc haven't been done before. "Unique" ideas you think you have don't make money; proper execution of a plan makes money.

Learn how to say "no" and not feel bad about it. If it doesn't feel right for you or your business, use those 2 little letters together. Sometimes it's harder than it sounds.

If it doesn't make sense, it proabaly doesn't make cents; and if it doesn't make cents, it doesn't make dollars. Make sure to take care of your house before you take care of someone else's.

For God's sake, DON'T LET ANYONE EFF UP THE TTB REPORTING! It really isn't that hard, just +'s and -'s. Dot every i and cross every t as soon as an event happens. It's about attention to detail, not bookkeeping. Don't put it off and fall into the trap of "I'll get that later". The more PGs that go out the door, the bigger the magnifying glass. Make sure that when you delegate that responsibility, you trust, but verify. It's your butt on the line.

Make sure there is redundancy in your system...not just the production equipment...people too. Cross-training is super important. If you lose a key person that is the only subject matter expert in your organization, how do you recover?

A lesson that I am still learning: your time is your currency and you can't ever make any more of it. Spend it wisely. There are plenty of days you can find a reason to stay at the distillery until the wee hours of the morning. The truth is that the work will still be there when you get back in the morning but those hours won't be. Days go slow and years go fast. People talk about work-life balance and that is unbelieveably hard to find in a new distillery. Make sure you understand where that teeter-totter tips for you, your family, and your company. The point won't be the same for all 3 and it's up to you balance it.

Most importantly, and you already know this, it's all about people. It took me far too long to realize that this business is ALL about relationships. 

I think that's enough for now. Probably time to go grab another glass of bourbon and prophesize a bit more! haha. Congrats again and great post! Making the post alone says a lot about you. Cheers!

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My post has little to do with operating a distillery, just my management "philosophy." I spent many years as a senior individual contributor, then was promoted at various spots into management, then senior management positions.  My most important points:

- Your number one job is to attract and retain the best people.  You do this, and life is easy.  And fun. 

- Take blame, give credit.  I never ever tried to take credit for anything good that happened.  I would make sure that those that made it possible got all the attention and felt that they were appreciated.  In the end, success of the organization is all that matters and that will allow everyone to do well and enjoy their jobs & lives.

- Correct people privately whenever possible (unless it's a safety problem happening in front of you).  Provide 1:1 time regularly, even if it's for short period of time.  Be open and don't be defensive or angry with criticism. Having a true open door where people feel comfortable giving their opinions is very valuable to growing as a manager and as an organization.

- Coach/manage, and explain the "why" -- not just say "this is how we do it here."  WHY do you need something done a certain way?  That said, how it's done is outrageously important, so don't allow for too much creativity for things that need to scale. I don't mind people finding different ways of doing things (as there are multiple ways of doing almost anything), but if something is going to scale it needs to be repeatable and that may mean forcing a specific process for some things.  But, also be open to changing the process if people present new ideas. But, the process is the process and everyone follows the process unless and until the process changes.

- Sometimes you make a mistake and hire the wrong person.  It's better for everyone to discover this early.  And, you are doing nobody any favors by keeping a poor fit around.  The person is likely not happy, you're not happy, and the organization suffers.  Rip off the band-aid and part ways early. Investing in someone who isn't going to work out is a huge cost.

- Fight for your people, especially your key performers.  Don't concern yourself with how much you make compared to them. 



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