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Salary for an Assistant Distiller


fugenator

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Hello,

I wasn't sure where to put this conversation. I am working for a facility as a full time assistant distiller. We create vodka, gin, whiskey and a few liqueurs in house. I run the day-to-day operations including 90% of the distilling, hand bottling, cleaning, fermentation, inventory, ttb reporting and tasting room operations. Since this is a fairly small industry in the United States I have been having a hard time putting a value on my worth to the company. With that being said I am up for pay raise negotiations in a month. We are set to do 3,000 cases this year. Could anyone pm me their realistic thoughts on a salary for a position such as this. I feel like I am being under-payed for several reasons. Any information would be great! Thanks!

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You have to be able to argue your value, its not a standard thing, one person would be a ceo of one company making 350,000, and his brother, a much more resourceful and social but equally capable person could be making 15 million.

If I had an employee suggest to me he feels he needs a raise, he should explain to me:

How much money I have invested my time opportunity cost into his training and how it will amortorize over time, and how he has exceeded this value exponentially. Its pretty much that simple.

If I train you, and you ask for a raise before the 3rd year, I must not have offered you a working wage because training takes time and until you can properly train others you deserve the apprentice pay. Once you can prove this to him he may feel the same.

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The other question is, are you paying him or her enough so that you can get several years out of them before they jump ship for more money or their own gig? Training IS expensive, and after all of that effort, it sucks to see someone take it somewhere else.

Make no mistake, most people who want the assistant job REALLY want the top job, once they are deluded enough to think they know everything you do. And with the current demand for experienced distillers, it's not hard to convince a desperate start up that you know the drill.

Personally, I like to hire newbies at a labor wage, and if they have what it takes with attention to detail, work ethic, and long term outlook, then I'll bump them up to a real living wage or salary, and tell them point blank that I expect X number of years from them. You gotta pull the anchor up for a long time before I'll let you steer the boat!

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I don't buy the idea that an employee should have to make the case for a raise. If he's nothing more than physical labor, and has to be supervised...min wage is fine.

If he's valuable to you, you the employer, should take care of the employee.

Hire the level you need, and pay them what you'd expect to get paid! You get what you pay for!

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To the OP, I would guess that your hourly rate should be in the $15 to $20 per hour range or the same annualized salary, depending on the area of the country you live and cost of living.

You are definitely above unskilled labor and they are trusting you with some significant responsibility.

It really depends on the company and how it is structured. I am a big believer in offering stock options.

We are a C corp and have 30+ investors in our company.

Every working full-time employee receives stock that vests over 4 years. That applies the figurative "golden handcuffs".

If he is good then give him a bit more stock each year that vests over 4 more years.

If the employee walks away, then they are losing most of their stock options.

That way both the employees and the owners have the same interest in growing the company.

We want our employees to view this as more than just a "job". We want them to really care about being successful.

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To the OP, I would guess that your hourly rate should be in the $15 to $20 per hour range or the same annualized salary, depending on the area of the country you live and cost of living.

You are definitely above unskilled labor and they are trusting you with some significant responsibility.

It really depends on the company and how it is structured. I am a big believer in offering stock options.

We are a C corp and have 30+ investors in our company.

Every working full-time employee receives stock that vests over 4 years. That applies the figurative "golden handcuffs".

If he is good then give him a bit more stock each year that vests over 4 more years.

If the employee walks away, then they are losing most of their stock options.

That way both the employees and the owners have the same interest in growing the company.

We want our employees to view this as more than just a "job". We want them to really care about being successful.

yes that sounds right. high end of the range base with end of year bonus and option into company for someone with experience.

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Seeing as we are mostly all new companies and budgets are constrained, I do believe that partial ownership (stocks) and/or bonuses should be able to make up the difference in pay. I definitely wouldn't want to give someone as much control as the OP if (s)he wasn't worth more than $15 - especially since minimum wage is flirting with $10 soon. That being said, prior experience is huge - formal education (siebel, ABG, BS in fermentation or the like) is important too.

Over all though I think Teton hit it on the nose. I'm not a believe these days, but there is a passage in the Bible that says something to the effect of "pay a man what he's worth." I think that is something most business owners and managers have forgotten. It's not just your products and your people that is competing with other companies.

NAB

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I believe in a working wage and I believe you should pay employees what the going rate is for such a job but that is not necessarily what he asked. He has the job, he is not trying to apply for the job. He is trying to get more money.

Typically in my experience as a business owner autonomy to partake in freedom to play, trial, research, and contribute to the job is more valuable to the company than anything else, your feeling of being needed and staying busy as well as getting attention and comments alluding its being seen and noticed. The idea of you needing more money then would only be satisfied if you truly like your job and dont want to quit anyways. This ties into to what natrat is saying. If I pay you x amount over time, whats to keep you from always being on a money chase like most wine makers here in sonoma/ napa county.

There will be an opportunity cost at all avenues but is the job giving you a challenge or are you bored, disgruntled and hoping a higher pay will atleast temporarily make you feel better or more valued.

If this is the case, then you should plead your case as you see the need for a raise. I know a guy who has been at the same job for over 20 years and is always a little upset that he hasnt been given a raise but he likes his job and is very good at it. He has the same pay as 20 years ago, however, he has been reluctant to ask for a raise and it does cause problems.

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  • 5 months later...

Im in pretty much the same boat. I have been working hourly at closet to full time and have been there since the day they fired up the still. We will do about 1000 cases next year. I do have some prior experience but not with the distillation part (sales, aging, etc). They got me going with the basics but I pretty much had to teach myself the rest. Now I run most of their production and they want me to come on full time, salaried. I need to figure out what market value really is for this type of position so I can negotiate either more money or more flexibility or some additional room to experiment and work on developing my own skills and new products.

Also, to all of you business owners out there, how would you suggest going about creating a good functioning relationship while not being deceptive about the fact that I want to do branch out on my own, hopefully within the next few years? Any thoughts?

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We just had the HR manager from Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories speak to some of my graphic design students. SEL invented the first microprocessor-based protective relays for transmission lines. They have grown from a handful of employees 30 years ago in a Dr. Schweitzer's basement to almost 4,000. Nine core values are emphasized on a daily basis to all of their employees all over the world and the one I was most impressed with was Dignity of Work. You can find the rest of the list here:

https://www.selinc.com/careers/values/

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In business as in life, you seldom get what you deserve. You get, what you negotiate.

That is so true. And it only rarely has to do with how skilled you are at your job.

There are just so many variables that go into how much you get paid, many of which are outside of your control.

Are there other craft distilleries or breweries in the area?

Are they trying to lure away your skilled labor forcing you to pay more?

Or are there so many people in the area with experience that they are giving you resumes on a regular basis and you have your pick?

Or are you hiring people with zero experience and training in-house yourself?

These types of factors can easily mean the difference between $15 to $25 per hour for an assistant distiller.

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