Friday, November 4, 2016

Orchestrating the Brewing Business

Portland is home to a multitude of breweries that churn out some of the best beer in the world but did you know that it's also home to a company that helps breweries make sure all of the parts of their business work together effectively?

Last week I was invited to attend Orchestrate 2016, an annual conference put on by Orchestra Software. The Beaverton-based company provides business management software for beverage companies, which encompasses breweries, distilleries, kombucha makers and soon wineries. Perhaps that doesn't sound like the most fascinating conference to attend, and admittedly it is a conference put on by a business for its customers and prospective customers, but bear with me, there are some good nuggets ahead.

During the opening keynote CEO Brad Windecker took a global look at the beverage business, a perspective that is all too easy to forget when managing the day to day operations of one's individual business. While he was specifically speaking to and about the beverage industry his comments could be applied (in the broadest terms) to many businesses. A couple quotes stuck out to me:

"A millennial drinker is more promiscuous."

"Generation Z is next and they have no concept of the internet NOT existing."

Since many of you reading this are of my general age those statements may make you feel old. They make me feel old. Regardless, these are critical observations that must be taken into account for any brewery that wants to cultivate the younger end of the consumer spectrum. A lack of brand loyalty and being used to having so much information at one's fingertips are new hurdles to be addressed.

To those points Brad reminded the audience that "it's no longer good enough to make a good product." He went on to explain businesses can do that by:
- creating new digital business (i.e. beer clubs that sell directly to customers, crowd sourcing to determine the next beer to be made)
- rethinking the value proposition (maybe it's not about selling a product, but selling an experience)
- substituting products (breweries adding cider production or doing contract brewing)
- reconfiguring the delivery model

I'm sure there's a transcript of his talk somewhere if you want all the nitty-gritty but the short of it is that in order to achieve their goals and reach their full potential breweries need to intentionally drive change instead of letting it happen. While we can all appreciate a finely crafted product those that don't address the business side of the equation with as much care as they put into the product in their tanks will stagnate and at some point fail to remain competitive.

It was a lot to think about, even for someone like me who was attending as a casual observer. But it was also be surrounded by hundreds of people who were there because this is their business and are interested in being proactive about their future.

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