All of a sudden it struck me: we are making a huge mistake! We? I am making a big mistake. And if we aren’t careful, if we don’t solve it, it may grow out of control. So let’s dive in. Let’s identify the mistake I or we have made, so we can fix it as soon as possible!
Where the shoe pinches? With some distillers needing more support than others. And how we deal with that. A minority of distillers, including some of our customers, needs help with each and every step they take. It gives them comfort to know we are at their side. And – if I think about it a bit longer – we should feel honored to be invited into such an important role. A role of business consultant sometimes, or distilling coach.
For those that reach out to us in that capacity: thank you for your trust and thank you for believing that we can provide help and support. But the more I think about it – which I do because I get more and more requests for help as our organization and the craft distilling industry grows – the less it makes sense. Not the questions, I get those. Not that many want to have our opinions, because it signals how we are perceived as the industry experts. But how WE or how I deal with those questions.
If I keep things small and personal, here is the weird thing I do: I try to answer all of those questions. I try to help those specific distillers, that need more support, sometimes on a day to day basis, by acting as their de facto business consultant or distilling coach. Why that doesn’t make sense? For two reasons.
Firstly, I am not a business consultant or distilling coach. I mean, yeah, I am a MSc in Business Administration, but that’s not why customers do business with us or why distillers in general seek our advise. And, yes again, I (and many of my staff) have a huge expertise on all things related to distilling alcoholic spirits … but that’s not what customers purchased. Instead, our customers ordered a still, a recipe, or a course. And that’s where we deliver!
Our recipes win medals (the ones that matter) all over the globe. Our distillation machines enable craft distillers to make better quality spirit at lower price points. The iStill Distilling University is rated by its students as the craft distilling industry’s leading educational facility.
So … if we don’t offer business consultancy or distillery coaching (and we don’t!), why do we act as if we do? And that question brings us to the second reason why trying to help out distillers that need day to day support on their business and on running their distillery: just like you have your company to run, your distillery to manage, I (or in the broader sense: the iStill Management Team) have an obligation to run iStill. And running a disruptive and fast-growing company like iStill is no small job, no minor responsibility.
As iStill’s CEO I routinely work 60 to 80 hours a week. Our CFO? She works 50 to 60 hours per week, and often more. Our Chief Operating Officer is responsible for the manufacturing of the iStills. Not exactly a 9 to 5 job either, right? The second reason why it totally doesn’t make sense that we try to hold the hands of a minority of customers and distillers in need of sometimes daily, personal support, is that we simply do not have time to do so.
So this much becomes clear:
- We do not offer business consultancy or distillery coaching;
- A minority of distillers needs consultancy or coaching;
- They reach out to us to obtain our insights and get our help;
- We, in our willingness to help, step in shoes that are not ours to fill;
- Creating a severe risk of underdelivering because of other obligations.
How do we solve this? I mean, writing an iStill Blog post about it is important, and may bolster us in doing a better job at explaining what we can and cannot offer, but that would neglect the questions for help that some distillers have.
So here are my questions to you. How do we, as an industry, help those that need more help, that want support at running their distillery and sometimes even their businesses? We are not equipped to do it, but are there others out there that can provide these services? Are there maybe more experienced distillers, that feel distillery coaching is a business they want to add to their portfolio? Are there maybe successful entrepreneurs out there, that want to give business consultancy and advise to distillers? And under what conditions?
If I add up the questions we get, on a daily basis, there for sure seems to be a market in need of help. Please let me know how you feel you (or the industry at large) could be of assistance.