Last week, we discussed unexpected death and disability, but what happens when the outcome is better than expected? This week, our post will focus on what to do when the outcome is not what you expected and unexpected success is the result.
With the blossoming of the craft beer movement in not just the greater Twin Cities, but in the nation as a whole, you can’t help but to have heard of Surly Brewing. Surly’s founder, Omar Ansari began by brewing in a corner of his parents’ Brooklyn Center abrasives plant. In 2006, Surly brewed 800 barrels of beer, while in 2010, just four years later, Surly sold a whopping 12,000 barrels of beer.
Year-after-year, Surly gained in both popularity and volume, rapidly taking over Ansari’s parents’ entire factory. What’s a business owner to do in this situation? While most people would be all for jumping with joy, there’s a downside to unexpected growth as well. For Ansari, it simply meant increasing production…for a while. In an article from Twin Cities Business in September 2010, he was quoted as saying, “It’s never an issue of whether we’re going to expand or not. We’re always expanding, so it’s really, simply, can we expand fast enough to keep up with demand?”
This meant that Surly had to make a difficult decision, as they suspended beer deliveries to markets outside the Twin Cities to focus on growing local accounts. Even currently in the Twin Cities, there’s a waiting list to get a keg of Surly on tap in your bar or restaurant. With their current location, maximum production was estimated to tap out at 20,000 barrels per year.
Instead of accepting this as the end-game, in 2011, Surly announced plans to open a destination brewery and restaurant to the tune of $20 million, which would allow Surly to reach a capacity of 100,000 barrels per year. When it was determined that the new facility ran afoul of current Minnesota liquor laws, Surly called upon their dedicated fans, the Surly Nation, to lobby for proposed changes to the legislation. In May, 2011, Governor Mark Dayton’s signature on the new law, allowed Surly to move forward with their plans.
Besides an example of great right-place, right-time tactics, Surly made some very notable strategic decisions. All of these could translate well should your company face a similar situation of unexpected growth. We’ve compiled the below list, but feel free to add your own in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.
- Remain True to Yourself - Don’t make the easy mistake of compromising quality, whether this is in service times or product. You have to take the time to stick to your core competencies and values. Never falter in this.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Make the Tough Decisions – Whether this means cutting back on distribution or saying no to people, make that choice. If you can’t deliver on it, don’t promise it. Customers are far happier to be told no, than to feel that they’ve been lied to or let down.
- Go Big or Go Home - Instead of just shooting for the 20,000 barrel capacity of their current location, Ansari shot for the stars and ended up among them with his new brewery plan. Perhaps your idea is BIG too. If so, don’t be afraid to dream big dreams, and then, go chase ‘em down.
- Call in the Reinforcements - Understand that you can’t go at it alone. Ansari tapped both the help of his parents for location space as well as the Surly Nation when they needed to get the law changed in favor of their new destination brewery. If you need help, find those around you that are equipped to be of service, and ask them already!
- Serve Your Community - When push comes to shove, they’re the ones who will rally around you. Not only is Surly very active with its Surly Nation arm, but a huge component to Surly Nation is their volunteerism. Through their ‘Surly Gives a Damn‘ arm, Surly is actively volunteering, completing projects, and just downright participating and answering the call of needs in their community. You get what you give, always. So, give back and you probably won’t have to ask very loudly when you need your community in turn.
These are by no means comprehensive, but they’re a good start. As always, if you have something to add, feel free to add in the comments below.