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- Why is Being Small Such Good Strategy?
SUBMITTED BY Sam Holloway ON Thu, 12/15/2016 - 08:00
Sam Holloway, Ph.D., November 15, 2016
What if being bigger isn’t enough to win anymore? The 3-tiered system was originally conceived to protect consumers and little distributors from big breweries (Tied houses). Now, the big breweries and the big distributors control everything. It used to be that being big was the only way to survive, but that has changed. How can being small work to your craft brewery’s advantage? Small isn’t only a measure of barrels produced. Small isn’t just a mindset or part of what it means to be ‘craft.’ Now, for perhaps the first time in the global beer industry, ‘small’ is a source of competitive advantage. If you don’t believe me, watch this Ted Talk. If you want to learn how to compete and thrive, no matter your craft brewery’s size – keep reading. If these ideas resonate with you, stop wasting your time and money on old ways of thinking. Join Crafting A Strategy, where our members rewrite the rules to feature their own strengths, not those popular in the archaic 3-tiered system.
How Do Entrepreneurs Make Small A Weapon?
This isn’t wishful thinking or desperation, it’s science. Small is the weapon of choice among expert entrepreneurs. I have spent my career being fascinated by expert entrepreneurs. They start with nothing and eschew traditional thinking about how being ‘big’ is the only answer. Let me share with you a little bit about how small works in uncertain markets.
Building off the work of Sarasvathy and her colleagues (Effectuation.org), I have sought to reinterpret traditional ways of thinking through an effectual lens. First, Dr. Helder Sebastiao and I wrote about how business models can be used as strategic weapons when traditional competitive levers are too expensive, unavailable, or require resources outside the entrepreneur’s control. Next, Professor Peter Whalen and I wrote about how marketing planning needs to be reinterpreted if it is to prove useful under extreme uncertainty. We wrote these papers to talk about new ventures in general, it was only recently that I realized how powerful these ways of thinking can be for small and independent craft breweries trying to do the right things for themselves, their breweries, and their employees.
August 2016 – Craft Breweries & Investors Need To Wake Up
I was asked to speak at the first ever, Craft Beer Finance and Investment Conference in San Diego, CA. It was fortuitous that I was the last speaker. Going last gave me the chance to listen to a bunch of presentations about how professional investors evaluated craft brewery investments, what was working, what was not working, and how a craft brewery should prepare for outside investment. I was shocked at how orderly the presentations went. It seemed that each of these professional investors was applying a playbook from a time when craft breweries and the consumer market were tightly linked, growing fast, and easy to predict. However, over beers that evening, many investors confided in me that the current reality was very different than what they predicted when they made the investment. I realized at that conference that the craft beer industry was becoming increasingly more uncertain and, perhaps for the first time, the principles I learned studying uncertainty could apply. I quickly rewrote my speech and focused on how old ways of thinking can be misleading and dangerous when a market is changing as rapidly as the craft beer industry. I wasn’t sure if anyone would stick around to listen to my speech, nor was I sure those that stayed would buy into this new way of thinking. I decided to go for it anyway.
The response to that speech has been tremendous. In San Diego, I had leaders from Goldman Sachs, private equity firms, brewery executives and bankers taking furious notes. I’ve since been asked to give the same speech at the Orchestrate 2016 Conference, with over 200 craft breweries present. It made me realize that the principles of decision-making under uncertainty apply to all craft breweries. It’s time to get the word out.
Over the next several weeks, I am going to write about how to apply the principles of effectuation to your craft beer business. My approach, which is to summarize the new way of thinking as a business model paradigm, has resonated with many folks. Those that apply the business model paradigm introduce new innovations, take market share, drive down costs, and increase margins – even if they don’t have vast amounts of cash and even if they have zero leverage against their wholesale partners. This new way of thinking is our industry’s future. If we continue to play by the old rules, then only those firms that are already big can win out. Here is a preview of how business model thinking (new paradigm) differs from business planning (old paradigm). Are you ready to join the new paradigm?
|Old Paradigm - Business Planning||New Paradigm - Business Models|
|Market Research||Market Entry & Experimentation|
|Full Scale Marketing Plan||Short Term Hypercycle Plan|
|First to Market||First to Mindshare|
|Be Secretive and Be Perfect: Hide in your office conducting market research, write the perfect business plan, only enter the market after securing outside funding||Fail Fast and Fail Cheap: Talk to everyone, get outside the building, launch the business as soon as possible, experiment, fail cheap, learn, try again|
|Upside market potential drives business plan funding needs||Downside market risk drives business model needs|
|Return on Investment||Affordable Loss|