Jim Koch has finally found a use for that folder of notes he has kept all these years. Time and again, people suggested to the Boston Beer Co. founder and consummate storyteller that he should write a book. The man behind Samuel Adams beer took the advice to heart: He spent much of the past three summers spinning those notes into tales full of business lessons and life advice. The result: “Quench Your Own Thirst,” a book that hits shelves on Tuesday. Here are a few of the lessons he shares.
1. Sometimes you just have to blow it all up.
Don’t be afraid to take risks. Koch left a cushy job at Boston Consulting Group to pursue his dream for Boston Beer in 1985. He liked management consulting, but he didn’t love it. The bigger risk he saw: going through life without doing something he was passionate about.
2. The right employee is worth the wait.
Koch likes to say he aspires to hire employees who will “raise the average’’: They should be better than the person currently doing the job. Koch recommends paying less attention to standard credentials, keeping your mind open. He points to founding partner Rhonda Kallman, a former assistant at BCG. She didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. But Koch saw a spark in her, and intelligence that proved invaluable.
3. Learn to take a punch or two.
Koch was infuriated by claims made by Anheuser-Busch and its then-chairman, August Busch III, in the mid-1990s that Boston Beer was misrepresenting its quality to the public. He restrained from engaging in battle, other than a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, so as not to further antagonize A-B. Koch is still standing. Busch’s company was sold.
4. Share your success.
As Boston Beer became a nationwide company, Koch strove to remember his roots. He has helped out smaller brewers during two hops shortages. In 2008, he launched a program offering loans and coaching to food and beverage entrepreneurs, including small brewers. Competition has begun to eat into Boston Beer’s market share. But Koch stands by his efforts to help smaller rivals.
5. Keep an eye out for avalanches when the sun is shining.
Koch, a former Outward Bound instructor, packs the book with references to outdoor activities. He also recalls a number of unexpected errors. He expresses regrets about the infamous “Sex for Sam” competition engineered by shock jocks Opie and Anthony. And then there is Kallman’s departure after he chose someone else to be CEO. But not all endings are finite: the two are collaborating on whiskeys for her new venture, Boston Harbor Distillery.
6. Fly coach and travel light.
Everyone flies in the cheap seats at Boston Beer, even Koch. He writes that it is hard to justify spending a month’s salary of a coworker for a first class flight to Europe. He even packs his spare clothes in his nylon briefcase.Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.