Regularly, the question comes up in conversation: Mary, what is it exactly that you do? The thing is, what I do just doesn't fit into a 30-second elevator speech. To best outline the type of success I bring to breweries, I would like to share my process and the key elements involved along the way.
In order to have a strong brewery, the owner(s) must be experts in production, marketing and accounting. Anyone who does not understand the inner workings of their financial statements cannot understand the direction of the company and will not know when to make the appropriate changes at the appropriate time. I have dedicated my practice to teaching and empowering management to understand and make smart financial decisions.
Most consultants have a natural lean towards taking the intellectual worry away from the brewery owner. I disagree with that approach. The owner is the only person truly empowered to make changes in an organization. If you outsource your accounting and financial thinking then you have tied one hand behind your back. It probably shortens my engagements (and lowers my fees), but it is the right thing to do.
Education is the Key
How does that work exactly? It all starts with education and visioning. It's a shame that most schools do not emphasize financial literacy. There is very little accounting education in today’s curriculum. Then more likely than not, I see brewery owners with very little understanding of basic accounting concepts. This is a shame as I see that any business is a combination of the physical world (actual production of beer) and the virtual world (the world of spreadsheets and financials). When they are in sync, you can quickly understand what is going right and what is going wrong in the brewery. So, the first step is to make sure that the leadership has a grasp of accounting and financial concepts. There is a large reference section on my website that has presentations and other documents devoted to teaching the basics. It is free and open to anyone who would like a better understanding of accounting and financial concepts.
Visioning Guides the Direction of Growth
Once we are speaking the same language, the next step is to understand the vision and direction of the brewery. A brewery can grow in many directions; there is not one path to success. In order to create a financial vision for the brewery, I will need to understand where you want to go and how you want to get there. This is usually accomplished with a lengthy conversation with management as well as a review of the current financial systems. Then I will begin to see how the accounting and administration should grow within the brewery and what my place is in making that vision a reality.
Concrete Action Steps
This is where I split into several different types of people as every brewery needs something different. Sometimes I have a huge role in creating the administrative side of the brewery and sometimes I’ll answer a few system questions. Breweries come and go, but most of them pop up with questions every month of so. I have about 40 breweries under contract and will charge time on 5-10 different breweries in any given month.
As an example, in the last 30 days, I have:
- Finished a period close and presented financial statements to management, investors and banks
- Facilitated ownership meetings to discuss financials and strategic direction
- Created an RFP for a 401k plan
- Implemented accounting side of a Point of Sale system and overhauled cash management procedures
- Did a forensic audit of the balance sheet and fixed multiple ledgers over multiple years
- Read a startup business plan and provided suggestions on “go to market strategy” (multiple breweries)
- Assisted in the accounting side of a system conversion back to QuickBooks
- Answered several types of system conversion questions from several types of ERP systems
- Empowered owners to take their first steps in the accounting systems
- Fixed errors when owners or bookkeepers make mistakes in the ERP system
- Brought new ideas and products to my best customers
- Performed troubleshooting of Gross Margin
- Overhauled a chart of accounts
- Created a budgeting template
- Facilitated a system conversion for Pink Boots Society
Inevitably, every year, I dig deeply into one brewery and save them from disaster. Changing the culture from the inside is difficult, but very rewarding.
My Definition of Success
Success to me is when the brewery owners feel at ease with their financials and the direction of the company. Once a brewery has arrived at their current definition of success, my role then changes to “friend of the brewery”. I regularly keep in touch with my closest breweries. I stay in the boat with them and weather the storms together.
My end game is to create and empower a whole legion of strong brewery controllers and managers that have their hand on the operational wheel of the company and can make the necessary course corrections in time to make a difference the future of the company.