It’s that time again! It has been a busier week than I had realized, there’s a lot to cover, so get ready. Here’s my summary of the best articles in (small) Business and (craft) Beer
This year has some special issues going on for personal and corporate/business taxes. Here’s a good summary of upcoming changes that you need to know about The Fiscal Cliff: 3 Tax Changes You Need to Know Are Coming: http://www.entrepreneur.com/blog/224051
When you’re a startup company, you need a lawyer (whether you think you do or not). One question comes up: do you pick a lawyer from a big firm or a small firm or solo? Hiring a Lawyer for Your Startup – Big Firm or Small Firm? http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/hiring-a-lawyer-for-your-startup-big-f-23236/?utm_source=jds&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=bizlaw
The title says it all: What to Know About Investing in Your Own Business: http://smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com/finance-accounting/2012/07/16/what-to-know-about-investing-in-your-own-business/
Every business has that one (or sometimes more than one) employee that’s a little… out there. I’m thinking red Swingline staplers here. How do you deal with them? Especially if their the wunderkind that’s helping you stay afloat? How to Manage Your Smartest, Strangest Employee: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/07/how_to_manage_your_smartest_st.html
Since we’re talking about employees here, have you ever had anything go… missing? If you run a business with employees, you need to understand your legal rights (and obligations) regarding employee theft. Employee Theft and Fraud in the Workplace: Legal Considerations http://smallbusiness.jdsupra.com/post/employee-theft
Working for tips? What are the tax rules around tips? Think you know? You may not. When is a Tip Not a Tip? – When the IRS Says So. http://smallbusiness.jdsupra.com/post/when-is-a-tip-not-a-tip-when-the-irs-says-so?utm_source=jds&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=bizlaw&utm_term=+&utm_content=+
Here’s the “hot sheet” of current Employment Law trending topics -> Lewd Conduct, Lactation Accommodation, and Other Steaming Hot Employment Law News! http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/lewd-conduct-lactation-accommodation-a-84063/?utm_source=jds&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=bizlaw
Veering away from employees and over to leadership, here’s a good article on how leaders make the bridge between the strategic and the tactical. How Smart Leaders Translate Strategy into Execution: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/07/how_smart_leaders_translate_st.html
Can’t let a week go by without a social media legal issue. This seems like a “duh” moment, but, if you didn’t know… You Don’t Own Your Tweets: http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/guess-what-you-dont-own-your-tweets-45112/
(Craft) Beer Business
eBay auctions for beer bottles that just *happen* to be full (wink wink nudge nudge) have been an ongoing issue for the Craft Beer industry. Here’s Cigar City’s take. An eBay Auction that the Brewery Embraces: http://beerpulse.com/2012/07/an-ebay-auction-that-the-brewery-embraces/
Trader Joe’s has their house brand(s) of beer contract brewed at some very respectable breweries and offer some seriously good beer at reasonable prices. But… there’s trouble “brewing” in TX. Dispute Brewing at Trader Joe’s: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/07/15/4101255/dispute-brewing-at-trader-joes.html
Midwestern (and global) drought. It’s starting to show signs of impacting the food market for grain. Will beer and rbewers be impacted? Grain Prices Pushed to Record Highs: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/20/us-usa-drought-idUSBRE86F1D420120720?feedType=RSS&feedName=environmentNews&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+reuters%2Fenvironment+%28News+%2F+US+%2F+Environment%29
Jolly Pumpkin et. al. getting a new, expanded, operations base. Northern United Brewing Company (owners of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales and other beer brands) is opening an larger brewing facility in Dexter MI. Thank goodness Ron Jeffries will still be overseeing the beer! Jolly Pumpkin’s Parent Company Opening New Facility Expandable to 150k Square Feet: http://beerpulse.com/2012/07/jolly-pumpkins-parent-company-opening-new-facility-expandable-to-150k-square-feet/
We’ve talked about cans before (“That’s right, cans.”), but have you considered that some beers or brands might work better in cans than in bottles, simply because it’s in a can? Here’s Midnight Sun’s Experience, “[they did ] ‘okay’ in our 22-ounce bottles…. When we put them in cans, they started flying off the shelves….” Alaska Beers Get Canned: http://www.anchoragepress.com/food_and_drink/brew_review/alaska-beers-get-canned/article_cb5ee510-d1ee-11e1-b3f9-001a4bcf887a.html
Just for Fun
If you don’t read Mental Floss, you totally should. Give it a day, or just follow them on Twitter. It’s addictive. http://mentalfloss.com/
- Three Matts new brewers in capital (stuff.co.nz)
- Capital’s craft beer reputation grows (stuff.co.nz)
- Reboot Charlotte: Breweries Tap Into NoDa’s Artistry (foxcharlotte.com)
- Small Brewers Are Fermenting Hope for Passage of Brewery Law (njspotlight.com)
- Minn. Craft Beer Gives All To Fight Invasive Species (minnesota.cbslocal.com)
I’ve been thinking about the Big Beer companies, the big and the getting-bigger companies.
The story starts a few weeks ago. I had been watching a thread on a forum where a homebrewer started off by saying something like “I can’t drink macro lager anymore. I can’t believe anyone who like craft beer can stand to drink that other stuff.” There were a lot of comments like “I can’t drink that swill,” or “there’s no substitute for flavor.” There were some comments to the tune of “yeah, but at the ball park or the beach on a hot day,” or “I still have a macro beer at a party now and then.”
So here’s my thinking: Whether you like their product or not, you have to give credit to the breweries that are turning out light american lager on a global scale. Any homebrewer that has tried to do it can tell you that Light American Lager is a *very* difficult style to brew and brew well. Yet, here are the massive companies turning out millions of gallons of the stuff all over the world and achieving flavor and production consistency that most small commercial brewers can only hope to emulate. Clearly, these macro breweries know their business and have the brewing down to a science. Folks like AB-InBev, MolsonCoors/SABMiller have developed, used, re-invented, and forgotten more beer science than most people will ever know. They have their process control tight and their Quality Control tighter. They know how to brew beer.
And they’ve got money. And they’re not stupid – they’re watching the steady growth of craft beer year over year. And they’ve got to want in. Examples of attempts include everything from AB-Inbev’s Shocktop and Amberbock to MolsonCoor’s Blue Moon. Some forays are more successful than others (Budweiser American Ale anyone?).
So: (1) they’ve got the money (i.e. capital to invest), (2) they’ve got the science know-how, (3) they’ve got creative people (surely out of those hundreds of thousands of employees, someone’s got to be creative right?), and (4) they’ve got the marketing and desire to do it. Why aren’t they bigger players in the craft beer segment. Some have turned to buying up craft breweries to help augment their foothold, but these guys are science and marketing juggernauts, why do they struggle with getting into craft beer?
This seems like a conundrum from the outside. I have my thoughts on why this is, I’m sure you do too. My question here is, what do you think the long term role of the marcro beer companies is going to be in the craft beer market segment?
- Budweiser: The Great American Lager No More? (winemag.com)
- Why the hell would you open a brewery? (jslawcenter.wordpress.com)
- For the Love of the Craft Brewer (winemag.com)
- Oregon craft beer production up 5.5 percent in 2011: 1.168 million barrels (oregonlive.com)
- “Budweiser, Coors & Miller aren’t brewed by American companies. Support your local craft brewery this 4th of July.” (elephantjournal.com)
- MillerCoors Nabs Nine Medals at 2012 World Beer Cup (sacbee.com)
I just responded to an email about breweries and lawyers. Trying to develop a niche practice in serving the craft beer industry is tough and I thought about why that is. I believe craft beer (whether brewing, distributing, or serving) people often don’t consult an attorney because either
- “I can handle all this stuff myself. If I ever need to trademark something, then I’ll get a lawyer.” OR
- “All lawyers do is make things more complicated and cost money. Why should I pay for them to get in my way.” OR
- “I think I need some help here, but I can’t afford one, so I guess I’ll go it alone anyway.”
I’ve been working with the NC Brewers Guild to try and educate brewers and the support industries (who are also largely small or Mom & Pop shops) about how attorneys can actually make things easier and protect you from future issues.
I also spend a good deal of time counseling people on the concept that an attorney – a good attorney - is one that will work with you on your business. Someone that’s interested in seeing your business grow and helping to manage your risks before they become problems. I can only speak for myself, but I want to help you make things less complicated. Make things easier now *and* in the future. I really feel that’s a critical role for a lawyer.
Thinking that you “can handle” all the aspects of your business by yourself is just silly. You may know more about your body than anyone else, but that doesn’t mean that you should perform your own gall bladder surgery. The same applies with brewing equipment, accounting, and legal issues. If you don’t have special training or expertise in the area, get some help.
Also, thinking that you can’t afford an attorney is also not right. If you’re concerned about that, talk about it with your attorney. More than likely, they’ll work with you to come up with a plan that fits your needs and budget. No one wants to see you or your company struggle because of a legal issue or not get help when you need it.
What have been your experiences with this? If you’re a brewer/brewery/bar why don’t you get a lawyer involved?