When Jim Koch left a comfortable consulting job in 1984 to start the Boston Beer Company with a family lager recipe, it seemed ridiculous to think that he could ever make an impression in a market dominated by the likes of Budweiser and Heineken.
Thirty-one years later, Boston Beer Co. produces 1% of all beer in the US, and its flagship product, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, is universally recognised by beer drinkers. Koch’s success has also helped inspire a generation of American craft brewers — 22 million barrels of craft beer were produced last year, compared to around 37,000 when Koch started.
Koch has run the Brewing the American Dream program since 2008, in which he and his Boston Beer Co. team mentor entrepreneurs and provide them with loans.
We asked Koch for some of his favourite productivity tips that could benefit entrepreneurs and small-business owners. Here’s what he said.
Live your business from the moment you wake up.
If you’re Jim Koch, that means drinking beer.
Koch said he’s remained driven by never losing touch with his product, despite how big his company has become. It’s why Koch said he starts his day with a beer sampling each morning to ensure quality consistency.
“When I get to the brewery in the mornings, before I’ve had anything to eat or drink that would mess up my palate, I taste beer,” he said. “In fact, I still taste a sample from every batch that we brew, and I pay incredibly close attention to the flavour profile looking for any little variations. Plus, it helps with creativity!”
Pick three things that must get done each day, and put them on a Post-it note.
It’s easy to get lost in a massive to-do list that you inevitably won’t complete. That’s why every morning before leaving his house, Koch checks his calendar and email, and then writes three things onto a Post-it note that he must accomplish that day.
The small size of the note allows him to avoid getting too detailed, and also lets it fit in his pocket so he can check it a few times throughout the day.
Instead of just scheduling vacation time, Koch schedules time to work outside, for a change of pace to keep his creativity and productivity up. And he does it far in advance.
“At the beginning of the year, I try to block off Mondays and Fridays during the summer months so I can spend the day working from the beach or outdoors,” he said. “Ultimately, I end up taking maybe half of them!”
Take first flights out.
Koch recommends that when you go on a business trip, you should take the earliest flight available, which is usually around 5 a.m.
“There is less traffic, the airport is less crowded, flights are generally more reliable and it usually means I get to spend the night before at home with my family and spend more time in my destination city,” Koch said.
And once he’s on the plane, the best thing he’s found to calm down is to pretend he’s asleep, which often leads to actual sleep or at least a good rest — though he can’t help easing the process along. “Of course, I always enjoy a can of Boston Lager on the plane before snoozing,” he added.
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