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How We Stumbled Across A Head Brewer: 3 steps to hiring key personnel

Back in December, I was searching the brewing forums for hop contracts when I accidentally came across a post from a brewer looking to join an early-stage startup brewery. Curiosity got the best of me, so I shot him a quick email introducing myself and the company. You can read the full account of how that all transpired here, but long story short, we spent the next six weeks figuring out how to properly bring a new employee on to the company.

Through this process we learned a lot about ourselves and what it takes to make a major hiring decision. While there are many other parts at play here, these three steps guided us along the way.

1. Understand what a great hire would look like for your company.

When bringing on our first big hire, we knew what type of person we were looking for. There are a few key traits Asa and I value and want to perpetuate within the company, and we wanted to make sure that a potential hire would have all three: emotional intelligence, work ethic, and curiosity.

Emotional intelligence – Technical skill can be taught, but you can’t teach emotional intelligence. As anyone who’s ever started or worked for a small business knows, you can’t possibly predict what the company will look like in the next three to six months. It’s exhilarating, it’s draining, and it takes a lot to hold up to the emotional whiplash. Emotionally intelligent people can, and will, adapt when necessary.

Work ethic – I grew up working up on my dads farm. He’d always say “If you don’t have anything to do, pick up trash”. That mindset holds more true than ever with a startup – there is always something to be done. Early hires will wear all hats and you want to find someone who’s willing to work far above and beyond their own job description.

Curiosity – Walt Disney put it best when he said that “we keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”. Our old motto was “curiosity, without compromise” (we had to start somewhere). For us, any candidate we would consider had to display their own sense of curiosity. It is how we got to where we are now and will continue to guide us as we move forward. Never stop learning.

2. Make the hiring process a challenge, but worthwhile.

“The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.” – Randy Pausch

Even though we are a still a startup, we wanted the hiring process to be rigorous. Our application consisted of eight in-depth essay questions, multiple interviews, and a liquid resume, so to speak. Seeing a potential hire put effort toward the application shows they are willing to break through brick walls. When other walls appear, they’ve already proven that they’re up to the challenge in front of them.

Now this doesn’t mean wasting people’s time for the sake of dragging out the process. These things can be done quickly. It’s even better when the candidate is also quick to accomplish their portion.

3. Sell the mission.

Hiring is a two-way street. It is your job to sell the company to a prospective hire. Realize they may be looking at other offers – offers that come with more money, benefits, and security. What you can offer are the values and road map to build something meaningful that they want to associate with.

We believe in great beer service, Braddock, and educating our customers and community. Showing this, rather than telling, really helped drive our point home. Through our actions on social media and in person, we strive to share these beliefs with those who are listening.

Every company will reach the point where they need to bring on a new team member. Take pride in hiring. It is one of the most important decisions you will make, and a mistake can set you back (or worse, shut you down). And for us, at such an early stage, it’s more important than ever.

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