It’s OK to stay small

Last week, I arranged a few drinks with some friends. In a brewery. Yes, we went to the absolute source of the beer and tasted it, whilst new batches were being fermented all around us. Of course, it was a great night – we learnt a huge amount about how to make beer, agreed and disagreed on the various tastes and all in all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, as you might expect.

What I hadn’t banked on however, was a lesson in business alongside the fun and frolics.

The Windsor and Eton brewery was set up 3 years ago. It’s one of over 1,000 microbreweries here in the UK now – and so it’s a competitive business. It was set up by 4 partners, and interestingly, one of them, Bob Morrison, is a marketing expert. It’s interesting – because, whilst of course you need to be able to brew great tasting beer, with competition all around, it’s how you differentiate, which gets you noticed and is one of the reasons they chose Windsor as its base – and leveraged its already amazing brand.

The Windsor and Eton brewery's beersThey set up their brewery from scratch in 7 weeks, without borrowings and their ambition is simple:

“to make Windsor famous again as a brewer of some of the finest and most talked about beers in the country.”

Note they use the word ‘ambition’ and there is no mention of growth by 10% year on year within that phrase.

I spent a while talking with Bob and became fascinated.

They’ve grown tremendously in the last 3 years – have doubled their brewing capacity and are bursting the seams of their backstreet warehouse, nestled amongst the terraced houses of Windsor. When we talked about their plans for the coming years, it was simple –

“we want to stay small”.

How refreshing.

How great to hear that a thriving business has an ambition to stay small, to keep niche, to retain quality, to excel at customer service, to not borrow and to stay true to their core values.

The conversation continued.

Staying small doesn’t mean you can’t grow of course. You can still grow (because, if you don’t grow, you die) – but in different ways, to keep their own personal interests high and to challenge them individually. In my world – it’s adding new features. In their world, they’d like to bottle their own beer and they’d like to move to kegs as well as barrels (oh yes – I know all the lingo now).

I related to this concept and it gave me great confidence. My video production business is going really well. I have a great team of people around me – but I made a conscious decision last year that I don’t want to walk into an office full of people (again) and feel the pressure of paying multiple salaries and mortgages. I want to stay small, but develop an amazing trusted virtual team who experience other projects, outside of my business, to keep them fully rounded and the pressure off all of us.

I want to say thanks to The Windsor and Eton brewery guys who have helped me to ratify my vision.

It really is OK to stay small, but please, be perfectly formed.

If you’re in the area – book on a tour will you?!