Last month I traveled to Austin to speak about the beer industry to a group of professionals who worked for one of the largest research firms in the US. In addition to my beer talk, the branch manager asked if I would also spend some time on the importance of having passion for one’s industry.
I delivered my talk at a craft beer bar close to the firm’s office. As you can imagine, most of the time was spent on the beer industry in general, but these young professionals, average age 26, had many questions about the craft segment, too. The last part of my program was, in fact, concerning careers and opportunities and the employees had numerous questions about the industry.
A recent article in the WSJ written by Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon, Dilbert, highlighted his thoughts on having goals and passion. In the article, Adams states that it is dangerous when successful people offer advice, especially when they say “follow your passion!” The author goes on to explain that it is easy to be passionate about something when things are working out, and that it distorts our impression of the importance of passion. You may have high passion when starting a new business, but it could quickly fade if the business fails. When he was in banking, Scott’s boss, a 30 year veteran of the industry, told him to stay away from making loans to people who had a passion for a business. “One should only lend to those who have no passion for the business, but see it as simply a way to make a good living,” the author’s superior advised. Those who saw an industry as a way to make a living were named “grinders,” and considered a good risk for the bank. Said the author, “You can bet on grinders, not the guy who loves his job.”
As General Manager of Coors of Kansas in the late 1970s’, Coors enjoyed a 60%+ share of market in the state except in the city of Hutchinson, were the Coors share was 44%. Hutchinson was the home of two small beer houses, Coors and Miller. The Miller owner, George, was very aggressive and had done a good job of getting share from Coors. We approached the Coors owner, Kenny, who decided to sell us his operation and move on.
We purchased the operation and the first weekend after closing, we did a market blitz and acquired 17 new draft accounts in one day. These were the times when Coors did not split handles, so these accounts were exclusive to Coors. Within a month, we had Coors’ share back into the mid 50%+ and growing. Not long after our purchase, and investment in Hutchinson, a hand full of Miller employees showed up on a Monday morning for work only to find the warehouse locked. George had decided he had enough, cleaned out the company’s bank account and disappeared, leaving his Miller operation. Later, I found out he had resurfaced in California. The Miller operation in Wichita took over the Hutchinson territory, but by then Coors share was back to 60% in Hutch.
In Scott Adams’s article he states that “his passion level moved with his success” and that “success caused passion more than passion caused success.” In my closing remarks for the talk at the Austin research firm, the final question asked was, “What was the best career decision I had made?” For me, it was easy, my answer was that I got into the beer business, because unlike George, I’m a beer guy, and beer is my passion!