Why you shouldn't get complacent: G2 Brewing

Oli Hawkins is the co-founder of microbrewery G2 Brewing, and one of our Virgin StartUp ambassadors. Here in his first blog for us he talks about why startups shouldn't ever get complacent - even when the going is great.

Complacency. It's like taking Joey (my dog) for a walk on a rainy day. You better put him in the bath as soon as you get back, otherwise if the bedroom door is open he is going to jump all over your fresh bed sheets and then you've got real problems (yes, this is a real life example).

Everybody who starts a business knows (or at least I hope they do) how much time, effort, and of yourself you have to pour into the business just to get it off the ground. I think the beer industry is especially difficult. With one brewery for every 50000 people in the UK, more than any other country in the world, you have to fight tooth and nail for every pump in a pub, every bottle in a fridge and every can on a shelf (we only serve cask beer at the moment, so I have kind of assumed about the latter two). It is a daily battle, and if you get complacent you not only lose sales but you lose momentum in trying to grow your business.

We unfortunately did just that. We built up our pipeline, got a number of customers and they all started coming back for more, ordering week in and week out. ‘Great!’, we thought, so we slowed down our customer acquisition and then ‘BAM!’, it  hits you like a brick in the face. Phone call after phone call of “We’re going to try someone new this week,” and before you know it you're back to square one. No orders, no money, and you're left scratching your head. Couple this with a few extra bills and some overzealous spending, and it's a bigger problem than a bed covered in mud.

Thankfully, this is a lesson we managed to learn early on and it is probably one we should have known from the start, but we didn’t, and we will not be doing it again. We got back out meeting our customers, bringing them samples, talking to them and building relationships, the real bread and butter of our industry, and actually what I really enjoy.

Meeting the customers and having them try our beer and tell you that they love it always puts a smile on my face, it’s like someone saying that Joey is cute. I mean I know that, but it makes you feel a little smug! Of course, some people don’t like our beer, and we have to expect that - but they always present an opportunity to give us constructive feedback and I always feel confident that, at some point, they will buy one of our beers, whether it is one we already have or one we have in the making. The point is, not succumbing to complacency is a win-win situation for everyone!

Making any assumptions about how you are going to do in any situation in business is a recipe for disaster and when it involves your own business, you have to do everything possible to ensure the result you want is the result you get… plus it seems to be quite a good marketing tool to apologise to a customer and say you are out of stock, as it seems to drum up interest (although I can imagine you don’t want to do this too often to the same customer). The fact that we assumed that we would do well and got complacent cost us time and some money, but it was a lesson learnt and now we have washed our dirty laundry, remade the bed, cleaned Joey and ensured that the bedroom door is always closed!

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