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Thread: Is it possible to be over-experienced?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
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    San Diego County, California
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    Question Is it possible to be over-experienced?

    Hi, everyone.

    I hate to admit this, but I love this industry: I am a brewing-beer-aholic.

    When I first opened up my own brewery in 1998, I told my employees that if we ever failed that I would unlikely to ever be able to get another job in the industry unless I started up another brewery. That is because I would be considered too expensive or too experienced and thus "too big for my boots" ... or even too much of a loser ...

    Ultimately, my brewery did fail. (Mostly due to starting too ambitious -- too much overhead, not being fully capitalized, the shutdown of the industry distribution channels and double-digit growth by the Big 3 Brewers, and because getting that last needed capital was difficult during the tech/dot.com bubble and then post-9/11... not to mention, inexperience as an owner on my part ... I am not afraid to admit it. Note my lack of anonymity on this website.)

    Since then, both of my brewers have gone on to get good jobs at some of the big chain brewpubs and have won GABF and World Beer Cup medals.
    But I can't seem to land a decent job in this industry. I was offered one in Hawaii, but that fell through due to the owner not willing to take a risk on a "mainlander" and having second thoughts ... I was offered another in Pennsylvania, but talking with the brewer and owner and looking at the brewhouse, I passed that one up, despite the generous pay offer ... but, otherwise, nothing. Is it simply bad luck? Too much competition?

    At this point, I am ridiculously skilled and experienced. I am even pursuing some business classes and an MBA parttime (mostly for jobs outside of the industry). The only thing I lack is a BS in Fermentation Science from UC Davis -- and I sense that would be of limited value to me. (You can see my resume in the 'brewers for hire' section.)

    I am resigned to starting up another brewing operation at this point, and would probably prefer it, but it will probably take me another five years to put together the capital.

    But, I am still left wondering, am I correct in my assessment that most, if not all, will consider me either "too expensive, too big for my boots, or too much of a loser"? Are potential employers simply afraid that I will only stay a short while and then leave to open up my own operation?

    Any thoughts? Any suggestions?

    - John

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
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    64
    Hi John,
    I've spent some time on similar contemplations.
    Guess it depends on just what you want to do at this point.
    Just want to brew ...no matter what/where?
    Or do you want to own a beer brewery/pub/resturant.....mega-mass production plant...?

    Seems location is more vital than ever now.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
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    121
    Dude,

    Who knows what the motivations are of someone who doesnt hire you?

    If it was meant to be, you would be working there. Take an honest inventory of yourself, and see if there is something you still need to learn. Then learn it.

    Making a comment like
    "I am ridiculously skilled and experienced."
    says to me you have a huge ego. Turning down a good position with a good pay offer may not have been smart. Why did you turn it down? Not enough chance to be a superstar? Or was it for other reasons? There aren't many jobs out there. Of those available, there aren't many that pay enough to live on. So you can't be too choosy about where you want to live. If you are, then don't expect to be a brewer.

    My opinion: You answered your own question. The only thing that will satisfy you is opening another operation. I would bet potential employers can see that too regardless of your qualifications.

    Also if you loose your ego you wont have to make statements like
    "But, I am still left wondering, am I correct in my assessment that most, if not all, will consider me either "too expensive, too big for my boots, or too much of a loser"?"
    Now if that sounds harsh, sorry. Don't take it too personally. I don't even know you. You asked a question, and these are my thoughts. You need a certain amount of hubris to be an owner.

  4. #4
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    Jun 2003
    Location
    Austin, Texas
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    John, I think part of it is that there really aren't a lot of really primo brewing jobs out there. Brewmaster/head brewer jobs that pay enough to justify relocating (with all the hassles/expenses of that, particularly if you're married and/or have kids) and offer meaningful opportunities to make your mark are actually few and far between. There's a lot of competition for the ones that DO appear!

    And of course, just like being a great brewer doesn't mean a person is good at running a business, it also doesn't mean a person interviews well. But those skills, just like brewing skills, can be acquired.

    Best of luck!

    Tim

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
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    Some time ago,....I was interviewed by someone starting a new operation.
    Said she'd interviewed over 50 applicants and was amazed at the incredible level of egotistacal arrogance she found in even the most inexperianced brewers.
    Not sure why this seems all to common a perception I hear about these days. Perhaps some of the base reasons for why people get into this biz have changed as much as the industry itself.
    Perhaps it's an interview technique gone wrong , taught by the now desprate brewing schools.
    Perhaps a larger percentage of people are into it purley for money...wearing less sincerity to the craft.
    Who knows.
    I do know that after 18 years pro-experiance, it sure isn't about the money.
    It's still all about the brew day for me.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    San Diego County, California
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    Admissions, Confessions

    "Brewer's Pride" -- I'm guilty. In fact, I used to warn my guys against it. It seems too many in the industry have it excessively. Maybe it's because after a long, hard day's work with little pay, a brewer has little to show for it but some satisfaction and some pride. Perhaps we all overcompensate. An earlier resume of mine was titled "Humble Brewer."

    Pride bordering on arrogance, I may be guilty of as well. It takes a lot of confidence to think that one can succeed where others have failed. Perhaps I overcompensate, especially after my demise. Perhaps I still have something to prove.

    As for the job in Pennsylvania, no one wanted that job. It isn't about the money, it's about lifestyle. That job would have been too much headache, not enough satisfaction and maybe no pride when all was said and done. It was a good career move to decline the position, no regrets.

    I wanted to be honest with you all, because I wanted to be honest with myself and I wanted honest responses -- again, note my lack of anonymity.

    Keep it coming guys. No holds barred. Don't pull any punches. Just be civil.

    - John

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Dexter, MI USA
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    203
    Great thread!

    I love a little introspection.
    A great brewmaster should be a leader among men. Both physically and philosophically. A spiritual guide and advisor. Always strive to be true of heart and pure of intent, but most of all, remember the lessons learned. Read a Greek tragedy in your spare time. Hubris is a bad thing. Never works out well. Not even for gods, let alone mere men.

    After years in of "training" (working in breweries) I was finally able to open my own last year. It has not been an easy year, but it sounds like we all have our war stories. Time for a pint?

    The one thing I would like to add would be a perspective on "failure" from my father. (He's, well, like a consultant. Computer industry stuff, I don't know, I'm just a brewer!) Owning a brewery that goes out of business should not make you a failure or a loser. Or cause you to consider yourself one. (It does usually leave one very poor though!) Running a failing company can be one of the most challenging, stressful, demanding chores ever. You can gain strength, composure, new ideas, methods, thoughts. As long as you have comported yourself with honesty and grace (see pure of heart stuff above), you should definitely not carry that "L" around on your forehead. Like many things, easy to say, hard to do.

    In other industries having a company go out of business is more common, and acceptable. In fact, if you haven't failed, you haven't been trying hard enough.

    Whoops, grain's here. Gotta unload a semi!

    I say start a new brewery John.
    Aloha,
    Ron
    PS. Tired of $4? Try this, "Yeah, I owned a brewery once. Talk about down in flames! Buy me a pint, let me tell you all about it. Now, it wasn't like this place no, we..."

  8. #8
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    Oct 2002
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    Exclamation Ouch!

    Sometimes, in these threads, stirring up the pot a bit makes for a vigorous boil ... Sometimes these kettles get awfully hot!

    I admit, I am not the be-all-end-all of brewers. In fact, amongst experienced brewers I consider myself rather ordinary. I don't have a basket full of GABF medals, nor have I yet started a successful brewery.

    I know that Henry Ford at 40 years old was considered a washed up tinkerer before he started the Ford Motor Co. and he twice failed at that before he was successful.

    Thomas Edison failed in his attempts to make a working lightbulb ~1000 times before he was successful. A reporter once asked him about the wasted time and effort of these first thousand attempts and Edison responded something like 'I didn't waste my time. Now I know a thousand things that don't work!'

    Lincoln ran for congress a number of times and lost each time before he successfully ran for president.

    I am proud of my efforts despite the failures and I won't hide one bit. I know that more investors now are interested in me after my failure than they were in my initial attempt. Some people, however, won't like it. Oh, well.

    It's time for me to move on. Kettle's boiling...

    - John

  9. #9
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    Dec 2004
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    Mukilteo, WA
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    304

    Maybe it's the location, John...........

    That's a pretty serious question in a LOT of careers........"Am I over qualified for the field I'm trying to grow in?"

    In my most humble opinion, and I'm sorry I can't tip a malted beverage with you while talking this over, I would say that you probably are for the region you're in. From what I've read of you in other posts, you've got an entrepreneurial spirit, and oftentimes what people are willing to hire and pay for in our fair industry are sheep.

    You aren't a sheep.

    Neither am I. Too bad we didn't meet 5 years ago.

    I ask myself this question all the time. I have a BS in Manufacturing Engineering and have designed, engineered, permitted, built, welded, hammered, screwed, plumbed, wired, licensed, etc, etc., two Breweries; one still operating after 11 years and the other due to launch this late summer. I have over 21 years in the Engineering field; Earthmoving, Aircraft, and Brewing. I can do load analysis as well as thermodynamic evaluations. I can get a Brewery shutdown due to equipment failure operating again in a day......if not hours and minutes.

    I own my own business because noone could afford to hire me and I don't have enough chemistry training for A-B, Miller, Coors, etc.........not that I would work for them. I prefer the smaller to regional Breweries.

    John, I don't mention my experiences here to draw attention, but to say that you DO have a lot of experience and that can be a snick intimidating to many business owners. Also, many in this industry aren't looking to pay for the Brewer who's a Swiss Army Knife.........they're looking for a guy who shows up to work on time and just plods along.

    I have this ongoing arguement with some my colleagues up here in the Northwest. They want to be the "vanilla" kind of guy who just wants to do the brewing.......no marketing........no hardware knowledge......no troubleshooting. They want top dollar for just that.

    Of all things, an enterperneurial spirit is one of THE most effective tools a Brewer can have in his kit, and it doesn't come from a school, a book, or being the son of the owner. It comes from "growing a hair" and laying it out on the table like you have done. I say that's an awesome skill, and you should do what it takes to "command your own ship" again. With that, I'ld say get out of SoCal and try to re-locate to an area where the opportunity is better and the costs are lower.
    The re-locating and starting over........that's what takes real yarbles. I had to do it myself when I was 26 moving from flatland Illinois out to the Puget Sound. Exciting and scarey.

    Not everyone is successful in their first go around. It is said that Abraham Lincoln lost nearly every election he ran for prior to the Presidency. Edison had all sorts of crap come out of Menlo to gleen just a few good ideas. Kennedy had PT109, and Captain Kirk lost a destroyer in combat prior to getting command of the USS Enterprise (OH GOD......did I say that or think it! Somebody shoot me.).

    My 'put is to re-locate, find a kindred Brewing spirit, pool your ideas and resources, and hoist the sails again! Build a plan, and stick to it.

    Good luck, and "Illigitimi Non Carborundum"........don't let the bastards wear you down!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Dexter, MI USA
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    203
    John!

    Don't say ouch! I was trying to hint for you to look inward for strength, give you inspiration to move forward, and make a point that no one is the perfect whatever (I think I said, if you haven't failed, you aren't trying hard enough? Everybody "famous" failed at something at least once, and many more than that!) and say what Brian stated (he did it better though!)

    So take heart! Open another brewery (I think I said that too!)

    After everyone's histories, I'm beginning to feel under qualified! I had no idea about Captain Kirk.

    I would enjoy a pint with all of you!

    bumbling through with Aloha,
    Ron

  11. #11
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    Oct 2002
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    San Diego County, California
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    Red face Playful Open Response to Private Message

    "Ouch!"

    My "ouch!" response was not a response to anything said in this thread. Rather it was a playful open response to a rather nitpicky private message regarding mostly the format of my resume and my lack of certifications.

    I very much appreciate the things that have been said in this thread and I don't disagree really with any of it.

    I simply wished to broach a topic that I think has crossed a few minds in this biz, namely that a lot experience can sometimes play against you in an industry with a ton of competition from aspiring entrants, be they brewers or owners.

    Worried about costs, a lot of owners consider replacement value of a brewer over value added. A highly experienced brewer is going to cost more than a newer entry. This is going to be the case until people realize that brewing doesn't pay well and consequently there are fewer entrants into the industry. This will also continue as long as craft brewed beer is undervalued by the consumer and priced the way it is ... In time, microbrewers will make headway, the consumers will come around and be willing to pay more for a specialty product and the number of people coming into the industry will decrease...

    Until then entry and re-entry into the industry will be challenging to say the least ...

  12. #12
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    Oct 2003
    Location
    Santa Rosa CA USA
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    What is failure?

    "Failing" in business may only be about a previous situation with cashflow. The pivot is what did you learn from the experience. I'd rather hire a brewer that had been in a failed brewery than a brewer that didn't understand the potential downsides of their actions. One becomes a failure only if one didn't learn all the lessons they could/should have from the business going under. Consider it going for your MBA...did you graduate?

  13. #13
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    virtual MBA

    Did I get my "MBA"?

    My business advisers think that my experiences qualify as an MBA. And I, myself, believe that the lessons learned from the experience qualify for a virtual MBA ... or, at least, I did, before the doubts surfaced ...

    I've taken some business classes lately and have been somewhat surprised at how much I did learn in my brewery self-employment. (Boy, was I a greenhorn when I started!) Of course, I didn't learn everything, but I realized just how valuable and educational experience can be ...

    However, many, not seeing any certifications, either in brewing or in business administration, discount my experience as relatively meaningless. Couple that with the challenges I've had finding employment since my self-employment stint and I've started to have doubts.

    That's why I started this thread, to address at least one of the questions plaguing me in my search for employment (in the brewing industry and outside of it).

    Everyone that used to work for me found jobs nearly immediately. Before I worked for myself, finding work had never been difficult ... but lately, it's like I've fallen off of the face fo the earth.

    Thanks in part to the responses to this thread, I've been able to retain what self-confidence I have remaining and I know now more certainly that I likely have to open another brewery if I ever am to have a position in this industry again.

    Thanks to all who responded. It is the camaraderie in this industry that makes it so bearable in the tough times.

    - John

  14. #14
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    post script

    PS: The reference to Captain Kirk was entirely appropriate even though the character is fictional. It doesn't matter if he (or others like Jesus Christ) existed or not, the important thing is the value of the lesson(s). I, too, once used an illustration from Star Trek to help elaborate a point with one of my fellow employees.

    Of course, he thought I was nuts.

    - J

  15. #15
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    Oct 2002
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    64
    "Having a thing is not always as pleasing as wanting a thing".....it is illogical,...but often true."
    Spock

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