And Then There Was One

Did I say no partners? If the right woman person came along, I might be persuaded. They'd have to be perfect though. And blonde. Very blonde. The past 6 weeks or so since I announced my partnership with Nate have been very busy and very intense. Within just a few days of Nate saying he was on board we were dividing and executing tasks like mad men, sharing what we learned, making decisions. Lots of stuff knocked out very quickly. (As an aside, we've been using Asana to accomplish all of our task management and follow up. It's free and highly, HIGHLY recommended. Seriously, check it out.)

Nate and I have been a well-oiled machine bouncing ideas off of each other, taking on tasks that best suit our strengths and personalities, compromising on ideas that then turned into better ideas. It's been great. However, there have been some big issues dividing us.

For me, a big part of this journey, a big motivator to finish this, is leaving something for my kids to take over should they choose (and they damn well better!). That desire has always been at the base of the Panic Alarmist Brewing pyramid. I want my kids to see that if you work hard, dreams really, truly come true. (Ok, not all dreams, 'cause if they ALL came true I'd be writing this aboard Charlize Theron's yacht anchored off the coast of Sardinia.) This is a very big deal to me. Well, guess what? If you have a partnership, you can pretty much kiss that goodbye. You partner doesn't necessarily want to work with your future grown up children, and vice versa. So that means you have to get a partnership agreement together to address what happens if you die or if you want to retire. Do your survivors get the run the business too or do they just get to collect checks from the business? What if the surviving partner runs the business into the ground? What if a partner wants to sell their share of the business because they're tired of the other partner coming to work naked every day save for the Green Bay Packers body paint he's sporting?

Yeah, lots of potential problems. Now, as cautious and methodical as I've been during this venture, I still manage to make mistakes. The single biggest mistake I've made thus far was not really sitting down and thinking about what a partnership means today and more importantly, tomorrow. I've never started up a business before, solo or otherwise, so I'm still learning. But I really fucked up when I offered Nate a partnership without considering all the implications.

Now there is NOTHING wrong with Nate. He's a great guy and we've become really great friends (and despite a tough week still are). Nate brings a LOT to the table and any brewery that were to take him on would be a very lucky brewery indeed. He has all the passion, energy, and intelligence required to make it happen.

At the end of the day, however, we have different needs from the business. Not recipe needs, which we were in a lot of agreement on, or marketing needs or anything specifically related to a brewery. As a 45 year old man, I always have an eye looking down the road a ways. Seriously, when you get my age, you'll completely understand. Things just change, especially with children involved. Nate is in his early thirties and he has a few more good years ahead of him than I do. That alone makes for a difficult path to a partnership agreement.

So Nate and I will not be partnering on Panic Alarmist Brewing. I will continue solo and will not be partnering with anyone. Nate and I agreed that we should post about this for the simple fact that most brewery start ups involve two or more founders, it seems. We wanted to try to help anyone considering a partnership by letting them know what it was that kept our partnership from becoming a reality. We put far too little thought into the future of the partnership and we were dumb. I was the dumbest. Don't just think about what your needs are today, really, really think about what you need in the partnership down the road.

And don't think this is the last you've seen of Nate Barth in the Chicago craft beer scene. Oh no. We have some other ideas floating around. It'll be awhile, but I have a strong suspicion he may be back on the radar down the road.

Nate and I had a great run, we learned an incredible amount of stuff, not just partnership stuff. It's been a great life lesson and we're both much better off for having gone through it. Better to figure this stuff out now then when we're running a 50,000 bbl brewery and I have to keep seeing Nate's green and yellow dyed junk during football season. Right?



A New Sheriff In Town

As much as I want to own and run a brewery, of equal importance is gaining independence. I've been in corporate America for a very long time and quite frankly, I just don't fit it. I never have. Whenever I have a moment of doubt about opening this brewery, there are many things I can think of to get myself back on track. One of the best motivators is realizing I'll finally make my own decisions about what I need to do and not answer to anyone else but my customers. That feeling of total independence is going to be incredibly satisfying to me, so much so that any risks involved are far outweighed by the ability to call my own shots the way I want to call them without anyone else telling me I can or can't. And no stupid meetings either. Part of this fierce independence I've been seeking is to do this alone. No partners. No arguments, no compromises, just me and enough rope to hang myself. So it came as a surprise to me a couple of weeks ago when I decided that perhaps I'd like to share that independence with someone. Which seems somewhat dependent. The story goes like this:

I have this friend whom I met through one of my homebrewing clubs (shout out to HOPS!) a couple of years ago. Over time we've become pretty damn good friends. My passion for craft beer and brewing is equaled by his. So a few months ago I threw the idea out to him that maybe he'd be interested in working for Panic Alarmist at some point down the road. He liked the idea, but felt it was impractical due to finances. I didn't put much thought into after that and just proceeded as usual. In the interim, by friend had a bit of an epiphany. So a couple of weeks ago he wanted to know if we could hook up and drink some beers. He came over to my place, we had a couple of brews, then he said something along the lines of, "So you remember you asked me about working for you a couple of months ago...."

That conversation began a whirlwind of phone calls, texts, and emails between us and a dinner at our house with my friend, his wife, and their new baby boy. Another week passed, more messaging, a few fits of panic (see?) and now here we are. In the past couple of weeks I've changed my mind about how to get this brewery up and running and successful. I could definitely do it myself, but the problem is I don't have all the answers and the ones that I do are going to be wrong sometimes. I don't have a monopoly on good ideas or bad ones. And my stress level is increasing on a daily basis due to more phone calls, more emails, more texts. There are so many moving parts to this process and I have a full time job that I have to balance with family life.

I need a partner. Someone who is passionate about this business, someone who knows how to brew well, someone I can easily work with, someone with an excellent sense of humor, someone who'll rub my feet when my wife can't. That someone is:

Charlize Theron Nathan Barth!

Here we see Nate and is lovely wife Rebecca enjoying a cocktail in the tropics. What I haven't told him is that the only vacations any of us will be taking in the next couple of years will be to Branson, Missouri to see the "Three Redneck Tenors" show.

Nate brings a lot to the table and I think we'll be great partners. Yes everyone seems to have a story about two friends who became business partners and then hated each other. I have one of those stories as well. There's a big difference here and that is we seem to agree on just about everything and when we don't, we are able to complement each other in a way that's kinda scary. I'm loud, obnoxious, opinionated where as Nate is quiet, unassuming, and thinks before he speaks. Nate is a native Wisconsinite and Green Bay fanatic. I am sports agnostic (and I'm from Indiana).

Nate also brews some bad ass beer including an IPA which won a homebrew competition (in which I also competed) and was then brewed at Haymarket Brewing. We are in a lot of agreement as to where we want to go with our beers and any differences in opinion on ingredients or processes will only make the final beer better. We are both in strong agreement that New Glarus is one of the best breweries on Earth.

I'll let Nate introduce himself in a future blog post but for now please welcome him to Panic Alarmist Brewing. Nate will be a full 50/50 partner with me. I'll be getting him up to speed on all research and we'll be splitting up tasks and knocking 'em down twice as fast. We've already starting mapping those tasks out, discussing recipe ideas, marketing ideas, lots more.

Nate has already got me thinking about how we can improve the Panic Alarmist logo and overall branding. There will be plenty of dynamite, but we're going to head in another direction with it and it's going to be fabulous. Stay tuned for that.

In other news, I met with an SBA lender last Friday and it was fantastic. Lots of good feedback and well, it looks like we may have ourselves a lender. Lots can go wrong until the deal is signed, but I'm feeling very, very good about where we are. I'll have lots more to write about that as we figure out the details. This is the single biggest piece of the Panic Alarmist Brewing puzzle.