A brew master’s guide to leadership

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in Profiles in Leadership

Jim Koch is a sixth-generation craft brew master. But unlike previous generations, he built a beer empire, Boston Beer Co., that brings in annual revenues of more than $500 million.

Here’s what inspires and drives the man behind Sam Adams beer:

How he gets it all done: “At the beginning of each day, I ask myself: What are the three most important things I need to get done? Despite distractions, pressures and opportunities that come up, I make sure I’ve done those three things before the day is over.”

What he reads for inspiration: Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming. One of the book’s key messages is about driving out fear. “As a former mountain climber, that resonated,” says Koch. “Until you drive out fear, your mind can’t focus on making clear, good decisions.”

How he stays connected: Eschewing market research and focus groups, Koch spends time with customers in other ways. “I still do a lot of street selling and spending a lot of time in front of cus­tomers,” he says, “whether it’s trying to get a draft line or a better place on the shelf.... To me that’s a lot higher quality information.”

Who inspires him: Among those who inspire him are George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, two of the best pre-World War II climbers. And Mother Teresa, who said, “Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough, but do it anyway.”

“Three people I wish I could have over for a beer: [The late] Steve Jobs, Eric Shipton, the last of the great British mountaineers and explorers ... and W. Edwards Deming, who demonstrated there’s more value from quality than from efficiency."

How he handles challenges: As a former mountain climber and guide, he easily equates a challenge to a mountain’s summit. “No one ever climbs a mountain to get to the middle,” he says. “You don’t focus on the difficulties; you take it one step at a time knowing you’re going to get to the top.”

— Adapted from “Boston Beer Co.’s Jim Koch on Self Reliance,” Teri Evans, Entrepreneur.

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