Phase 8: Work Towards Opening Day

It will seem to most people who follow craft beer or are interested in your brewery that you have just started the process here.  The reality of this is you are likely about 3 years in when you get to this point.  The 5-6 months of retrofitting a space is actually the home stretch, and what a long home stretch it is.

First things first, pace yourself.  Earlier on in the process I was able to pull a few nights straight with 4 or 5 hours sleep, but at this point it is not possible (for me at least).  Know your body, and know what you need, and don’t exceed the limit.  Breaking down here mentally or physically is not an option, so that means cut down on the booze, eat right and do something where you can forget about what you are doing for an hour or two here and there.  I feel like this process makes you run a mental and physical marathon every day, and if you aren’t prepared for it, it will start to take a toll on you.

So here are the things that are important as you work towards opening day, and this list will be a long one:

  1. Licences:  I have written about this in other parts of my blog, but don’t forget about all the licences you need to start the brewery and stay on top of them.  It would be a shame to get to opening day and not have all the licences you need.
  2. Other Gov’t Stuff:  Don’t forget about a PST number, Excise tax, label requirements from CFIA, Serving it Right (this in BC), eBC tax credit program or other government incentives, payroll tax, permits at City hall for building, and so on and so on.  Don’t drop the ball on any of this stuff, as it will be a nightmare if you do.
  3. Marketing:  Holy crap. do as much of this as early on as you can, as when you get close to opening day, it is easy to get pushed down the list.  Be wary also, as doing too much too early on can result a brand that doesn’t evolve, but rather seems forced.
  4. Sales:  We are about 1 month away from opening our doors, and I am starting to make sales calls, getting to know people and find out how different places work.  I think this is important, as if you are like me and you have no experience, getting out there and meeting people is a great tact to take.
  5. Accounting:  Don’t fall behind.  Period.  If you do, the mountain of work ahead of you can seem daunting and overwhelming.  I try to do all our books once a month, when all the credit card and bank statements become available to me.  Any less than this, and you get a little accounting anxiety.
  6. Investor Relations:  Keep on top of all your financial supporters as much as you can.  It isn’t much work and you never know when you are going to need their support and help.  The investors that are working with us have been fantastic, and we are so thankful for their help and encouragement.
  7. Brewhouse:  Order this bad-boy early, and when you do, like any of the other equipment you order, try your hardest to agree to a delivery date, and make sure the date is written into the contract.  You may not be able to do much if they don’t make that date, but at least it will potentially motivate them to give you a realistic date to work with.
  8. Conditioning and fermenting tanks:  When it comes to installing the tanks, make sure you give yourself about 3 weeks for running glycol lines and connecting them up.  This can be a really in-depth process that is full of pitfalls and challenges.  Also, don’t forget about budgeting for seismically fixing these tanks to the ground.  We have to drill holes and stick bolts into the ground, and also weld steel to keep them secure in the case of an earthquake.
  9. Bottling and Canning Line:  This is an area that you might want to save a big outlay of cash and just use contract canning.  We are doing this, and while our per can cost is way higher than we are comfortable with, the ability to save an outlay of $125,000 in cash is too good of an option for us.
  10. Floors:  Hopefully the last thing you need to think about is your floors, but we do, so maybe you do as well.  We need to get our floors ground and then sealed, so that the daily activities don’t permanently ruin the floor.  We missed a window we had earlier in the year, and it has turned out to be a good thing.  Doing this near the end means that we don’t have to worry about scuffing the floor once it is finished.  Doing it near the end is a very positive thing.
  11. Electrical and Mechanical work:  Wow, what a job this was for us.  Heaps of work involved in getting these things to the point they are now.  If you didn’t know it before, the Electrical and Mechanical sub-contracts are the most important you will give out.  So pick wisely.
  12. Tasting Room:  This is a mountain of work, as it the place where all your customers will interact with your business.  The look and feel of it have to match the vibe you are giving off for your brewery.  Visit any of the tasting rooms around Vancouver, or your area, and you will know what I mean.  The list is long, but we think you have to nail this.  So what will our space be?  You will have to come by for a visit and see it for yourself.
  13. Look and Feel of Tasting Room:  Have a vision for your space, and stick to it.  We are inspired by certain things, and you will find these things in our tasting room.  If we don’t like it, they aren’t in our room.
  14. Hiring Staff:  We are just starting to hire staff, so I don’t have too much here.  After about 20 interviews, I can tell you that it takes a long time to organize, plan and meet with people, so be as efficient and picky as you can be given the resumes you receive.  Our first interview was 15 minutes.
  15. Working with your Architect:  We are amazed how much throughout this process we have worked with our architect throughout this process.  The architect is kind of like the general manager of a team (where the coach is your general contractor, and you are the owner, etc … More on this in my blog later tonight).  The general manager knows everything that is going on, and is able to offer advice, make important decisions, and has their fingers in every aspect of what is going on.  A good architect will steer you away from trouble, keep you on schedule, help with access at the various levels of government and be someone who listens.
  16. All hands on deck for finishing at the brewery:  We are doing this now, and you should expect to get anyone that is available to help out at your space.  Painting, cleaning, moving things around, general labour, grunt work, putting together furniture, etc.  The list of things you need to get done is sooooo long its not even funny.  More to come on this later.

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