Day 490 (Start of 4th semester)

Here we go! Fifteen weeks to the finish line. This final semester seems to be less about brewing, and more about business, probably not a bad thing since most of the students want to start up a brewery or brewpub sometime in the not-too-distant future.   Since these future projects will probably involve a few employees, it makes sense to start the semester with Fundamentals of Human Resources. Human resources refers to maximizing the effective use of people in a way that benefits both the employees and the company. Regardless of whether you have five employees or hundreds, this will involve

  • recruitment and selection (hiring)
  • discipline (including firing)
  • performance appraisal
  • training and development
  • compensation, rewards and benefits
  • job analysis and design
  • and human resource planning (for instance, how many employees will be retiring next year, etc.)

However, as instructor Nelson Lacroix explained, we only have 15 weeks to cover a field that people can spend years studying, so rather than delving deeply into a lot of theory, Nelson will provide us with human resources processes that are common to all workplaces, and we’ll see how those processes fit into a brewery setting.

Next up was The Beer Industry, a course that is supposed to introduce us to the brewery industry and its associations, as well as the industry’s relationship with federal, provincial and municipal government regulations and departments. Our instructor is Jason Fisher, owner of the Indie Ale House in Toronto. Jason began brewing beer as a high school project, but despite this promising start, he put aside his brew kettle to earn a degree in chemistry before becoming a very successful marketing analyst. However, brewing always called to him, so four years ago, he set aside his PowerPoint presentations and began the process of opening a brewpub. Minna Antri once said, “Experience is a a good teacher, but she sends in terrific bills.” Jason freely admits that he made every mistake in the book–hopefully this class will allow us to by-pass some of his more painful (and expensive) learning experiences.

The first thing he suggested is that we immediately begin to build a network of people we can call on for information and help when we need it. That’s not necessarily just when we run into brewing problems, of course. Sometimes, being on good terms with a plumber, electrician or banker is just as important.

Jason also hinted at some of the bureaucracy we are going to face. The new federal Canadian Small Business Loans program, for instance, would seem to be very helpful. In Ontario, a business owner can apply for a loan of up to $350,000. However, there are a few caveats and quid pro quos:

  • The business owner has to provide up-front collateral for 25% of the loan (that is, something worth $87,500).
  • The loan can only be used for nut-and-bolts equipment purchases, not services or other intangibles.
  • You only get the money after the equipment has been installed–meaning you have to cover the purchase price until the government cheque arrives
  • And the loan only covers 90% of the equipment’s cost. (This means it’s really a loan of $350,000 on the purchase of $390,000 of equipment, so you still have to come up with $40,000 of your own money, on top of the $87,500 of collateral.)

As usual, it seems that if you can afford the  loan, you probably are wealthy enough that you don’t need the loan.

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