How to Lead With Grace Through Tragedy

Jim Koch, the brewmaster behind Sam Adams Lager, talks about how his business responded to the Boston Marathon bombings.

learn more about Catherine Clifford

By Catherine Clifford

Samuel Adams Blog

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If tough times make great leaders, then Boston is a city filled with great leaders.

While entrepreneurs spend most of their days obsessing over their business operations, when an unexpected tragedy upends a community, as it did in Boston last week, business owners often end up becoming local leaders.

Countless businesses donated time, money and resources, helping the city band together. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Menino created The One Fund Boston for corporate and individual donations. As of Friday, $25 million was collected businesses, including nearly $17 million from businesses, including large corporations such as Bank of America, Bain Capital and the Boston Celtics.

How to Lead Your Business With Grace When Tragedy Befalls Your Community
All of the profits made from the Boston 26.2 Brew will go towards the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Image credit: The Boston Beer Co.

Smaller businesses, in addition to giving money, have found creative ways to give back. The Tasty Burger restaurant located in the heart of downtown Boston invited emergency-response workers for a free meal in the two days following the disaster. Also, accommodation-booking service Airbnb waived fees for customers who checked in on the Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday after the bombings.

Related: What Craft Beer Can Teach You About Business Growth: Best Advice from Jim Koch of Sam Adams

Sam Adams Lager, brewed by The Boston Beer Co., has become an iconic brand for Boston. In the wake of the Marathon bombings, Boston Beer and its founder Jim Koch, responded quickly to the tragedy unfolding on its doorstep. The steps that Koch and his company took can serve as guidance for leading through troubled times.

1. Attend to employees first. As a business owner, your first responsibility is to your employees. Boston Beer had more than 40 employees working near the finish line and along the marathon route, says Koch. Immediately following the bombings, Koch sought to contact every employee on site to ensure he or she was safe.

Cell reception shut down in the region immediately following the explosions to prevent any other bombs from being remotely detonated, so it took some time for Koch to hear back from employees. He eventually accounted for all.

Related: Boston Beer Co.'s Jim Koch on Self Reliance

2. Give generously and quickly. Boston Beer had brewed a beer for the marathon, called the Boston 26.2 Brew to be available along the racecourse and throughout the city. Immediately following the bombings, Koch committed to donate all of the profits from its sales of the 26.2 Brew to a local foundation, The Greg Hill Foundation, run by and named for a local radio personality. In addition, the company is donating the profits it from brewery tours in April to the victims and their families.

Because Boston Beer is involved in the community, Koch knew Greg Hill and his foundation. Also, Koch didn't have to go through corporate red tape to donate from corporate coffers. "We can just make a decision that morning. This is what we are going to do," he says.

Related: Startups Offer Aid After Boston Marathon Attack

3. Invest in the future. Boston Beer was a sponsor of the Boston Marathon this year, and immediately following the bombings, Koch committed to sponsor the race next year. "We need to come back strong," he says. Every year, the Boston Marathon is run on Patriots' Day, a holiday honoring the first battles of the Revolutionary War. "One important thing is not to let this kind of event diminish all the wonderful things that happened to Boston on that day," Koch says.

Has your business ever had to react to a tragedy in your community? If so, what did you think was your most critical responsibility? Leave a note below and let us know.

Catherine Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

This 61-Year-Old Grandma Who Made $35,000 in the Medical Field Now Earns 7 Figures in Retirement
A 'Quiet Promotion' Will Cost You a Lot — Use This Expert's 4-Step Strategy to Avoid It
3 Red Flags on Your LinkedIn Profile That Scare Clients Away
'Everyone Is Freaking Out.' What's Going On With Silicon Valley Bank? Federal Government Takes Control.

How to Detect a Liar in Seconds Using Nonverbal Communication

There are many ways to understand if someone is not honest with you. The following signs do not even require words and are all nonverbal queues.

Business News

'Things Will Go Wrong.' Google Releases Its Chatbot Bard With Caution.

The AI-powered search tool went live today to a limited number of users in the U.S. and the U.K.

Business News

These Are the Most and Least Affordable Places to Retire in The U.S.

The Northeast and West Coast are the least affordable, while areas in the Mountain State region tend to be ideal for retirees on a budget.

Business News

Carnival Cruise Wants Passengers to Have Fun in the Sun — But Do This, and You'll Get Burned With a New $500 Fee

The cruise line's updated contract follows a spate of unruly guest behavior across the tourism industry.