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National Small Business Week

Sam Adams Founder: To Compete With Giants, 'Bring Your Small-Business Game'

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC
5 min read

When starting a business in an industry dominated by Goliaths, your people have to be your biggest secret weapon. You can’t be carrying dead weight -- employees who are half-hearted about your mission, eyeing the clock. But finding the right people and bringing them into your team is a process that takes time and careful consideration.

In 2013, Boston Beer Company had revenues of $739 million, sold 3.4 million barrels of beer and had over 1,100 employees. That’s a far cry from the eight people and $1 million in sales founder Jim Koch dreamed of having “one day” when he was launching Samuel Adams, the company’s signature beer, in 1984.

But while Koch has superseded even his wildest dreams, the Boston Beer Company represents just a small segment of the broader beer industry. Last year, brewing giants MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev earned $7.8 billion and $43.2 billion, respectively.

“We have to compete with these enormous global companies 50 to 100 times our size,” Koch told during National Small Business Week in Washington, D.C.

To stay alive, Koch has continued to “bring his small-business game” by staying innovative and nimble. He’s also remained dedicated to hiring the right people. “It is very important for a small business that is growing quickly to focus on maintaining the culture which has to happen with, by and through all the people. So we were very careful about who we hired.”

It took Boston Beer Company 18 months to hire a salesperson from Arizona. She started 15 years ago, and is still with the company, Koch says.

Watch this video to learn about how Koch grew the Boston Beer Company into the biggest of the little beer companies and how he built a rock-solid team.


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