COVID-19 Survival Blog #10 - Getting a Little Sentimental

Getting a little sentimental

I mentioned alllllllll the way back in blog post #6 (what week are we in?) that we had employees of ours telling us that they felt bad for us directly after the meeting we held to temporarily lay them off.

How insane is that?

I thought about titling this post "How to be hugged by your employees when you lay them off" or something clickbait-y like that, and then making fun of myself for such a ridiculous title, but then I realized making a joke out of it would do a disservice to the amazing people that I am lucky enough to work alongside every day. So the tone of this post is instead going to underscore how we truly feel about our team.

Yup, things are going to get a little sappy. But first, some background...

Our employee levels fluctuate due to the seasonal nature of our business. The Carson pub in particular is highly seasonal for a few reasons. For one, people don't want to come down the gorge nearly as much during the winter months (because, let's face it, it's a garbage place to be in the winter, at least if you compare it to the awesomeness of a gorge summer).  During the slower months we are just over 70 employees, and in the summer we'll have north of 90 including part time.

Our company changes constantly. No year has been even close to the year prior. In the past five years we have moved the brewery into a new building, switched distributors, opened a new pub in Portland, been through significant leadership changes at the top level, and experienced a pandemic. In that order. All the while, our beers change constantly, our buildings and infrastructure often  fall apart and/or break at inopportune times, and our sales are on a constant growth path.

Sound like a comfortably boring place to work? Sound like a place that you can clock in, push your papers, clock out, and leave it all at the desk until you come back the next day? Not a chance.

Still, though, our team takes it all in stride. I've personally heaped work on employees' heads that I never expected they could realistically complete in the time that they have available, and been amazed when it all comes together after they went the extra mile to get it done.

When we come out with a new beer, all of our servers memorize the descriptions and the stories behind the beers. I know the GMs are standing by to beat it into their brains if they don't have it memorized fast enough, but I've honestly never heard a story of one of them failing a pop quiz on any of our beers. They're always curious and excited to hear about the new one. They care that much.

And the team is so creative! Great ideas come from all corners of the company. There are beers that we come out with that I can pick apart - from individual ingredients, to name, to label design, to selling strategy - and tell you the various people who came up with each piece of its creation. One of our team got all excited about stickers at some point a year or so ago and created a sticker of the month program without any prompting (and still maintains it today). Now that we've done so many of these stickers, it's getting to the point where it's hard to think of doing a beer release without a corresponding sticker. And Backwoods devotees EAT. IT. UP. I have no idea how much in sales those little stickers have contributed to our releases, but it's a lot, and each time we do it the excitement grows even more.

So back to my clickbait title - where does this all come from? How did we, the genius leaders of Backwoods make such a stellar team of humans?

Easy answer: We didn't. They're making themselves every day.

The culture of Backwoods is growing more positive constantly, and it's all of their own individual faults. Everyone is contributing to make the company and the team better. They really do care that much.

Sure, we work hard to make sure that people feel like they're cared for and that their needs are addressed. And a premium is definitely placed on everyone speaking their minds and keeping the creativity flowing. But that's pretty much the only tone at the top that we employ to keep everyone on the team excited to figure out new and fun ways to keep contributing. The rest they just fill in themselves with creativity and an insane amount of dedication.

So, you see why it was so hard to let some of them go six weeks ago, even if it was only temporarily. It was a process I hope we never go through again. But still, like I said in post #6, they continued to be troopers. They hugged ME. Told ME it was going to be okay. And then got on their computers and figured out how to file for unemployment.

By the way, this weekend we're re-opening the Portland location for takeout, which is bringing some of the team back at both pubs (because we were using a couple of Portland crew in Carson to fill some gaps, and now they'll be back in Portland). With every team member that comes back, we feel a little more complete as a company. We can't wait until this is all over and we can have the whole family back.

Sappy enough? Deal with it. We're light hearted most of the time.