A marvelous occurrence happened at Kalispell Brewing Company in the past nine months: I am no longer really needed. I say this with both pride and awe. What it means is that although I’m not at the brewery on a daily basis — no longer racing between pouring beers in the taproom, taking calls in the one claustrophobically small office in the entire building, responding to emails between bites of food gulped and slurped between meetings — I am still very much part of the company.
It’s just that my role has changed.
And it truly is marvelous because of what’s happened at the brewery. I should clarify: It’s not so much what as who. Eons ago, in 2012, Cole and I began the extensive renovation project that would hold the brewery and taproom. We didn’t know exactly what kind of staffing would be required when we opened in 2014 or how those needs would evolve throughout our five years of operation. Like most small businesses, we did it all at first. This is important for so many reasons, including the fact that we knew every detail, or at least pretended to know what we were doing required of running a business.
Five year later, our business has grown. And so have our staffing needs, and it’s not just positions that are required to make and serve craft beer but the people who do it. We’ve been unbelievably fortunate to employ many good, talented, creative, and dedicated people that we often pinch ourselves. Many many of these employees have stuck around since 2014. And you know what is really cool about this? They’ve grown too. They’ve wanted to grow, to expand their role, to take on new responsibilities and challenges. They have ideas on how to make the place better, ones that I hadn’t even considered. And we’ve cultivated new staff members, who’ve quickly bonded with the entire KBC family and brought new energy to the entire place.
So, I stepped aside. And you know what? We’re better for it. Employees have become leaders where I likely would have taken over, fearful of control, narrow in my thinking that I was the only person who could do x, y or z. Admittedly this process of me going from hands-on full-court press owner to a more strategic role was not without its hiccups and heartaches. It took a solid year of planning and relationship building to happen. It took many mistakes that required that serious 2 a.m. gut check to clarify our goals and vision, as well as how I went about communicating such. It took a lot of courage on the part of our employees to say, yes, I am ready and willing. I will do this.
You might look at a pint of craft beer and not see what I see. What I see is courage and verve, community and dreams. What I see is a much bigger vision of a brewery than when I tightly held the reins. I look at beer and see pride.
Pride in people, and that tastes really good.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.