Jim Koch is an American entrepreneur, author and a passionate beer lover who left his lucrative business in Wall Street to start his own beer company, Boston Beer, from scratch and make it among the most successful brands in the US market with an annual revenue of around $1 billion. I have read a few books about Koch, including his book, Quench Your Own Thirst: Business Lessons Learned Over a Beer or Two, and below are four lessons I believe you should learn from Koch`s thrilling life.
Koch had a business and law degree from Harvard and had a lucrative, high-paying job, yet he wasn’t happy. When he thought about the whole situation, he realized that consulting wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. So he quit after spending five years at a consulting group in Boston and went to do what he loved best; manufacturing and selling beer.
“Getting rich is life’s biggest booby trap. It comes down to what would you rather be, happy or rich? I say do what’s gonna make you happy.” – Jim Koch
If you still can’t find your calling or have wasted a couple of years working on something you later found out doesn`t fit you, don`t worry. Koch`s career path wasn`t linear. He began his adult life deciding to be in the beer business. In fact, he was encouraged not to do so by his father whose net income in the last six months of his brewing career was less than $500.
Koch found his calling at the age of 34 and believes he wouldn’t have made it without his many career wanderings, including working as an outward bound instructor and spending three and a half years mountaineering across America.
One of the lessons he learned from that job is that you never climb a mountain to get to the middle. You either aim for the top or don`t climb at all. With this lesson in mind, Koch intended to make The Boston Beer Company the biggest high-end beer in America, and now his net worth is over $1 billion.
When he launched his first product, Koch`s best idea was to hire someone to sell it for him because, though he knew a lot about brewing and the law, he wasn’t a good salesman. Unfortunately, none of the five Boston-based wholesalers agreed to represent him thinking the market wasn’t ready for an expensive American beer.
So he got himself a wholesaler license, leased a truck and hovered around Boston cold-calling bars. They liked his beer, and the wholesaler`s cut went into his pocket.
“The values you want to live have to come from your own living heart. You have to be the best model of those values. You have to push yourself to the highest possible standard, because it’s not reasonable to expect anybody else to have a higher standard than you do as a leader.” – Jim Koch
One Friday morning, a friend left a message with Koch`s secretary that he would call him on Monday. Unfortunately, that man didn’t make it and died of a heart attack on Sunday.
So Koch asked for that message to be framed and hung on his office wall to remind him that Monday doesn’t always come. The lesson here is simple; life is short and whatever you have on your plate do it ASAP, if not now.
One of the things you must do, according to Koch, is to start collecting experiences as quickly as possible. If you’re in your twenties or thirties, the best question to ask yourself is “What experiences will I regret not having ten years from now?”
Write them down, make a plan and a deadline and use necessity and pressure to force yourself to take action because you probably won’t have enough time or freedom to do many things once you start a career, get married, and have a family.
Build the habit of taking actions quickly. Procrastinate less when it comes to exercising, learning new things, working on your relationships and building the skills that bring happiness and/or more money.
Life is also short relationship-wise. You don’t know when your loved ones will go. A parent, a friend, or that cheerful old lady who greets you every time you meet on the streets. One day, one of you will leave, and you don’t know whether you`ll ever have a goodbye moment together.
So make it a habit each day of calling somebody you haven’t seen in years or make sure your friends or parents are okay. It will make both of you feel good, and when that inevitable moment comes, you won’t have many regrets.