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Best Business Books as Recommended by Alcohol Industry Leaders

12 Leadership Books Craft Beverage Entrepreneurs Need to Read

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Leading a team in the alcohol industry is no small task. You have to manage employee turnover, team dynamics, finances — and employees’ livelihoods on the line. While it can be hard to make time for professional development training courses or sessions, you can certainly take a few minutes each day to learn and grow so you can better lead your team. 

When you start your professional development early, consuming helpful information and putting it to work is even easier, although it’s never too late either! “I’m a few years from retirement but I’m reading more business books than I ever have,” said Todd Ford, owner of NoDa Brewing Company. “I probably should’ve done that back in my twenties.”

In our inaugural season of Craftlab: The Podcast, we asked our guests to share books they would recommend to other entrepreneurs and alcohol industry professionals. While we would love to start a full-fledged Craftlab book club, hopefully this detailed list of recommendations will suffice! (And make sure you stick around for the end  — we have a few bonus additions!)

Books Our Podcast Guests Recommend

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

This book follows a fictional CEO through hard-pressed decision-making, something business owners and leaders do every day. This book highlights five dysfunctions that teams often face and how they play out in a real-world scenario. This book and the next recommendation are required reading for NoDa Brewing Company’s managers, according to Todd.

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman

This guide asks you to take a step back and consider whether you have a handle on your business or if your business has a handle on you. In any event, the Entrepreneurial Operating System discussed in this book provides a practical guide for your team to uncover and build on their strengths.

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown

While this book might not focus on the beverage industry, Todd recommends it for everyone anyways. “If you think her concepts are not applicable to your industry, you’re so far behind that you might never catch up,” he said. This book from University of Houston research professor Brené Brown explores misconceptions about leadership and how to build courage and skills that give you the chance to dare to lead.

The Road Less Stupid: Advice from the Chairman of the Board by Keith J. Cunningham

Doug Constantiner, CEO of Societe Brewing, says this book “funnels everything down to mastering the basics.” The Road Less Stupid acknlowedges what many won’t: smart people make dumb decisions too. In this book, entrepreneur Keith Cunningham walks through this simple fact and strategies for moving beyond your mistakes.

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber

Starting your own small business is a great plan — but what if you fail? The E-Myth Revisited looks at the lifecycle of a small business and dispels myths frequently found in the small business space. Michael Gerber is a small business consultant (in other words, he’s seen it all).

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by Jim Collins

Some companies explode with success and greatness, others just seem to do (for lack of a better word) fine. Why the difference? And how can you transform your “fine” business into a great one? Good to Great explores leadership, culture, technology, and more for taking your good business to the next level.

Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard

This is the book that Josh Hare, founder of Hops & Grain Brewing, reads at the start of every year (for the last 16 years, no less!). This book from the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, is an autobiography demonstrating how Yvon grew his business acumen and career all while creating a successful, sustainable business.

Terroir and Other Myths of Wine Growing by Mark A. Matthews

This wine-centric book focuses on myths that permeate the wine industry and questions whether some widely held beliefs, like the existence of terroir, are legitimate or simply marketing tactics holding winemakers back from creativity and higher-quality wines.

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein

Early in his career, COOP Ale Works founder Daniel Mercer says he thought his “generalism” was a deficit. While his friends and coworkers had a singular specialty they excelled in, he was pretty good at a lot of stuff. He says this book changed his whole perspective. This book’s focus on the strength of generalism and redefining success are so compelling that Daniel regularly gifts this book to young people and staff members at COOP.

The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand by Bonnie Harvey & Michael Houlihan 

This story about the slow and steady growth of Barefoot Wines shares hard-fought lessons and successes of a brand that brought in $664 million in 2021. A journalist interviewed countless members of the Barefoot team and other folks involved in building the brand to bring you this story of wine, business, and a couple that thought outside the box.

Beer School: Bottling Success at Brooklyn Brewery by Steve Hindy & Tom Potter

From a pair of brewers themselves, Beer School tells the tale of hardships and triumphs in the beverage industry. The pair teaches lessons on successful business plans, investors, marketing, employees, keeping your cool, and more.

Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Beer from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery by Sam Calagione

One of the nation’s fastest growing independent craft breweries is none other than Dogfish Head, and its founder, Sam Calagione shares his perspective on the complex nature of craft beer and small business. He also guides readers on how to utilize social media and grow your brand.

BONUS: For Your Ears! Top Business Podcast Recommendations

When you get tired of turning pages, here are some picks for your listening pleasure.

How I Built This with Guy Raz

In this podcast, NPR’s Guy Raz interviews entrepreneurs about their business best practices and lessons they learned along the way. From Raising Cane’s to PAW Patrol, he interviews everyone.

Wisdom from the Top with Guy Raz

Another Guy Raz recommendation, Wisdom from the Top similarly brings stories from visionaries right to your ears, but this time the focus is on leaders. From a crisis to a celebration, this podcast seeks to tell the untold stories of leaders building brands and careers.

The Tim Atkin Cork Talk Podcast

Ethan Brown, winemaker at Shelton Vineyards, has actually been a guest on this wine-centric podcast in which Tim Atkin, an award-winning wine writer and Master of Wine, interviews wine industry leaders about everything from wine styles to religion.

XChateau

XChateau focuses on the nitty gritty of the wine industry. Analyses and news from wine thought leaders and marketing and finance advice from other industry professionals are its bread and butter in this podcast hosted by wine blogger Robert Vernick and leading wine business consultant and author of Luxury Wine Marketing Peter Yeung.

Courage and Other C Words

Recommended by the Ekos Team

We had to end with a bang (but not to your headphones). Jenn Root Martell, co-founder of South City Cider and guest on Craftlab: The Podcast, is the host of Courage and Other C Words, which focuses on the cider industry and the women who lead it.

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