Richard Watkins - Fine-tuning a quality product

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In this week's edition of the Canberra Business Podcast, we hear from co-founder of Bentspoke Brewing Co. in Canberra, Richard Watkins. Richard discusses what brand means to him, and what are the key elements that have driven him throughout his career. Additionally, Richard shares his insight into the beer making process, and how he deals with risk in decision-making.

Shownotes- 

0:00 Intro

4:47  Why are Australians more interested in what’s in their food and beverages? 

6:39 Why is Richard successful in brewery? 

7:49 Where did your fascination with beer form?  

10:32  What has been the influence of your parents?  

12:50 Do you get stressed? 

14:24 How do you create a beer?  

17:41 What does attention to detail mean to you?  

19:41 What does Bent spoke give people?  

22:24 What are you looking for in new employees? 

24:39 How do you deal with risk? 

28:18 What does brand mean to Richard? 

32:32 What skills does Richard bring to Bent Spoke? 

39:20 What are you most proud of so far?   

40:14 How do you deal with difficult decisions?

43:14 What are the key elements that have driven Richard? 

44:29  How do you communicate your vision with your staff? 

46:10  What are you proud of in your staff so far? 

48:00 What do you do to keep yourself learning? 

49:36 Whats the balance between protecting your product and sharing with others? 

53:33 How do you manage yourself? 

55:16 What is the greatest strength you bring to the business? 

56:27 Three pieces of advice for business owners 


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FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Jonathan Doyle:     Hi guys, Jonathan Doyle with you once again, welcome to the Canberra Business Podcast. Thanks as always for the pleasure of your time. I really like today's guest. And not just because they're interesting, they're a passionate business owner, they're creating something amazing, but also because when they arrived at the studio they bought a sample of their amazing product, which is beer. So we're gonna talk today to Richard Watkins, the fantastic co-founder of BentSpoke Brewing. 

Jonathan Doyle:     It's a real Canberra success story. It's an Australian success story and as I said anybody that turns up to the studio bringing gifts like that is always welcome. So you're going to hear so much in this, we're gonna talk about product, we're gonna talk about attention to detail, we're gonna talk about the reasons that this product has been so successful, we're gonna talk about brand, but more than that it's a real story of excellence, honing your craft, becoming a master at something, and then bringing that to a bigger audience by partnering with a great team. So many of those things are going to be relevant for your business. Make sure you listen right through because there is so much here that I think is gonna be useful to you. 

Jonathan Doyle:     Now housekeeping for me as always, would you please subscribe to the podcast, just wherever you are, Apple Podcast, Google Play, Android, Spotify, uh, to get the links in the shy notes at the end especially come and check us out at Canberra Executive Coaching, see how we can help you with your business or personal executive goals. So that's it for me, let's rip in, this is the story of Richard Watkins, this is the story of BentSpoke Brewing. It's a great story hope you're gonna love it. Sit back, relax, enjoy. Let's get this done!

Jonathan Doyle:     Ladies and gentlemen welcome back to the Canberra Business Podcast we have a very special guest today. We have somebody that provides a great service to our national capital and much further these days. He does magical things, he creates something that makes us all much better humans. He creates phenomenal beer. So my very special guest today in the studio is Mr.Richard Watkins from BentSpoke Brewing, my friend, welcome aboard.

Richard Watkins:    Thanks very much, thanks for having me one.

Jonathan Doyle:     Mate, looking forward to it. I was thinking of speaking to you and I though, ah I mean, we're gonna talk about your journey in brewing and beer and my journey with alcohol began less successfully, at the age of 12 almost drowned in the Brisbane river, got hospitalized for four days and I was thinking the second time I ever tried alcohol we just moved to Canberra, I was 14 I got arrested. So my start with uh beer didn't go too well but uh this has been a huge part of your life, it's it's such a great success story. Where did this fascination that you have with this unique product, beer, where did it start for you?

Richard Watkins:    Yeah I guess it started back when, when I went to uni. I went to school in New Castle, went off to university in Sydney and uh I guess, you know, being part of the university there, everyone wants to go and have a beer, after, after class and, started drinking beer and I never really found something I, I really liked, you know I used to have a bit of coopers, coopers around which was quite good. And I guess then a few, a few other people in campus wanted to try, and uh, p, people living in campus it was, wanted to try and save a few dollars so they started making a bit of beer and I was around when they were doing it and felt that was pretty good and thought I'd have a go myself and ended up doing a favor to Canberra.

Jonathan Doyle:     We're had more than a bit of a go. So so far we've got, uh, you know you did seventeen years at the Wigan Pin to Australian champion brewer titles. Look I want to ask you, what's happened, you, you know. You and I are relatively close in age, is what you're expressing there with uni life for most of us, you know, beer for many years, was, was a pretty limited thing. Nobody really drank for taste that much but there's been a huge change because I'm in the US a lot. I got onto their IPAs but I think recently I've noticed the scale of this. Now obviously Canberra is a, a unique place, you know, we've got a lot of disposable income we've got people interested in it, but what happened, what, what have you witnessed in this big sudden change in the last sort of five or 10 years, what, what do you put it down to?

Richard Watkins:    Yeah look when I started brewing commercially, there were barely nine to six, there were only five small breweries in Australia and now we've got nearly 500 and we've actually got now more breweries per capita than the US.

Jonathan Doyle:     Wow.

Richard Watkins:    And the biggest dense, or the place with the densest amount of breweries is actually the UK, they've actually got more per capita than we do or the US. I think people have, the journey that people have been on with, in the food side of things, where I include beer, um has really led people to want to know more about what they're consuming and then what they're drinking and people are really interested in, in actually what's in it. What is in the cheese, what is in the bread, what is in the mushrooms, and what is in the beer that they're, they're consuming.

Jonathan Doyle:     So why do you think that is? I mean, is it just that you know, for so long everything was, pretty much mass produced, you went to the supermarket, you got whatever was there, you went to the pub you had two or three options. When you say that, like people have become, well, how, how do explain it? Why do you think that is? What, is this uh, phenomenon inside or what?

Richard Watkins:    Well look I think it's just, it's a change, you gotta remember, you know it wasn't so long ago that there were hundreds and hundreds of breweries in Australia and then we went through the stage in where all the breweries got bought by basically two breweries and we had two basically, you know, gigantic breweries doing all the brewing in Australia and they're obviously trying to make the most cost-effective breweries. [inaudible 00:05:27] then came around and, and that sort of has kept the flavor, the beer flavor humming along, and then, surely but surely I guess that rest of the world's been getting into, you know, craft beer and, and that's why it's here to Australia.

Jonathan Doyle:     Where do you see it heading. Like going on a bit of an upswing but what where ...

Richard Watkins:    Well I don't know if we're gonna get massive amount of new breweries I, you know, I think um, I think you'll find that, whilst we can get more breweries out, the market share needs to, to lift for that. So in other words, it's the craft market share in Australia is around five percent of the market, total beer sold. Um in the US it's about four to eight percent. So the US with less breweries per capita sells more beer per brewery. 

Jonathan Doyle:     Jeez, okay.

Richard Watkins:    You, you know, the major shift that we've had in the last five years, this incline uh keeps going the way it is with um people, you know, adopting craft or independent breweries, and I can see it moving to ten percent of the market in the next sort of five to ten years.

Jonathan Doyle:     So let me, let me ask you some more questions. Firstly, what were you studying at uni when you first went?

Richard Watkins:    Uh yeah I did science.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah?

Richard Watkins:    Then yeah, then did mining engineering, which, realized wasn't really for me so.

Jonathan Doyle:     No.

Richard Watkins:    So I'm glad I went into brewing.

Jonathan Doyle:     So take us to the moment where a few mates just sort of mucking around with a bit of home brew, and I'm assuming most of those friends aren't running really successful brew pubs, what happened for you? What, how did it keep going?

Richard Watkins:    Oh well I mean I started getting fascinated by making beer and um used to, you know, brew a lot at a little two bedroom flat that I had in Randwick and then I got a job actually while I was going to uni working at the Hanbury in Sydney in the packaging line just, not really doing a lot but just, [inaudible 00:07:03] and working the brewery was pretty good. 

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    I guess, just needed to get out of Sydney and came to Canberra to visit a friend and got a job working in the kitchen under the [inaudible 00:07:13] Tracy and William Penn and sure enough I mean I wanted a job there because the brewery was there and since the brewer position came up sort of six months after that and I, I took that and a couple years later I was head brewer so ...

Jonathan Doyle:     So the first interview we did on this series was with Tim Kirk that owns Clonakilla and that backstory is fascinating with his father and how it all unfolded. You know I think one of the things you and Tim obviously have in common is around the quality of the product so if you get a chance to listen to the interview it's great because that's his fascination is, and I think from a business point of view, it doesn't matter how slick your systems are, where your marketing, if your product's crap. Eventually you're exposed, right?

Richard Watkins:    Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle:     People notice your pants are pulled down. So what is, before we talk about the quality of product, what is the fascination for you with beer. I really want to understand that genuinely I mean I, I sampled some of yours last time, it was just brilliant, it, it's a great quality product, but how do you explain this to yourself. Why are you fascinated with beer? What do you enjoy about it?

Richard Watkins:    I love every aspect of it, I guess. I mean I love the flavor spectrum that ingredients used provide so that, there's a massive amount of opportunity to create new beers, um, with ingredients that we have available to us. A lot of the industry that it is, everybody in the industry is, they're all great people and, you know, it's one of those [inaudible 00:08:27] where you actually want to get on hanging out with people in the industry so it's not.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    Not like a lot of other industries.

Jonathan Doyle:     You you just wanna, at the end of the week, you just wanna run away from it. I don't know if you can answer this but if you can, if you had to pick one thing that you love about your encounter with this whole thing, this work, this experience you've had many years. If you had to pick one thing you love about beer, what is it?

Richard Watkins:    Oh it'd had to be seeing the look on people's faces when they try a beer that you've created for the first time 

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah

Richard Watkins:    And that, that sort of expression of joy.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    That'd be it.

Jonathan Doyle:     One of the thing I wanted to ask you was, you know, does does the beer part of what you're doing and your fascination with product, with the possibilities, I want to talk to you a minute about the creativity that you brought to it. But you're not dealing now with a two bedroom flat and Randwick you're dealing with something a lot bigger. It's becoming a very successful business operation in its own right. What did you grow up with in terms of business, free enterprise, what did your folks do, what was, what was home for you growing up.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah I mean, pretty interesting sort of creative side in the family. My mum's father was an architect town planner in London and [inaudible 00:09:34] after they got bummed through the walls so.

Jonathan Doyle:     Wow.

Richard Watkins:    And then he created a place London called the [inaudible 00:09:39] sort of a few people out there might know if they've been to London.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    That was pretty cool. My father, well my mum was a geologist and my dad was a mechanical engineer.

Jonathan Doyle:     Wow.

Richard Watkins:    At the BHP. Came into Australia with mum and the choice between [inaudible 00:09:52] or around New Castle

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    Luckily they chose New Castle.

Jonathan Doyle:     Well yeah, that's where it started.

Richard Watkins:    And then dad went on to, into chemical engineering and designing uh trucks that carry uh explosives around in mines.

Jonathan Doyle:     Wow.

Richard Watkins:    So.

Jonathan Doyle:     They're still alive.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle:     Are they in Canberra or are they in the US.

Richard Watkins:    No they're in Coffs Harbor. 

Jonathan Doyle:     Oh okay. They're smart they've got to be further north.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle:     It's interesting. Because Glen we had on here on Tuesday from Aspen Medical, comes from New Castle as well. So did you grow up there?

Richard Watkins:    Yeah, absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle:     Did you really?

Richard Watkins:    Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle:     That's two in a week. So did I.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah?

Jonathan Doyle:     We grew up in Eleebana.

Richard Watkins:    [inaudible 00:10:23].

Jonathan Doyle:     Oh there you go. All the best people, huh. Shout out. All the listeners are going okay you guys are having a private moment, can we get back to the podcast so. What did they, what do you think you took from them growing up, like you've obviously, is it a chemical engineering side, you've probably had some exposure to, in a scientific way. But what do you look back at your parents and your family and see what you brought forward.

Richard Watkins:    Well I probably didn't know it then but I think they brought a lot of discipline, you know, near into running a, running a business. Um you know, discipline.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    And probably didn't have that when I left home went to university and but I, some year I got it back, you know, you [inaudible 00:10:58] and I think that's something that I look at and think that, you know, they provided that to me. 

Jonathan Doyle:     You probably know this answer, but do you think they're proud of what you've achieved so far?

Richard Watkins:    Yeah yeah, definitely. I just think [inaudible 00:11:08] always looking out for seeing what's happening in BentSpoke.

Jonathan Doyle:     Have they been down, obviously, to check it out?

Richard Watkins:    Yeah yeah. Plenty of times.

Jonathan Doyle:     Well honestly I've got to tell you I haven't been there till recently um and I went out for beer there with a mate and I went in there and we'll talk about the setup in a minute, but I was like, holy crap, this place is amazing, you know? You know you hear that a lot but you know, people listening if you haven't been yet I'm gonna plug it hard on the end to get you there because it's really special experience. So in the complexity of what you're doing now, what, just a random question, what are your stress levels? You're dealing with a lot of stuff. And what I want to ask on that is, you are a purist, you love making this stuff, it gives you joy, but now you've got everything else that you gotta run. Are you getting to do what you love, or are you getting pulled in multiple directions now as it grows? 

Richard Watkins:    Oh yeah, that was to be expected, I mean, it was never gonna be a case of, oh being able to [inaudible 00:11:59] with the beer making, I've got a whole brewery. I've got to be able to run a business as well and that's been a challenge but I think been running the business has been fun, it's certainly been challenging, but I think at the moment you've got to look at yourself and you go, where do your skills lie and you gotta think a little bit further than just, next week, you gotta, you know, look into the future, [inaudible 00:12:18]. Is this what you want to be doing, do you think you can to it? And I think that's where I'm at at the moment. I've sort of decided that, that I want to stay in the brewing side of things and not really run the business, so.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    We'll appoint a general manager to, to look after that.

Jonathan Doyle:     And lot of the interviews we've done with Michelle from Intelledox, like, you know, that build a 40, 50 million dollar business now here in Canberra and her and her husband feel a little brilliant at the parts that they do but they brought in now a director, like a general director to run that sort of the business. Because yeah I think, you know, if you love doing something, you're constantly getting pulled away from it. Do you get stressed with the complexity of it all at the moment?

Richard Watkins:    Oh it has its moments, but I mean, generally speaking, you gotta just take a step back and just think to yourself, look, be a [inaudible 00:12:59], you know.

Jonathan Doyle:     (laughs) just keep doing that.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah. That's right.

Jonathan Doyle:     Ah I guess you got a job when it's really stressful you can sneak out the back for ten minutes and just go, I'll just go and sample that one for a couple minutes. So you had seventeen years at the Wig and Pen as a Canberra icon. What did you love about that, what were some good memories for you from that time?

Richard Watkins:    When I started there it was a challenging business, it was um, you know the market was ahead of its time, you know Leanna was quite visionary in that regard, doing something that was, very ahead of its time and, and we, we really needed people to catch up and, and I have a time that happened, and you know, when I started, we had, I think, six beers on tap and probably by the end of '99 we had, I think we had 12 beers on tap that we were making so. 

Richard Watkins:    We increased that to try and give a wider variety of flavors for people to be able to, you know, find one that they liked and, certainly the place got busier and busier over those years and, look, we were lucky enough to win some awards for the beer which is really good, um it all, it all validates what you're doing and what you're making um but I think the biggest validation really is the, is the people coming in and wanting to buy the beer. I mean at the end of the day, that's what you need.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    It's great to have medals and trophies but at the end of the day you need people enjoying, you know, the beer you make, keep it going.

Jonathan Doyle:     The customer's always right, you know? It's not like you have a room full of beer judges coming in every night, well, you do in a way. Everybody, well your customers are making those judgements regularly. I'm just interested, like, just give us the 101 I know all the beer aficionado that'll here this will know this, but those of us listening, take us to the essence of what you do. How do you create a beer. Give us and overview of how that process actually happens.

Richard Watkins:    You know, I guess we, we you know, we're lucky enough to stuff with raw, raw ingredients so we, we've got you know, the four main ingredients in beer are water, which we're lucky in Canberra the water is really good, it's really soft, it's easy to make good beer. We don't have to do a lot to it. We don't have to add a lot of minerals into it or take a lot of minerals out of it. Beer is 95% water so, that's a good start. 

Richard Watkins:    Uh and then we start with the malt, you know there's probably 70, 80 different types of malt of value you can get these days, you know, so if you're thinking, looking in your recipe cupboard at home and you've got, I always make this similar process to making a curry so if you're making a curry you know, there's heaps of different proteins that you can use to make a curry. There's actually different types of curries. And so making a beer, we've got 65 different malt, you know, we're converting the starch in the malt into sugar and that's the base for all beer. We're then adding in hops and the hops have the bitterness to balances out sweetness from the malts so, they're like the spice of beer so, you're adding our spices to our curry, different spices you can add. And a secret to a good beer is the balance between the bitterness and the sweetness, same in the curry so. 

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah yeah.

Richard Watkins:    Balance between the spiciness and the richness of it. You know, this idea of different hops, it'll provide different flavors, different characters.

Jonathan Doyle:     How do you source those. Like to you travel, do you go and try different stuff, like how do you make these choices?

Richard Watkins:    We do, we do travel, and we do go to the Hop Harvest for instance in, in the US or in Australia and you go and talk to the maltster and find out what's new and what's coming up and, and um how's the season how's the crop for the season because you're dealing with national ingredients so they do change from year to year.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    So you've go to really allow for that in your brewing. So you know, you combine the 80 different malts with the 80 different hops and throw in 60 different tops a year which create their own different flavors.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah, why.

Richard Watkins:    There's lots of permutations of, you know, flavor profiles that you can create.

Jonathan Doyle:     So I, look, a whole bunch of stuff. I mean when you talk about going to visit the um, what do you call it, maltsters? Is that what you call them?

Richard Watkins:    Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle:     So these are the guys that grow.

Richard Watkins:    There, the farmers grow the, the barley and then the barley goes to the maltster and turns it into malted barley which is a process that allows enzymes to be stored in the malt so that the brewers can activate them to turn the starch into sugar.

Jonathan Doyle:     Damn.

Richard Watkins:    To put it simply.

Jonathan Doyle:     So when I was talking with, we were talking to Tim from Clonakilla, you know, the amazing thing he was sharing was it on that one parcel of land, depending on how light's falling and sun and all these don and wind and different parts of the property, there's literally getting different flavors out of how that's so that was all news to me. So I got a sense that you're a pretty humble guy but if it was as simple as just putting this stuff together, everyone would be everyone would be doing it, honestly, what do you bring into this because, you've obviously been able to, is it your palate's different, how are you able to create something that's, that's really so good and so different.

Richard Watkins:    Oh I think there's a few factors that I've come to know about myself I guess over the years of judging it beer, different beer competitions, talking to different brewers, definitely being able to taste beers and, and being able to relate brewing process to flavors in beer I think it's something that a lot of brewers don't spend enough time on. And also I guess just attention to detail and you know, and hard work, at the end of the day and.

Jonathan Doyle:     What does that mean for you, when you say attention to detail, what does that really mean?

Richard Watkins:    Being clean, just being clean, I mean. Brewing is, as a brewery you spend more time cleaning than you do, doing anything else.

Jonathan Doyle:     Why, why is that?

Richard Watkins:    You've got a food that can be, you know, corrupted by bacteria, so if you allow bacteria to get involved in your beer, it's not clean and it's not going to taste very good.

Jonathan Doyle:     So are you like the bacteria Nazi? Do you walk around [inaudible 00:18:07] probably?

Richard Watkins:    Well that's right, I mean, you have to, you have to make sure, you know, the brewery's kept clean, everything's kept clean, you know, people are drinking stuff that's made in your brewery so you don't want any dirt lying around or any mold or bacteria.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah yeah. Well I poured a Red Nut last night, if people aren't familiar, one of the most amazing beers I think these guys do is called Red Nut and I, I poured one last night and just, just color in that thing, it's just clean, it's just a great experience. And just, how long have those new cans been around with those larger openings? [inaudible 00:18:36].

Richard Watkins:    Yeah the [inaudible 00:18:38] the first brewery has tried to do that I think about four years ago. And then we, we decided we wanted to do it too because it gives you the, you know, it gives you a really good experience drinking out of a can.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    And when you can actually drink out of our cans without too much trouble it doesn't glug glug glug, 

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    it, you actually can smell the beer you can see the beer so it's, it's actually a pretty good experience if you, you know, out in the bush or out [inaudible 00:18:59], whatever you're doing, you don't need to have a cup there.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah. Okay. So. There's a couple other key things I wanted to ask you, what you love about this work is the actual love of beer itself but also we talked a little bit about this concept during hospitality now. I, I shared a quite, I think in one of the first interviews we did from a US baker, is a business genius and he says to people, there's two questions you've got to work out in business. One is what business are you in and the second is how's business. And that first question, what business are you in, he said to people, you know, what business are you in, well I run a restaurant, I'm in the restaurant business and he would always say you're not in the restaurant business. You're in the experience business, right? Like you're actually, because food's a commodity and sure we can tweak it and make it excellent but, plenty of people can do food. It's building that experience around it. So what business are you kind of in like when you think about what you're bringing to people, what do you, what do you see yourself bringing?

Richard Watkins:    Oh it is in experience, I mean, absolutely, we won't be able to taste the beer and feel like, and actually think about what they're doing. Because most people probably go out and buy beer in the bottle shop, take it home, sit around a bar having a beer with a few mates, probably not even thinking about the beer that they're drinking.

Jonathan Doyle:     Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Richard Watkins:    They're actually thinking about what score is in the 40 or whatever, whatever is happening. We want to be able to think about the beer they're drinking and, and really provoke, you know, thought on actually what, what is it they're tasting. 

Jonathan Doyle:     So let's talk about the relationship between you and Tracy, like what does she bring into the business so you've got this pure love of the product and the quality of the product, what's she bringing to the business?

Richard Watkins:    Well she brings that as well. She, when we started, ah, [inaudible 00:20:35] security on the door she's [inaudible 00:20:37] so actually.

Jonathan Doyle:     Oh yeah.

Richard Watkins:    She does, you know, she was working in the kitchen, working in the bar and helping making it in the brewery as well, but. Now she, she does all the brewing at [inaudible 00:20:45] and the brew pub.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah

Richard Watkins:    And I do most of the brewing out at.

Jonathan Doyle:     Mitchell

Richard Watkins:    Mitchell [inaudible 00:20:49]. Got another brewer on board now. He's really good so, allowed me to focus a bit more on the business. But as we grow we need more [inaudible 00:20:57] you know I want to step back into the brewery, you know, it's worked out really well.

Jonathan Doyle:     It's like where your heart is, it's like, just let me back in there I want to go do that part. So I look at your business, all the bits and pieces now, like it's a full, you know, you've got the food, you've got all the design, you've got all that stuff going on. How's it been run day to day? So you're brewing, who's really overseeing the day to day function of the place?

Richard Watkins:    Look I'm lucky we've got some really good staff that work in the business and lot of them, you know, being there from the start as well so, seeing like a people, like only manager at Braddon he started as a casual employee when we first opened, left us for a little bit, came back, you know our operations manager, he helped build a lot of the brew pub and now he's our operations manager, we didn't employ him as an operations manager at the start he just wanted to get involved, and, you know, tried to [inaudible 00:21:47] probably close to 15 years so, so that was a really good little story and then you look at our marketing, marketing manager, he started working in the bar he kind of duty manager and started marketing at university and, and now, sort of, left the pub or left those tally signs now, running our marketing.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    So you need, you need good people around, I mean it's. Without that, the business would be half what it is today.

Jonathan Doyle:     Well you've mentioned that your great love is for the product and the part that you don't love quite as much is there's probably a lot of business owners are in the HR side so. What are the challenges you think business owners face, I mean be as specific as you like in your own context, but, but what do you think, when it comes to getting the right people, lets ask that question first, what do you looking when you uh are looking for hires, are you still in on that? Are you still making decisions about who's coming on board?

Richard Watkins:    Oh absolutely, yep.

Jonathan Doyle:     And what are you looking for? What sort of qualities do you look for?

Richard Watkins:    Oh we want people who, who really love what they do. It's interesting because the other day, you know, we've been advertising for a warehouse assistant and you know we've had a lot of people and duty manager in the pub and we've had a lot of people just apply for the job simply because they want to come work at the, at the, you know, BentSpoke. They don't necessarily really want to work in the role that they've applied for but they just have applied because they have no experience in the role they've applied for but they actually want to come work at BentSpoke so that's really, really good to hear. I mean, you just want people that are passionate about what they do and, and, you know, we what people to really, yeah really want to be there.

Jonathan Doyle:     So you had a great quote when I asked you now about business advice you've received, it was a little cryptic, I want you to talk to us about it. You say that you received some advice that owning a business doesn't make you a businessman. I'm fascinated by that, what, what does that mean to you?

Richard Watkins:    Well I think it does, I mean, if you think about a lot of people I think who are lucky enough to own a business, being a businessman is not the same as owning a business. 

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    I mean, a businessman is someone who, who, who can take the business, you know, really organize and run a really, really good quality business. Anyone can own a business.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    A lot of people think that by owning a business that they're automatically a businessman.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    And I think that something, assumption that a lot of people make, and I think I see it around a lot with hospitality. Especially in the hospitality side of business which is where I come from or in the brewing side, I see a lot of breweries opening up and a lot of people think oh I'm opening up a brewery, I can be the brewer or, I'm opening a brewery here, I'm gonna run a brewery over here.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    You know, it's just so far from the truth you, for people who haven't worked in a brewery, it's very hard to, to suddenly set up a brewery and, and run a brewery. 

Jonathan Doyle:     So take us back to the moment. You're at Wig and Pen for seventeen years. And you realize that it's time, you know, you've gone as far as you can there, but it's not like you would just taking a step to open a one room pub I mean you're taking a big step here. I want to, I just want to ask you about how you deal with risk and did you lie awake at two am as I always ask people staring at the ceiling for a while, like, you know, how did you deal with that, that big step, I mean, how did you, we uh talk to us how you dealt with that risk when you first took that choice.

Richard Watkins:    You know, I guess there's always risk in everything I mean I think we just had to back ourselves that, you know, we'd learned a lot from what people in Canberra wanted in the way of you know, hospitality offering and, knowing that people were interested in the beers that I made. I think taking that and putting those two together and trying to come up with something that was reasonably unique at the same time you know, with some quality, quality offering, we tried to do everything the best we could. You know, I guess at that point, um in 2000 and sort of 12 we signed up in 2013 started to, the building opened in 2014, since then the hospitality scene in Canberra has since 2014 since we opened is really grown.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    But I mean there wasn't a lot of, a massive amount of offerings back in 2014.

Jonathan Doyle:     Did you ever hit a point where you're like, did you ever feel like you've bitten off more that you could chew or, or were you always pretty confident that if you had a great product, you had Tracy, you know, did you just always, did you ever have a moment where you were like, whoa this is a big thing we're doing, you know, there's a lot of money on the line here.

Richard Watkins:    You know, I mean this, this, naturally, you get a bit nervous when, when things aren't going to plan perfectly. I mean we're plan to be open a little earlier than what we were so it was sort of, in the end that was starting to get a little bit deep so to speak but, I mean, once we opened and we had that massive rush on the first weekend and nearly sold out of beer for two weeks we.

Jonathan Doyle:     That was 3000 liters on that first weekend.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah. Yeah it was crazy.

Jonathan Doyle:     I was trying to, I was putting that in the perspective of my swimming pool the other day going, that's a lot of beer! In one weekend! Were you stoked in that first weekend?

Richard Watkins:    Oh yeah, it was, ever since you know that first weekend was uh, the starting point. I mean it was funny because we actually thought we oh we'll just open on a Friday afternoon you won't tell anyone, we didn't really, we didn't tell anyone we were opening. I mean the word of mouth got around a little bit but we just said uh, we were ready, unfortunately it was a Friday we had to, was the first day we could actually open.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    So we had a few beers with the few trainees on the first day and staff and then we opened on the Friday and we said, oh we're not going have a toast because we, we don't know how we're gonna go and the system's going to be set up.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    We had a queue at the front in half an hour.

Jonathan Doyle:     Really? So how do you explain that? I I'm fascinated, because what I'm trying to do here, is, for all the listeners, this is a great business. And it's a great business it think because it's got a great product, it's got passionate people, but when, when you do a soft launch and you got a queue something else was going on. What, how do you explain this? What do you, because I want people to hear it, what did you done, how can people replicate this, what are the ingredients of what's happened?

Richard Watkins:    Well I think, you know, we sort of didn't hide from the fact of what we were doing I guess so, I mean. We'd always talked, I mean there was a lot of people in Canberra wanting to know what I was up to and constantly, you know, every couple of, couple of weeks sort of, emailing me or calling me and saying how is it going, what are you up to.

Richard Watkins:    And I, I was telling people, oh we're setting up a brewery, we're doing this, it's going to be open when it's ready and, we'll let you know sort of thing and, you know, so there was, you know, there was certainly people walking past and I think there was some people walking past pretty much everyday for two weeks to see if it was open so. I guess that shows that Canberra is such a loyal place, you know, when you've got people that've been drinking your beer for, you know, a long time and, they really want to come and see what you've done in a new place that says a lot about the type of people that Canberrans are.

Jonathan Doyle:     Well on that loyalty and that brand idea, like, you know we had, as you know, we had a team from Clonakilla and I've had a lot of loyalty to that brand because it's similar to what you're doing. It's a great product. And when you, you just know you can always trust it. So when you talk about something like brand, which is a word thrown around all the time, what does that mean for you, you know, BentSpoke has becoming a really well known name, not just here but further afield. What are the es, what are the elements of brand for you, what does brand mean.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah it's really big isn't it, brand mean, really important that you do try and put a little bit of time and effort into working at what it is that brand actually means to you before you start telling everybody else what it's gonna mean or do anything or. Your brand is everything, it's, it's how you act, it's what people look at, it's what people taste, it's what people hear, it's what people read. It's everything to do with your business. And we've always tried to keep it reasonably. We haven't pigeon holed ourselves, I believe. Um we've kept it reasonably broad, we're, you know, we wanna try and appeal to every age group, every gender, I mean, when we first opened BentSpoke we were really worried it was going to be a blokey place so, but that's been proven wrong with the ladies coming in and [crosstalk 00:29:10].

Jonathan Doyle:     So what is that, that's really interesting because I could see that happening, I could see a bunch of ladies going right, we're going to get together, how do you explain that? I mean, I'm genuinely interested because that's a really good point, it's ...

Richard Watkins:    You know, at the end of the day ladies have much better palates than we do they know when something's tasting.

Jonathan Doyle:     Really?

Richard Watkins:    Good. Yeah absolutely.

Jonathan Doyle:     Is there science behind that or just an observation [crosstalk 00:29:27]

Richard Watkins:    Oh I don't know whether it is, yeah it's probably just an observation, I've noticed for a long time, especially, I mean, Tracy has a good palate. 

Jonathan Doyle:     So blokes will just pretty much drink anything but girls will go what is this?

Richard Watkins:    Yeah they'll accept things, yeah. Blokes more, blokes more nice when something's not perfect but then accept it whereas ladies they'll they'll challenge it.

Jonathan Doyle:     That is so true. I can just see my wife now going, you know, can you take this back it's not right where I'll be like, ah you know, as long as there's no salmonella I'll be fine, so.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle:     So what is that, why, why is it? Because I've been there and it is, it's a good, it's a great vibe, interesting people there, I mean you're in a good location but.

Richard Watkins:    Well I guess there's a lot of things that go into whether somebody likes going to a place they've got to feel comfortable, they've got to feel welcome, they've got to know that they're going to get something they're going to enjoy, you know, is it somewhere where they want to be able to take their, take their friends there, you know, confidently, they don't want to have to, organize a get together and go, oh oh we're going there or something, you know.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    So you want to go somewhere where people want to go and I think when you put all those things together and you know and then factor in there's a lot more ladies than people give credit to that actually like beer.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    I think next time you go to a pub or go to a restaurant or go to a place that's selling good quality beer have a look around and you'll be surprised.

Jonathan Doyle:     Oh yeah. So you mentioned the big impact on you over the Mettings family. Now, tell us a little bit about them and what have you learned from them?

Richard Watkins:    I've been yeah, a big part of our lives, I guess it goes back when uh we were a customer of theirs um I guess at the Wig and Pen and from, you know, we used the AH product, one of the first brewery in the world used this new AH product that per company, [inaudible 00:31:00] company called towny brewery supply company and uh one of the first companies to supply to CH brewery --- around the world and I was lucky enough to be one of the first brewers to use it and we won some awards with it and it, really sort of, kept it really sort of close friendship with [inaudible 00:31:17] I had a period of time and we always sort of caught up all the time and, and I got to know his sons really well and he, you know, a bit younger than me, and and then yeah I guess obviously now a lot of that business run really good businesses and that was something that, you know, something that Tracy and I sort of needed that sort of business acumen.

Jonathan Doyle:     So what did he was that sort of a mentoring role in some sense?

Richard Watkins:    Yeah absolutely, no question.

Jonathan Doyle:      Because that's been interesting, like I mean Gerard Tiffen shared that on one of the recent episodes too just, seeking out really good people and asking the right questions, what do you think you learned from him I mean from Peter looking at you know, you said he's run a good business but what are a couple of key things you think that you learned from just observing him.

Richard Watkins:    You know Harry's just been able to uh, to write a really passionate team um Harry's been able to do that for his very long career now so um and now his sons are doing that. They have really taken the business that he started to the next level and you know, it's just great to see.

Jonathan Doyle:     So I want to bring you back to the, what you talked about a minute ago with owning a business doesn't make you a businessman. I, I have a strong sense listening to you that, you know, yes you love beer, yes you genuinely love the brewing but this doesn't happen without you also bringing some other skills to the table. It's not arrogant to tell the truth, like, what do, what skills do you think you bring to the bigger picture, what else have you brought into this, that people can learn from?

Richard Watkins:    Well attention to detail, I'm thinking about certain things and there's reasons for that, you know, you want things to look the right way so when someone walks into your place, you, you don't want it to be, you know one of the things I like to, to think about when you walk into the brewpub in Braddon's is we only use blue and while chalk on our notice boards.

Jonathan Doyle:     Oh really?

Richard Watkins:    I don't let them use any other color. It's just a little detail things but it adds a certain consistency to everything that we do.

Jonathan Doyle:     Wow.

Richard Watkins:    And it doesn't look like um, you know, a fish and chip shop. 

Jonathan Doyle:     Well yeah.

Richard Watkins:    And I think attention to detail. I mean, you know, little things like, you know, we knew we wanted to get into cans, and the building was being built that we were going into, we came inside and put can lids under the reinforcing on the second level so when you're downstairs and you look up at the ceiling,

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    You can see can lids in the concrete.

Jonathan Doyle:     Really?

Richard Watkins:    And that's a little sign that, you know, we're always gonna do cans at some point.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    But not many people realized that I knew that it was something that you just had to look around and go, oh is that a can lid up there? You know, and eventually that leads to a story and that's, I've been telling that now for a long time.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    That was the start of what drives me wanting to get out a packaged beer.

Jonathan Doyle:     And were you always like this, this attention to detail? Or was it something that came into play later on in life?

Richard Watkins:    Oh no I think you have to be as a brewer. I think, you know, I think attention to detail is really critical component of being a brewer, you know? I think that can then flow through from whatever, flow into business, so, you've got to be across everything, you've got to be, you know, the details got to be there.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah. I guess it's like a filter isn't it? It provides a certain level of security and operations, like. I don't cope well with chaos and as regular listeners know I've got three kids under ten and I get plenty of practice with that. But I think in business it's a solid systems, predictability, you know, knowing that, that what happened yesterday is probably going to happen the same today if not better. So just tell me why, why blue and pink chalk?

Richard Watkins:    (chuckle).

Jonathan Doyle:     Just happened that way?

Richard Watkins:    Oh just happened that way. Yeah. I'm probably a bulldog supporter.

Jonathan Doyle:     (laughs)

Richard Watkins:    As well but I mean that's nothing to do with blue and white chalk.

Jonathan Doyle:     I just got visions of some intern coming in one day and hearing just, what are you doing, we use blue and pink here! So what is that experience like, you go that as things like, people haven't been yet, you know the guys got Peter Rogers to design these fundamental, these tap handles, tell us about those.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah well he's been a really big supporter over the years and he was always a good customer, someone to chat to that we can [inaudible 00:34:58] there that we can pan in. And he always said if you [inaudible 00:35:05] for. Because we did, I think we did a 165 different beers.

Jonathan Doyle:     Oh yeah.

Richard Watkins:    That [inaudible 00:35:08] when I was there so that was, that was a lot of labels for him to make and he's a cartographer by trade so making labels wasn't too bad for him but he's also a wood turner so. 

Jonathan Doyle:     Oh yeah.

Richard Watkins:    When we came and set our BentSpoke, I said to him well can we get some wooden tap handles just come up with some random tap handles for us and then that sort of led to him making some specific ones so we've got, we've got a vehicle pedal pile and it's got a pedal on the tap handle so.

Jonathan Doyle:     So why, why not Jessica? What it is about you and what you're trying to build. Why not just go, tap handles are fine, you know, people don't need for tap handles. But you think they are, well you think that it's part of this bigger offering.

Richard Watkins:    It's part of your brand it's part of the experience, you know, people coming in and look at our tap handles and point to them and.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    They're gonna order a Red Nut and say there's a Red Nut on the tap handle, you know, so it all sort of leads back to, back to something. It's that attention to detail so that further sort of offering that you give people.

Jonathan Doyle:     When I was there recently, you know, when you've got those kind of more British pub stopies on the end of the bar up stairs.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle:     What are those one in there, what ...

Richard Watkins:    The hand pumps?

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah. Because that brings a whole aesthetic to it as well. It's not that it's just you're drinking this but you're actually, you know, an instantaneous society you find yourself standing and watching this thing happen in front of you, which I think is a really cool part of it.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah, absolutely, and that's a really sort of traditionalness it's sort of a, I guess a nod to the, the traditions of beer coming from the UK and that is those hand pumped beers so it's [inaudible 00:36:26] real ale is where where you know, that was a big move and in the [inaudible 00:36:30] camera which is a campaign for real ale to keep real ale in the in the pubs in Britain.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    That's how, I guess you've got to, pay a little bit of homage back to the history and what that may have helped.

Jonathan Doyle:     I think one of the other cool things you're doing too is um, and this isn't all your beers but, you know, the stronger alcohol content in come of them, at least for me, means that you, you don't, you know, so how many people, younger people particularly, not all of them, just hit beer hard, you know you're going be out for the night so you have six beers as fast as you can but I find that with the quality of your product you tend to just sit on one and enjoy it much more and you drink more sensibly and enjoy the whole experience more, yeah?

Richard Watkins:    Yeah that's right I mean. I, we do have a lot of beers that are harder alcohol than what you usually find in a pub but I think the reason why people are drinking them slower is because they're thinking about them. We provoke them into actually thinking about what they're tasting.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    And I think in the wine industry that's probably part of the cause. But in the brewing industry it's not really something people think about, they just want to drink the beer and get onto the next one where's we're actually getting people, forcing people to think about actually, what they're drinking, what they're tasting, what they're smelling.

Jonathan Doyle:     Why do that?

Richard Watkins:    Why not? It's a journey! You won't be able to understand what they're actually consuming. You know, you take good pleasure, take a lot of pleasure out of people tasting a beer for the first time and even talking about it [inaudible 00:37:50].

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    I mean when I go into the pub I, I love just looking around and, you know, I'll be hearing some of their conversations that people are having when they're talking about the beer. It's really gratifying too.

Jonathan Doyle:     Well I uh, I don't want to make you sound like an Oprah episode but I listened to you and I think, you know, that there's a joy that you have around beer and, and what it can do for people and their enjoyment of it and I think looking at you and listening to you I think you want to communicate that and you want to share that.

Richard Watkins:    Well, be, that's that beer is, it's a conversation, it's something you can sit around with a couple of mates and have a really good conversation about and I think, you know like in our busy lives and the way the world's heading, we need more of that conversation with their mates and.

Jonathan Doyle:     So true. I should post a couple photos of this in the show notes but uh. Every Sunday or Saturday now, so, um, Tim Kirk that owns Clonakiller there's the six Kirk boys, so men all, a lot older now but uh Steven is one of the Kirks, [inaudible 00:38:44] and a real connoisseur of fine beers, very exited I'm talking to you today and uh. 

Jonathan Doyle:     So every Saturday and Sunday now we have beer tastings so we load up a big five pit at my place, we go out to plunk, we have plenty of BentSpoke with us too and you're just sampling stuff and you start on those Pilsners and then your brown ales and you keep going the IPAs then you're on those scotch ales and stuff, right into one of those, you have a [inaudible 00:39:06] figure that too fast and you're right, it's an excuse for people to sit around and take time, actually be together. So I think what you're doing, it's awesome. And you deserve every success because it's, it's a great product, it's bringing good people together. Let me ask you a couple more things. What are you most proud of so far?

Richard Watkins:    Oh I'm just proud of this business. 

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah?

Richard Watkins:    I mean, only 60 staff so. We're giving, you know, giving quite a few people, you know, a job in Canberra and that's putting, I mean, we did put a fair bit back into the communities. We also, I think that's something to be pretty proud of.

Jonathan Doyle:     Do you get stressed? I mean, I always ask this to people. It's a lot of people. It's a lot of payroll, there's a lot of money on the line, I mean you're looking at expansion and stuff and how do you deal with stress yourself?

Richard Watkins:    Think about beer.

Jonathan Doyle:     Do you> You just switch gears.

Richard Watkins:    Sure, there are times in the business where you do have to, you know, think and uh, make some decisions, there's always a bit of uh stress that comes up but to me, the end of the day just think to yourself, well, what can I get stressed about when I'm in the beer industry.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah. That's right. So when you and Tracy are dealing with decision making. So, I'm always interested in how people, how people in a leadership role deal with difficult decisions and complexity and. So how do you two resolve a complexity. Do you shout, do you yell, do you kick the cat, do you, how do you resolve complex decisions together?

Richard Watkins:    No we just communicate. Um we probably sit down and have a beer and just talk about it and weigh up the pros and cons and agree to move forward and sometimes you know, I stick to the guns and sometimes Tracy does and whatever we do we back ourselves to make a decision and we're better off, you know, I think in some ways you're better off making a wrong decision than not making one.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    You know, you're better off having a go, you're gonna learn from something. If you learn, if you make a wrong decision, you'll learn from it, so.

Jonathan Doyle:     Is paralysis by analysis, right? You just can't stay there forever in business and just, let things resolve, you have to choose eventually.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah, that's right.

Jonathan Doyle:     Glen said on Tuesday, Glen case from Aspen said they've got 5,000 staff now, globally.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle:     He said that basically, when they have to deal with really complex decisions, you know, they say that they have to convince each other. They have to actually listen and be ready to change position and actually have that tough discussion. I want to talk to you about something possibly as important as beer, arguably, golf. So I'm asking that because, you're a business owner and listeners listen to these, we need stuff outside of this, talk to us about golf.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah well I need to get back into golf a bit more I mean I, it's funny because I started, I played a little bit of golf in, you know, my younger days, but I took I up again um, in 2002, it was. I've found it really rewarding in that, you, you're in charge of your own destiny, playing golf, unless you're playing a team game. 

Jonathan Doyle:     I must be playing the wrong golf then, because every time I step out there well I feel like I'm not in charge of anything.

Richard Watkins:    I mean what I found was I, one of the things I, if I'm going to do something, I'm going to try doing it properly, so. So I started out on a handicap on 7 8 and eventually got down to handicap at 3.

Jonathan Doyle:     Really?

Richard Watkins:    And mm. You know, probably didn't hold through for very long but ended up around the 5-6-7 mark.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    Gave it up around 2013 I've got a bit of a ankle issue and then, and then I guess from there, I've set up BentSpoke I didn't really have any time so now's the time to get back into it because the two things that I took from golf that really helped my brewing back when I was at the Wig and Pin was, was concentration, taught you concentration, no question, and that's something that, sometimes in brewing, you don't, you don't realize how important it is. To just wait that extra day.

Jonathan Doyle:     Really.

Richard Watkins:    And patience. You know, golf's a great patience, you've gotta be patient if you want to be good at it. And I'm quite an impatient person, and.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    I need to get back into golf because I'm becoming more impatient.

Jonathan Doyle:     Um my family can organize that for sure. So I listened to you and I think when we talked to Louise Curtis from [inaudible 00:43:04] you know she talked about just really giving people a great experience and uh, as we wrap up, just summarize for us, what are the real key things in your business that really, drives success for you, that people can learn from, just bring us back to those key things that people can get right. Have I got these in my business, am I doing them. What are the key things that you think have gotten you this far?

Richard Watkins:    Oh definitely not forsaking quality. You know, quality's number one. Um you've gotta get a, you know, if it's gonna cost you a bit more to be, to make something better, you've just gotta do that. People judge you on your quality. So don't, never forsake quality. In the business that we're in, you know, we can't do everything ourselves, we need other people so, surround yourself with good people.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    Because if we don't have good people, and you don't have motivated, you don't have motivated people, you don't have people that are keen to succeed as much as you are then, you're going to be the one pulling the sheet constantly. You know, you've also then gotta have a partner that allows you to do what you do. 

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    You know, lucky enough that I have a partner who actually knew that's what I do in the business as well, so. That's pretty rewarding so I think that, that's really important as well.

Jonathan Doyle:     I wanted to just, something you said a minute ago about having people around you that are motivated. This has come up in a few podcasts. You know, sometimes people say, you've got to have all your team as motivated as you are about the business and one of my favorite entrepreneurs in New York says that's ridiculous. He said you can't expect any employee to be literally as passionate about your own business as you are right? But you can get them close. So in terms of how you relate to your team, and motivate people, how do you communicate your expectations and vision, like. You know, you can control your attention to detail yourself, what you do. You know, in terms of the cleanliness and all that stuff and making great beer. How do you bring your staff with you. What do you do, what does Tracy do that helps people want to make a contribution rather than just turn up and have a job. What do you think you do well to bring them with you?

Richard Watkins:    Yeah that's a good question um we probably haven't done this well enough as we could, even. I mean I think the [inaudible 00:45:04] is that you know, you want people to be happy in their job, I mean I always learnt that you've gotta do something that you love doing. You can't get me down to work if you don't like it. So if you're going to work and you don't like what you do, find something else. The rest of your life's going to be influenced by that. We want everyone in our business to, to basically feel like that. We want people to come, we have a lot of people love coming to work.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    Which is great. Which is, exactly what you want. You want people to, want to come to work. Then I guess, giving people, you know, giving people a chance to, to have ownership of things, you know, as a business, [inaudible 00:45:37] only four years old and we've grown at such a fast rate that probably we haven't done enough of that and that's something we want to do a lot more of is let people, you know, have a bit more input and a bit more, let them do their own thing a little bit more.

Jonathan Doyle:     So true, I've learned that recently with kids, like. You know, so much of the time if you just go, hey look, work it out, right? Like, find a way, people just surprise you. But the more that you can't hold everyone's hands and drag them along but I think, you made a good point like. When people have ownership and feel a little bit empowerment around what they're doing, what are you proud of in your people so far? When you look at some of your key staff, what are you proud of?

Richard Watkins:    Oh I think I'm proud, you know, that people have been with us since the start. 

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    I think that uh, that says a lot. And I think that's something that, you know, when you had, when you're employing seven people at the moment in different areas of the business and get sifting through a lot of resumes and this, there's a lot of people out there who've changed jobs every two years and I just think, ah.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    You know, like I mean, sure they might be still trying to find that job or that thing that they really want to do but, if they, for instance, are a chef and they're constantly been changing their job every two years they should probably look at themselves and go, I don't really want to be a chef, you know?

Jonathan Doyle:     I wanted to ask you a simple question. Which is, why don't you stop right? Which is, when you research you and you read articles about what you're doing, one of the things that seems to be a little bit unique about you is your fascinated by innovation and creativity, like it's not if you've gone, hey we've made a good beer, hey everybody, look at our great beer! And you stopped. It's something you knew, like you've gone, let's try this, let's try this, let's try this. What is that?

Richard Watkins:    Well I mean it's, you know, you just, you can't stay stagnant can you, I mean uh. You've got to keep recreating things, you've got to keep coming up with new things, that sort, lot of people want, a lot of people want to hear about something different, you know, I like challenging myself to do things, to do things differently as well, probably a little hint a name on that at BentSpoke we did things a little bit then. You know, I think that's something that people that work at BentSpoke think about it that's something they probably don't realize happens in front of them there is that things do change quite a bit. New things come out quite a bit. And that's just challenging things.

Jonathan Doyle:     And you always reading? Can you like in terms of, you know, when I'm flying I'm always, just reading reading reading constantly and in the spaces I'm in around speaking and you know business. But what do you do to keep yourself growing and learning. Right? So is it just trial and error are you just constantly trying stuff all the time or what do you do for that?

Richard Watkins:    Yeah basically, that's what it is, I mean, we would like to, I mean, I'm lucky enough to get invited to get a judge on a number of different beer competitions around the world so you're always seeing what's going on.

Jonathan Doyle:     That must be very very hard. That must be [inaudible 00:48:20]. I think you've been doing that for us all because we all appreciate it. My gosh. Half the planet would just be like, really? You get to do that? So what do you do to learn?

Richard Watkins:    Well I mean, you just, [inaudible 00:48:29] what's going on. That's the beauty, that's what I was saying, that's the beautiful thing about our industry it's such an industry where everyone can [inaudible 00:48:34] brewery in Australia and they'll just have a chat with you. I think there's many industries that are, that are like that. We regularly catch up with other brewers, people come to Canberra to see what we're doing and. When we go, when we leave Canberra or chat to other breweries in Canberra, even the breweries in Canberra, we've got good relations with all the breweries in Canberra and still talk to them all the time and I could probably show you some text messages from this week and like three of the breweries in Canberra were like ...

Jonathan Doyle:     So explain that to me. Is this simply as you were saying before. Beer is a sort of thing that unites people, are you like, freaked out with your own IP with your own stuff like, do you highly protective of everything because these days, there's not a lot of true commodities left that can't be replicated. So I guess what I mean is you've got to create a great product but you gotta build stuff around it so that people don't just copy the beer and then you're out of business. Do you, in this brewery space, do you get highly protective of IP or are you, what you're saying there sounds like you can pick up the phone ring a brewery and you'll talk to each other, like. What's the balance there between protecting your own unique X factors and, and sharing with people.

Richard Watkins:    I'm pretty, I can be the, most brewers when they ask me what hops I got in this beer I tell them, if they ask em what malt, I tell em.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    I think that there's a lot more that goes into making a beer than just knowing what the ingredients are. There's a process and that's ingrained in the brewer. The brewer sort of decides the process that he wants to go on and if people ask me what I do, I mean we've done a few collaborative beers, we want to try and do a few more, a few different breweries, that'd be really good.

Richard Watkins:    Oh I think, just the sharing of knowledge and you always learn something when you, when you go to a different brewery as well, you say, oh you're doing it like that! I do it like this. I should do it like you're doing it, you know? So, you know, otherwise, you question your impulses, you can reaffirm also your impulses as well.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah. Well we want to wrap up, but I just, look, for me, summarizing, I think, there's this fascination with quality, with a great experience with people, with innovations, I want to ask you where this is heading. Let's talk about legacy. Let's talk about where you'd like this to go. You know, you could end up with a fantastic brew pub here for 30, 40, 50 years that becomes a real institution. Is that it? Or are you thinking, you know you guys had a deal with Singapore Airlines are you thinking, well now we want breweries in every state, we want to go global, or, what's your gut feeling on it all?

Richard Watkins:    Oh look we always liked just sort of take one step at a time, I mean, we, we made the step to, set up another brewery to take the beer outside of the forwalls of the brew pub, I mean, that was the first sort of big step just otherwise we would have selling our beer to people in Canberra. We've also got a bit of a goal to be a national beer brand at some point. Um we're not in a rush to get there so it doesn't need to be next right? Selling a bit of beer in Sydney and a bit of beer into Melbourne now. We've got out beer in Brisbane we've got our beer in Tasmania. 

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    So it's slyly just evolving and growing. Growth is a funny thing. You've really got to have controlled growth. For so many reasons. If you, if you try and get to the clouds in two weeks, you, you're going to end up falling back in a hoop. Really, want to be in a controlled growth phase so we can really manage all the parts of the business that we need to grow together.

Jonathan Doyle:     So what are your indicators for that. Because that's quite strategic. Because other people would be like, no everybody's gonna, we're gonna grow as fast as possible and cut every deal. What do you, what are your indicators. Listening to you, there's a caution there, how do you make that decision? How do you go somewhere.

Richard Watkins:    Well you've got to be careful you don't invest ahead of the market, so, I mean, like it's easy we set up a bit, we probably invested a little bit ahead of the market in that regard to suddenly go bang next week and be a national beer brand who makes beer everywhere in Australia and everywhere so the market's not growing at that same rate. That you know, you'd think that could come back to. We could've invested all this money into something that'll take a long long time to show returns so you've got to just do it in a way where you can just reassess every month and have a look at where it's tracking and what you need to do in all the different parts of the business to grow.

Jonathan Doyle:     And that brings us back to where we were almost at the start is, is, how do you, again, I sort of asked you this, but I'm sort of fascinated by it. I sense that if you could, you'd be happy to be left alone in the brew area and just create the stuff all the time and walking around seeing people happy but we're talking spreadsheets here, we're talking equity partners, we're talking, you know, a lot of time in front of Excel. How do you deal with that on a day to day?

Richard Watkins:    Oh look I mean we [inaudible 00:53:02] got really good business partners too so.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    I mean, hands on. We've, started as a business for us. We're hands on running the business as well and we're all over everything but they bring that level of expertise to the business.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah. So in that I guess, I guess there's essentially that kind of, managing that growth through bringing on the right people at the right time with the skill sets. One of the questions that we often just ask is, how do you manage yourself like on the day to day, time management. Are you a morning person? Do you charge in there with a to-do list? Just, I want to talk personal effectiveness just as we finish, like. My days start at four am I'm a morning person, I do a bunch of stuff. How do you maximize your own effectiveness. I want people to hear success doesn't happen by accident, success leaves clues, how does Richard Watkins run Richard Watkins on a daily basis?

Richard Watkins:    Yeah I've gotta get better at that.

Jonathan Doyle:     Do you?

Richard Watkins:    (laughs). Yeah I do. I mean, I generally start pretty early. I'm in at the brew by six and you know, I usually crack in and get the brew going that's my job for the day and then I try and handle all the questions from everyone in the business as I'm brewing your ... (laughter). Or after I'm finished brewing. But the days where I'm not brewing, you know, I'm really just trying to catch up on email and field questions and hold meetings.

Jonathan Doyle:     Oh yeah.

Richard Watkins:    As is business, you know. Look I mean, one of the things is that, as you grow, you know, you need more people, but knowing when to put those people, I mean, not getting them in too early so they fall into a false sense of security so. You know, it's going to be good pretty soon in the next sort of three months we'll have a lot more people on in the brewery and I'll be able to, I'll be able to focus on the parts of the brewery that I want to do rather than actually having to get in there and do a lot of the grunt work.

Jonathan Doyle:     Sure.

Richard Watkins:    But also, we'll also have a general manager on as well, so they're going to be able to take a massive weight off my shoulders and you know, then you start looking at [inaudible 00:54:51] so it's going to be good. I'm looking forward to it.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah. Yeah it's a perennial question. I'm sort of uh, going through this too, like you, i put a bunch more staff on recently and our business it's like, you had this sort of magical idea that's you're gonna sort of hire yourself out of every role but then eventually you go, you know, the goal isn't for me to sit around practicing my pouting, right? I have to be doing something. What is your greatest strength? What is your single greatest strength that you bring into the business?

Richard Watkins:    Oh I guess commitment. I'm committed. I'm not going anywhere. I want to, you know, I want to make sure, commitment to quality commitment to, and you know that quality is not just about the beer, it's about everything really. And I'd like to learn, I don't want to leave any stones unturned. I wanna make sure we do everything as best as we possibly can.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah. I like that idea about being committed so that I would joke about with a chicken Caesar salad or chicken and bacon Caesar salad. The chicken's involved but the, but the pig's committed.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle:     He's, he's in there for good. We don't call it a weakness, but what's one area you'd like to get stronger in, what's an area you'd like to do better in?

Richard Watkins:    I'm probably not the best communicator at times.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    So I'm probably, I certainly can improve that.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    But I think that comes with just the work load as well. I mean, not having as big a work load will allow me to spend more time on quality communication instead of, yeah just, getting it done, so to speak.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah I have this image of you trying to get in there at six and get the brew going and people, you know, people lined up behind you with a bunch of questions and you're just like, would you just let me get this. So, last thing. I always ask this to people is, if you could imaging standing in front of a hundred young business owners, they're in a start-up phase. And I ask you to walk on stage and they want three pieces of your best advice, like in a word or in a sentence. What three things would you tell a business owner starting out to focus on. What do you think are three crucial things to build a great business?

Richard Watkins:    Yeah [inaudible 00:56:49] you're gonna own a business as a businessman. Make sure you, you understand what that means and when you think you know something, you go and check that out and make sure it is right.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    I think quality, I can't say that highly enough, I mean.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    It's. It doesn't matter what you're doing in business. It doesn't matter if you're in hospitality industry or you're in the manufacturing industry or you're the, you know, in the broadcasting industry. Whatever you do, it's all about quality. And um people want quality. And if, if you provide quality. And quality is your mantra, then you will stay down a little bit above everybody else and people will start to recognize that.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah it's the most effective marketing, isn't it.

Richard Watkins:    And I think that last one is, and this is something that I need to do more of, but we do do a fair bit of it, and that is have fun. I mean, you know, we're only trying to do the best thing and at the end of the day, you know, I always [inaudible 00:57:46] or you know, I'm in the beer industry so I've got to have fun.

Jonathan Doyle:     You can fly into beer judging it's not right.

Richard Watkins:    Yeah I mean, I think that goes back to making sure you do something you like doing.

Jonathan Doyle:     Sure.

Richard Watkins:    And I can really say to anyone out there. If you're not doing something you love doing, go and find something that you like doing, and do it. Don't wait any longer because you get such a joy out of, I can get up every morning and go to work at five, you know. And, I love it. I do it because I love doing it.

Jonathan Doyle:     Yeah.

Richard Watkins:    And I wanna do it. Sure, it's my business now but I still did that when I was at the Wig and Pen. [inaudible 00:58:20]. I loved it. I stayed there all day or all night. Whatever I needed to do, to do what I needed to do. Because I loved it. And I think that's something that's really important in people's lives. They've got to do something they love doing and if you don't if you don't like what you're doing, it's really time to give something else a go.

Jonathan Doyle:     So true. I've been saying that for almost to the entirety of human history, at least till the industrial revolution, probably 1760, you did what your parents did, or you did whatever was available you had no choice and uh, you know, now, we really do have options in a way we probably never had in human history. There was that great line where you can't pay me enough to hate my life. I've always liked that one, you know? 

Jonathan Doyle:     So your big three, that great line that being a business owner doesn't make you a business person that you have to uh, you gotta know the detail, you've got to have the people around you to help you run a great business. The second was around quality, which I think you've just nailed, I think that's your X factor because I think if you don't have quality there's no where to hide. You get found out, you get found out eventually. And also quality is the ultimate marketing and finally was just to enjoy yourself. I think great messages. So my friend Richard Watkins we are going to put a bunch of shout outs here. 

Jonathan Doyle:     Everybody listening, if you haven't been to BentSpoke yet, shame on you, shame on you. It's a really great experience. I was lucky enough to go there the first time recently and I will be back very soon. Bring your friends, bring your family. They've got great experience there for you so check out, there you'll find there products in local stock just here in Canberra but increasingly further and further afield. They bring a great product, they bring in a great quality product to the Australian capital territory and beyond they should be really proud of it and Richard, mate, and you and Tracy and your whole team. Thank you for being involved in private enterprise for providing employment for people. For helping people pay their mortgages, school fees, and taxes. I'm really proud of business owners that uh do what they love and build great businesses that support the community, mate so, congratulations to you and your team there and we wish you every success. Thanks for being on the Canberra Business Podcast. 

Jonathan Doyle:     Thanks very much for having me and uh, for everyone out there um, please to be.

Richard Watkins:    Alright man, thanks my friend.

Jonathan Doyle:     Hey everybody. Johnathan again, there was a lot there, right? There was a lot of gold there that I hope is gonna be very useful for your business. It was a real pleasure to, just to listen, just to kind of hear how, you know 17 years of experience at one place leads into taking the next step. I think [inaudible 01:00:45] culture these days where it's very much about the instant result, the overnight Instagram success rather than hearing these kinds of stories which are about years of mastery, dedication, discipline that bring about a great product so I hope you got a heap out of that I want you to go to the shy notes to check out BentSpoke. If you're in Canberra you've got to go to their brew pub in Braddon it's uh, right in the height of Canberra, I've been there before and I actually loved it. It's just, it's just such a cool experience. You're going to see there's individual tap heads that we talked about. You're going to see just a great environment. Great food, great people, great service, so please come and check out the brewpub when you're in town. 

Jonathan Doyle:     Check out the links in the shout outs different feeds so you can find out what BenSpokes is doing. Please subscribe to the podcast, share this with other business people so they get to have the insights and the excellence that is coming out of the national capital. So that's it for me. Check out Canberra Executive Coaching. We can serve you in your business goals. We've got another great guest coming up next week I think next week we've got Serge Ou from Wild Bear Media so make sure you subscribed because that's also a great interview. That you to Richard, thank you to the team at BentSpoke. I'm Johnathan Doyle. This has been the Canberra Business Podcast we're going to have another great episode for you next week.