Kentucky is best known for its Bourbon and most bourbons are made by distilleries located around and near Louisville, KY called The Bourbon Trail. While traveling to and visiting several of the distilleries along the trail doing “research”, I was fascinated with the complexity and sophistication of the century-old concepts that have sustained these companies and have made them amongst the most lucrative in the world.
These entrepreneurs started and maintained businesses against the odds (financial, physical and legal) and without the conveniences of technology and equipment. Of the 6 facilities I visited, all had their own unique flavors, but there were common themes in each:
1. Ingredients are key
2. Details are critical and one must not deviate from the recipe
3. The product must be aged in oak barrels and stored for desired flavor and strength.
We can use this in HR, the concepts, not the liquor. Attention to the details and the focus on quality are always critical to the success of any organization.
Ingredients = Talent
To get a desired taste or result, what goes into the pot must be exactly what we need. Smart recruiting jump starts the process. A standard (employee profile) must be set before actively seeking candidates. Before investing time in the candidate, they should meet 100% of the profile. We can’t hire someone who is 70% of what we need expecting to be 100% satisfied. It doesn’t add up.
Recipe = Policies and Procedures
To be legally classified as Bourbon, the ingredients must be prepared a certain way or they can’t use it. What good does it do to have the right stuff if you don’t do the right thing with it? A blueprint or roadmap for organizational success must exist. A vision, a mission, somethin’. Where are we going and how do we get there. How much of this, how much of that, when to pinch and when to stir. If a clear recipe doesn’t exit for your organization, help write one or use grandaddy’s, just make sure it’s not for moonshine. That stuff’s illegal.
Barrels = Incubation
This stuff wasn’t just cooked, bottled and sold. Barrels were especially crafted for the young bourbon in a way that it could sit for years and get better. The bourbon goes in the barrel clear and unrefined, and after years (5-9) of flowing in and out of the oak, braving the elements in cold then warm barrel houses, it develops its flavor and color. No quick fixes or get-rich-quick schemes. Stable and profitable businesses take time and patience to reach their age of perfection. Don’t expect it all overnight. The more intense the process, the better the end product.
On 4 of the 6 distillery tours, guides at some point said verbatim, “All Bourbon is Whiskey, but not all Whiskey is Bourbon.” I say that all businesses are companies but not all companies are about their business. The ones that will grow and thrive are the ones that focus on what’s going into them, what they’re doing with it and then waiting on the smoothness that will result.