As BrewDog changes leadership, how can the business get its “punk” back?

As BrewDog’s high-profile CEO steps down I was pleased to share some thoughts with The Big Issue about where the business might go from here.

As BrewDog’s high-profile CEO steps down – to be replaced by the current chief operating officer – I was pleased to share some thoughts with The Big Issue about where the business might go from here.

One of the biggest challenges for any expanding hospitality or retail business is trying to keep growing at the same time as not jettisoning what made them special and popular in the first place.

The industry is littered with companies that began as edgy upstarts but ended up becoming boring and ubiquitous.

BrewDog is not at that point quite yet, but as it heads towards an IPO it needs a strategy where its “punk” credentials are driven by the company’s people, purpose and values, rather than by the CEO’s angry posts on LinkedIn.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the high-profile allegations and bad press around BrewDog in recent years have damaged the brand, even though its products are still good and enjoyed by many people.

However, there are many example of where you might like what a business offers, but still feel slightly uneasy about supporting it, because of the views or alleged actions of that company’s big personalities. In some cases, customers will indeed go elsewhere, rather than spend their money with a business that they feel does not reflect their values. Topshop, for example, had wider challenges too, but the association with Philip Green was certainly not an asset in its later years.

I do a lot of work in Durham, and usually a big investment from a national brand is seen as good news. However, it was telling that when BrewDog announced it was coming to the city, there were many negative reactions online – highlighting the allegations of mistreating workers – alongside the more positive comments. No big brand really wants to be in such a position.

Under its new leadership, the best thing BrewDog can do to change these perceptions is to change how it does things. It needs to work hard to make sure that it is a genuinely great place to work, and to publicly address any future issues that may arise with honesty, courtesy and respect.

I recently saw a LinkedIn post from another business – the Slovenian supermarket chain Mercator – celebrating 75 years of trading, under the heading “A good world starts with good colleagues”.

To become as good a business as it could be, BrewDog would do well to embrace a similar philosophy.

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