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A Different Way of Doing Business: New Belgium Brewing

Filed in Worker Voice, Workforce Investment By on September 9, 2015

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of a new series called “Your Voice at Work” which will run in the weeks leading up to the first-ever White House Summit on Worker Voice on Oct. 7. The series will feature voices from across the country that highlight how America is strongest when we work together to build shared prosperity, when the working men and women who are engines of economic growth are true partners in industry and innovation, and when everyone has a robust voice at work. 

Business can be a force for good. Good for the planet, good for our communities and good for our co-workers. When we started New Belgium Brewing Co., we began with the idea that we could craft world-class beer in a way that’s respectful of the environment and our co-workers. From our beginnings in our house in Fort Collins to an employee owned company of over 660 co-workers, we credit our growth to our business practices – 100 percent employee ownership, open book management, leading with trust and encouraging each other to use our talents in service to our stakeholders.

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Our basic belief that business can be a force for good is rooted in the belief that our co-workers and co-owners want to work hard doing something that they care deeply about, and that caring is fundamentally important to both our co-workers and our business.

In our business we harness the positive energy of our co-workers by offering ownership, opening our books and placing trust in each other.

Ownership through a structure like our 100 percent S corporation employee stock ownership plan (also known as an S corp ESOP) brings us together as a community to focus our efforts toward our common goals, and builds real wealth for our co-workers and our community. In conversations about how business can thrive, some see a dichotomy between offering ownership broadly and being successful. We’ve not found this to be the case. In fact, we have seen the exact opposite: our co-workers and co-owners are deeply engaged in the business of running the business precisely because we have shared ownership.

When we decided to open our books to our co-workers, we unleashed the power of each one to be engaged, ask thought-provoking questions and propose innovative solutions. For example, two of our co-workers worked to eliminate the cardboard dividers in our 12-pack holders to save us money and cut back on the amount of cardboard needed.

We also look at how we can invest in our co-workers’ skills. When we needed a new microbiologist we chose to send one of our co-workers to college so he could earn his degree and work in our lab.

Every year we gather together in our annual retreat to talk about where we all think our business is growing, what challenges we face, and how we can continue to be excellent and loving while accomplishing the work that needs to get done.

The root of both our ownership and our open book management is trust in one another to do the right thing. We ask for help when needed, look out for the each other and the business, and evaluate the collective impact of our of our daily decisions. This is the glue that keeps us together – from committing to authentic relationships with one another to encouraging each other to pursue opportunities, all the while remembering how lucky we are to be doing what we care about.

This way of doing business – the way that’s good for the whole person – is the way we’ve chosen. We’ve chosen it because we believe that if we were going to dedicate such a large portion of our lives to working we’d rather spend that time and energy in a way that has a positive impact on each other and our communities.

Kim Jordan is the CEO of New Belgium Brewing Co.

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