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  • Writer's pictureThe James Kennedy Podcast

#47 - JAMES WATT - BREWDOG - LESSONS FROM THE PUNKS

James Watt is the co-founder of Brewdog, the insanely popular craft beer brand that embraced the principles of punk rock to disrupt a market and dominate the headlines with their provocative and creative approach to business and marketing, which took the company from two men and a dog to a billion dollar global brand. On this episode, James shares his wisdom on business and marketing, the importance of balance, climate change, punk rock, tips, advice and ice baths. Hear our conversation at : https://linktr.ee/jameskennedypodcast


TRANSCRIPT


Hey, what's going on? Welcome back to the James Kennedy podcast. How are you doing? Apologies for missing you gorgeous misfits last week, but I was busy scribbling away on my new book and also recording some new material for that hot chart topping band, James Kennedy and the Underdogs. That's right, baby. There's gonna be some new material coming your way real soon, as well as live shows and all of that good stuff. As I've said before, if you haven't yet joined the awesome Secret Society community, come and join the crew now and get the first scoop on upcoming gig dates, new music and loads of other cool shit that's gonna be happening real soon.


Just go to www.JamesKennedystuff.com/tribe and enter your email address and your city so we know where we've got friends around the place and we'll come and make some noise for you. That's www.JamesKennedystuff.com/tribe. There's also a link on that page to join the official Secret Society Facebook Group too. So you're all welcome in there. Please come and join us and thanks again to you all for continuing to check out my podcast.I really do appreciate it, man.


I appreciate all the kind words and the feedback and all the love and support. You guys are awesome, and it's what keeps this show afloat. So thank you so much for, for keeping me in doing this thing. I have got an amazing guest coming up really soon for you guys today. And there's likely to be a lot of puns on the theme of dogs today because, as you may or may not know, my autobiography was called Noise Damage My Life as a rock and roll underdog, which led to my new band being called James Kennedy and the Underdogs.


And we have a thing called the Dog House, which is a fans with flaws scheme that we run with our amazing and generous tribe of misfits around the world who accommodate our sad sorry asses when we're out there on the road doing our thing. But the reason I mentioned all of this is because on the show today we have got a man who is almost literally the top dog in the world of craft beer and someone who is artfully blended by much loved punk rock ethic and aesthetic with huge global success in the very crowded beer market to carve out their own thing in their own way.


Divisive, most likely controversial, certainly. And not without their fair share of enemies, but a truly fascinating and wise character who, I just know is gonna have a lot to give in our conversation today. I'm talking, of course, about Mr James Watt from the global phenomenon Brew Dog.


But before we jump in with all four feet Sorry, don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on any and all platforms. This thing is available everywhere, including Spotify, apple, Amazon, Stitcher, Castbox and also on YouTube. So please, please, please. If you want to help a brother out, please hit that follow or subscribe button. And if you could give me some stars or review, it would mean the absolute world, then it would be a huge help in helping me continue to push these conversations out there. You know, I don't have any advertising and I don't get paid to do this thing. So if you're enjoying these conversations and think they have value, please give them a share and get involved.


But now, as promised from underdog to Alpha Dog, James Watt and his fellow band of pirates at the mighty Brew Dog are roaring louder than ever. And we've got a tonne of stuff that I want to get into. So let's just get down to business and bring him on to the show. Mr James Watt. I know you've got way more important shit to be doing right now than talking to me. So I really appreciate you taking the time out to speak with us man.


JAMES WATT: No, it’s good to catch up and excited to do it.


JAMES KENNEDY: Me too, man. I mean, how you been doing?


JAMES WATT: Yeah, I'm doing awesome. I'm excited to be the second James and a two James podcast.


JAMES KENNEDY: Yes, and two Celts as well. Welsh man and a Scotsman. So what could go wrong? I was going to crack open a Black Heart, which is absolutely fucking delicious, by the way. But 11 AM is too early, even for myself. So I'm going with black coffee instead. I hope that's OK.


JAMES WATT: I've got coffee as well, but I'm sure it's five PM somewhere, so I don't think I don't think it's ever too early for a Black Heart.


JAMES KENNEDY: Oh, yeah, They twisted my elbow already. Well, what's going on with Brew Dog HQ right now? Man, you're a busy dude. What's happening?


JAMES WATT: Yeah, Super busy. So we're just, it's kind of geeky, but we've just installed a new canning line. So, I've just been, like, watching it. Amazed at the speed that fills can. So it fills 60,000 cans an hour, 1000 cans a minute and, going back to the early days of the company to fill 1000 cans. Used to take us kind of 24 hours. So we can now fill the amount of cans in one minute that took us. It took us 24 hours to do back in back in the early days.


JAMES KENNEDY: That is awesome, man. I can imagine that would have been, you know, a very a very cool nerd fest to be a part of and hey, more beer for us as well, you know? So everyone's a winner, right? It is insane how far you guys have come in such a relatively short space of time and long before I was a fan of the beer, which I'm 100% a massive fan of. I was a massive fan of the branding and the marketing because your marketing is genius and I know that you get asked about is all the time so we don't want to dwell on it too much. But we've got to talk about it, man, because obviously, you know, I'm a musician. I'm from a punk rock aesthetic, ethical background myself.


So you know, your your your messaging and your imagery and your your marketing is always really resonated with me because, you know, the Brew Dog brand is very undeniably steeped in punk rock, isn't it? So where does that come from? I mean, is that your background, or is it just an extension of who you are as a person?


JAMES WATT: I think it's a bit of an extension, but the thing that we were massively inspired by from the kind of whole punk Movement was like to smash the system. You need to be able to exist outside the system, so you need to learn the skills that you need to succeed yourself. So it was that kind of DIY hands on kind of ethic that that we just kind of fell in love with, and that's what we've kind of built our business on. So always, like try to learn what we what we need to do ourselves, not dependent on the system, not dependent on anything that's outside of us and being happy to kind of live or die on the merits of what we what we do ourselves.


And that was the kind of attitude that we've tried to build this thing, and I think it's I think it's been good, good so far and it's kind of made for a super farm journey as well.


JAMES KENNEDY: Oh, 100% man. And it's been a fun journey for the rest of us to watch as well. I mean, your marketing, like I said is, is just fucking genius is bang on And that whole, you know, giving a finger to the to the establishment figures and, you know, just doing things your own way and not giving a fuck. You know, I love all that man, and it clearly is an authentic extension of who you are as a person, because it would just be impossible to maintain that this this convincingly for this long, you know, But in order to take what's clearly quite a natural voice for you into the, model of a packaging up a product and a business and you know, strategies and all that sort of shit Did you study and learn any of the technical stuff that you would need to do to convert that natural voice of yours into a brand and a marketing campaign? Or do you just have a natural talent for this shit?


JAMES WATT: And I didn't, and I'm actually delighted that I didn't And I what you find if, like people study business too much or if people are too experienced a thing, they know exactly how something is supposed to be done. Now, if you're a small company, if you're an upstart doing things the way things are supposed to be done or they get you absolutely nowhere because you're competing against companies that are way bigger than you. So I think the fact that we went into this, like, so naive I was working in the in the North Atlantic fishing boat before I set up the business. But the fact that we didn't know how things were supposed to be done conventionally meant we had no option but to kind of forge their own path. And in doing so, I think we've come up with a much better way of of building our business in terms of community ownership, in terms of beers that we make and in terms of what we do.


So that naivety, that lack of knowledge, that lack of experience, I think is actually one of our strongest assets. And I I do a bit of investing in smaller businesses, and I'm always excited to back someone that's got not much experience and not much knowledge, because I think that's how you figure out a way how to circumnavigate a whole market and come up with a new way of doing things.


JAMES KENNEDY: That is a great point, man. Yeah, and already, you know, you're dropping. You're dropping some pearls of wisdom here, man. I think people can learn from, you know, regardless of the industry that they're in. And speaking of that, I wanted to flip things on their head. Whilst we're on the subject of punk, rock and business, I wanted to ask you how you might approach this sort of change that we had in the music industry. If it was in the beer industry, what would happen if all of a sudden overnight, the product that you sell, the physical, tangible product that you sell became a free commodity that literally streamed out of the Internet for free?


Which, as I'm sure you know, is exactly what's happened in the music industry. And some artists and some labels have been able to sort of navigate that, and others have just sunk. So if you're really interested to hear what somebody from a completely different industry outside of the music industry would would would potentially manage that problem Should you wake up tomorrow and the product that you sell as as the centre of your business suddenly became free?


JAMES WATT: That's a fantastic question, and there's a Quote that I often share with the team, and the Quote comes from Darwinism and then kind of evolution. It's not the biggest or the strongest or the fastest that prosper. It's the most adaptable, so that adaptability is hardwired into our DNA as a company, and I'll give you a great example. So when Covid hit, I spent one day in the depths of despair, thinking the company was wasn't going to make it. The next day I kicked into action mode.


We completely pivoted our distillation business, and within four weeks we were making hand sanitizer for the NHS. When there was a shortage of sanitizer, all of the bars were closed. But we use our bars as kind of fulfilment centres for eco and delivery business and we, our ecom business within the space of two months. So if, like landscapes and markets today change so quickly, everything is changing. You can't cling to the past and you have got to change and you've got to adapt. And I think the companies that do well long term are the companies that adapt to the inevitable changes.


Every market is going to get disrupted, every industry is going to change, and the companies that die and go the way of the dinosaurs and the ones that are reluctant to that change and they don't embrace it. And they've fact you've got to emra change and you've just got to be quick, adaptable and nimble in the face of that change.


JAMES KENNEDY: Brilliant answer. Yeah, that that's such a great point. And it was echoed by, I had a guy called Brian Slagel from a record company called Metal Blade Records. And they were the label that first discovered Metallica and Slayer, one of the world's largest independent record, still going strong four years later. And that's exactly what he said. I said, What do you see in common with all of the main bands and labels that stayed afloat this time? And he said, Adaptability. He said, That shit is always going to hit the fan, and it those ones that can adapt and change are going to be the ones that stay stick stick around. So, yeah, I love that man.


Beautiful Quote as well, because the Darwin Quote often gets misrepresented, the people say, the strongest survivor of the strongest and the fitness. That's not actually what he said. It's exactly what you said, so thank you for clarifying that.


So as a thought experiment, then if you weren't, so you you got jacked off with Brew Dog and you wanted to actually go into the punk rock business, and you were you were managing a punk rock band from scratch. What would you do? The I don't know if you know anything at all about the music business, but, I mean, it's damn hard out there at the moment. We could do some great minds like yours when in a world where the product is free and every douche in the world has got access to the platforms, you know?


So the platform is saturated with every man and his dog and a demo tape. You know, how do us dumb ass musicians navigate that world? What would the evil genius of James Watt do if he was managing a punk rock band starting today?


JAMES WATT: So I'm going to caveat this heavily by saying, I know very, very little about the music industry. But if I was looking, if it was managing a punk band, if it was managing a coffee shop, if it was managing a car wash business, if it was managing a fintech business, whatever, I would always go out with the same kind of underlying principles.


So three principles, very simply, Firstly, you've got to kind of try and be a force for good in terms of what you're doing. So everything is so saturated with people doing similar things, People want something to believe in the market for something you believe in is infinite. So you've got to try and like, do some good in terms of what you're doing. Secondly, and this one for me is massively important. You've got to find a way to to Distrupt, you've got to find a way to do something different.


So if I was managing a punk rock band and if I was just doing exactly the same as every other punk rock band manager out there, I would be a stone cold failure, and it would go nowhere and like the success would be limited. could only ever be a percentage is as good as the other people in this industry, which wouldn't interest me at all. So find our way to do things differently, And that often involves taking our risk that unless you take a risk and are willing to take a substantial risk, you're never going to open yourself up to the possibility of real success.


And the biggest risk is not taking a risk at all. So be a first for good, do things differently, take a risk and thirdly, I think the best businesses kind of today and in the future are going to be so deeply rooted and embedded in community. So that connection of community and like we don't feel like our brand is ours. We feel it's it's our fans, like dog belongs to our fans to a community of 220,000 equity punks. They help us design new beers. They help us find new locations. They're the kind of heart and soul of our business. So I would, focus on being my first for good.


I would try to do something destructive, and I would put community and community ownership at the heart and soul of whatever I did. And that would be the same as if I was managing a punk drug band or any other new business that might die in and give a go.


JAMES KENNEDY: That's awesome. That was That was actually the next question I was going to ask you. So we tick too off in one go that you fuck flying through it. And what do people do? Because this is the question I've asked a lot of music industry people, so it be interesting to get somebody who's had success in business in a totally different industry and also quite saturated market with some heavy players that dominate most of the market. What do people do to get heard above the noise of everybody else doing it? Because there's a lot of talent out there. There's a lot of hard working motherfuckers out there, but again, they might not be talent in business or marketing.


And you guys have been very, very good at blasting yourself into the public consciousness and staying there as well. What can people do let sticking in the music business? I know you said, You know, it's not something you know a lot about, but in a predominantly digital world that it's very, very saturated. What can people do to to get heard above the noise of everybody else?


JAMES WATT: Great question. So, first and foremost, let's just assume that the kind of base product be it albums, be it coffee, be it beer, be it soft. Let's assume like the base product is of like outstanding best in class. Elevate the quality. So for us, we set out in an industry dominated by global behemoths. Thousands and thousands of times our size. We were two humans and a dog with a big mission to make other people's passion about fantastic beer, as as we as we are and I all odds than are on us getting completely lost in that industry.


But we haven't done that, and we've now built the 14th most valuable beer brand on the planet, which which is, which is pretty crazy. And our strategy was was very, very intense. It's OK. So the companies were competing against spending tens of millions hundreds of millions every year in advertising, trying to convince people that cheap mass market, lowest common denominator beer is a quality product. If we try and spend a tiny amount of advertising, we're going to get absolutely lost. We've got to find out a way to cut through that noise. We've got to find a way to get our message out there, and we've got to find a way to do that while showcasing what we are passionate about and for us that time and time again came back to OK, let's take massive risks.


Let's put everything in the line for what we believe, and let's try and move the narrative forward. Let's try and make sure it's underpinned with the passion that we have, and sometimes it can come across quite stun. But I mean, the intention wasn't for it to be stunted. The intention was, OK, let's do something that gets people thinking and speaking about beer in a different way. So we made the strongest beer on the planet because we want to challenge people's perceptions of what beer is, how it can be enjoyed, how it can be savoured, how it can be made. And that leads to a very different discussion about beer. We drove up tank through the streets of London to announce the opening of our Camden location because with no advertising budget and like Little Beer Company opens a bar in London, they're going to get no media coverage at all like us.


Driving a tank through a London seller and opening of our bar there made headline news. We hired a helicopter and flew the helicopter, and we did this twice over London in New York, over the kind of Bank Of England and the kind of Wall Street in America, and we had kind of a little stuffed cats. And we threw them out of the helicopter with a little parachutes. This was death to the fat cats because we were rejecting corporate finance and building a completely completely new finance model for small businesses. So not taking ourselves too seriously wearing our heart in our sleeve and being willing to take a stand.


So we took a huge stand against the World Cup in Qatar because we felt that was the right thing to do. Not many companies have the guts to do that. And if you look at most companies, they're so bland they're so you don't know who they are. You don't know what they stand for. You don't know what they're about as a business. We wanted to kind of make sure that people knew who we were, what we stand for, how we how we do things.


So take risks, take gambles, do things that kind of cut through the noise, which is difficult on a low budget, focus in community and be very clear about who we are and what we stand for. And by doing that, we've been able to we've been able to grow in that industry, dominated by the kind of mega bucks advertising it and cut. Do we now one of the best known bans in the in the UK, despite the fact that our competitors over the last 20 years have spent cumulatively, probably in excess of two billion on advertising we've spent next to nothing.


JAMES KENNEDY: That's so cool, man. Yeah, and it's certainly worked, dude as well. I mean, like, everybody loves the brand. I mean, even like my mother. When I said that you were coming on, she said, Oh, I love Brew Dog. And then my 96 year old grandmother, who was also there, said, Oh, I love Brew Dog as well. So, you know, you're clearly reaching all, all all demographics there, you know, 96.


JAMES WATT: That's a good age.


JAMES KENNEDY: Oh, dude, you’ve got to invent a new drink called a little treble. My nan swears that the key to her longevity is whiskey, and she calls it a little treble, which is basically half a glass of fucking whiskey. It's like half a pint, but by calling it little, it it implies because it's innocent, you know, little treble.


JAMES WATT: I think somebody should tell the Scottish whiskey industry about her. I think they, like, found her next market. If you want to get to 96 this is the way to do it.


JAMES KENNEDY: She would love that dude.She she'd be more than happy to cash in on that one. But I Yeah, you're totally right, though, man, Like I the tank thing was absolutely fucking genius. I love that idea. And I think another thing is that you got to be prepared to make some enemies because I know you guys can be quite divisive at times, and you have made you know, you you you've You've gone to quite a lot of flack over the years. But, you know, if we're going to use cool quotes, you know, to follow on from the Darwin Quote, I mean, I love the Quote. You know, a man with no enemies is no man at all.


I mean, if you're trying to do some shit, you're trying to break into a very mono market and you're trying to take on some long standing behemoths. You're going to make some enemies, and you're gonna piss some people off, and I know that you guys have probably made some mistakes and errors of judgement or whatever over the years, but coming from where you started from with the resources you didn't have in a system that has been very well established for such a long time with with main players who are very powerful and very deep rooted, I suppose it's impossible for that not to happen. Do you think that's fair?


JAMES WATT: Yeah, absolutely. And we've always been involved in quite divisive as our done. We've got some people who absolutely love us and some people who who don't. And for us that's fine, because any brand that sets out trying to keep everyone happy is going to be so vanilla, so beige, so indifferent that you're never going to get people passionate about it. And it's almost like unless you have some some haters, you're never going to kind of build the army of love, which is not flipside of the coin.


And like some people don't like people being successful doing what they love, because it makes them feel inadequate and insecure fact that they're maybe not that successful and not doing something they love. So the natural response is to is to and that we've always taken flak, some of it justified. We have made mistakes along the journey where two guys that set up a company when we were 24 we've been so high.


And and companies are that high growth, it's difficult to kind of keep all the plates spinning the way you want. And sometimes you can't do everything super well. So we've made mistakes along the way. We've held our hands up when we have made mistakes. But I think the amount of flack we sometimes take is definitely disproportionate to the amount of mistakes that we've made as a company is what it is. We know who we are. We know what we do. We know who our fans are and we just keep keep building our business in the UK and internationally and keep going. And it's something that just sometimes happens, especially in the UK with with success.


JAMES KENNEDY: But yeah, well, you've got some powerful enemies as well, and people don't like, you know, people don't like when a new dog turns up on the on the block. You know what I mean? I think that's probably where a lot of the disproportion of that comes from. You know, you've got some pretty pissed off powerful enemies that had a pretty comfy position at the top of the table there. And you guys have come and kicked the fucking the legs of the table away. You know, speaking of those guys in the behemoth, not necessarily in your industry. But I know your life has probably changed significantly now, from when you started the business.


And I'm sure that you mingle in some corporate circles. Probably against your will. often times. I know that sustainability is a big part of what you guys do. And it harks back to one of the key principles you mentioned about doing good as a company or a band or whatever it may be, so many companies don't. I would I would I would guess that most don't now you've rubbed shoulders with some of these guys I'm sure. What's your feeling on why they don't I mean, they've got grandkids too, right? I mean, it can't just be greed. What's the reason?


JAMES WATT: So sadly, and I'm I'm going to speak about our sustainability journey. Then I'll speak about why they don't care. So we we thought we were doing our bit for the planet. We thought we were doing our bit to kind of help against climate change. And that assumption just came crashing down. After I had dinner with Sir David at just before Covid hit.


And after that dinner I was hit with a blindingly stark realisation that we weren't doing nearly enough. And we were part of the problem that our planet is currently facing. And we are sleepwalking as humans off the edge of a cliff. We're facing an existential climate crisis, and we need to wake up in huge, huge, huge changes across the board, not in 2050 not in 2040 and not

in 2030. Like huge changes needed today. Some scientists think it might try to be too late. I don't subscribe to that view. I don't think it's too late, but we need to make cataclysmic change across the spectrum of what we do as humans on this planet to be able to survive here.


So on the back of that meeting, and despite our business going through the teeth of Covid, we decided to completely pivot everything we do. So we work with Professor Mike Berners Lee. He's our kind of lead independent scientific advisor and one of the kind of world leading experts on climate change, carbon foot printing and sustainability.


And we became the world's first fully certified carbon negative beer business. That means we take twice the carbon out of the air every single year that we emit. Any time someone has one of our beers, our planet has less less carbon, but kind of sitting underneath that our first focus is on reducing our emissions. So it's good that we remove carbon.


We we also need to reduce our emissions. We've made huge investments across the business. So we've now got an on site bioenergy facility that turns our waste water into bio methane gas, which then comes back and powers our system. We're working hard in the electrification of our of our vehicle fleet. We've got an advanced heat recovery system in our house. That kind of takes the heat that escapes and then uses that to kind of heat. The next batch batch the beer.


We're now fully wind powered in the in the UK, so huge investments to reduce their footprint. And also, when we count carbon, we count all of the carbon. So including the carbon in our supply chain. At the moment, we work with kind of a very high class, high quality removals and offsets. So there's so much noise. There's so much nonsense or so much dis ingenuity in the offset market.


So Mike Beardsley and his team vets that we usually do most of our work for the Nature Conservancy of of Canada, which is kind of very sensitive to kind of biodiversity and kind of all those kind of key factors with the removals that we're doing. We also bought, 10,000 acres in the heart of the Scottish Highlands and the 10,000 acres it's It's huge. It's bigger than 17 actual countries.


And in the Lost Forest, we, we've now started, but we're planting well over a million trees to take carbon out of the air. So our carbon is our problem, and we are determined to fix it ourselves. And we'll have 300,000 trees planted by summer, and we're not just planting trees. We're creating a native biodiverse leaf woodland habitat and kind of rewilding a key key part of key part of Scotland. So that's where we are on our sustainability journey. And I fully believe that to drive the change that we need as a society as humans on this planet, the change has got to come from the best of businesses working hand in hand with leading scientists. I don't think politicians are able to help us here because the timescales they work on for five year re-election cycles is incompatible with the pain that we're gonna have to take as society to make the changes we need.


So it's got to It's got to be business that that that drive the change here and business has got a huge responsibility to do it as to why other companies are not doing enough to answer is sad. And the answer is simple. And the sad, simple answer is at the moment, consumers simply don't care enough about climate change to in a small pocket of consumers do, and maybe 10 or 20% of consumers make their purchasing decisions based on sustainability. The vast majority of consumers at this moment in time don't care enough, which is going to change at some point in the next 5 to 10 years.


The sooner that changes the better. And members of the public need to realise they can have way more of an impact when it comes to fighting. Change, fight, climate change with how they spend their money every single day and how they vote every four or five years. So consumers need to, and it's a sad thing to say. But ultimately consumers need to care more, and as soon as consumers care more and demand that of companies, the companies will change.


But until there's that huge demand from consumers, there's not enough incentive for the big companies, who are mostly public, who want to make money for their shareholders to make less money if they have to invest in sustainability. So at the moment they're focused on making money for their shareholders and members of the public. It's going to change, but the vast majority of the public don't care enough yet about sustainability to force big companies to change.


JAMES KENNEDY: All right, that's a very interesting answer and very well put as well. I didn't see that one, but I thought you were just going to say there are a bunch of greedy bastards that don't care because they've got their underground dungeons with their maids and their robots. They don't care.


JAMES WATT: No. So so they care about one thing. I mean, they care about their sales, and it's so the The consumer has got so much power, but also so much responsibility here because soon as the consumer demands that and as soon as the consumers only starts buying the most sustainable things in the category, everything, everything will have to aspire to that bar.


So it's a bizarre thing to say about how consumers spend their money is one of the key factors in if we're able to successfully fight climate change on this planet.


JAMES KENNEDY: And do you think then? I mean, you guys answer this question for me. But do you think it is possible for all businesses to, survive and have longevity and make profit and do all the things that a business needs to do while still being ethical, sustainable and not having an army of eight year olds in a sweatshop somewhere? So is it possible? Because they say a lot of them say that we wouldn't make any money if we did that.


JAMES WATT: It's absolutely possible. But coming back to that adaptability point, it's going to require adaptability. So if they keep doing the same thing, not possible if they're willing to change if they're willing to evolve, then absolutely, absolutely possible. But it's that disability. It's that nimbleness. It's that willingness to be able to change things that may been done that way for 10 20 30 40 50 years. However, we have to make change as society, as individuals, as companies to fight this crisis that we're facing


JAMES KENNEDY: Love it. Well, I'm keeping an eager eye on the clock here, and I'm I'm trying to rattle through as many questions as I can. I've got you here in front of me. So I hope you don't mind throwing at you.


JAMES WATT: I like the speed. We actually got an internal saying in our company that we like to count time in dog years. So I think any company like speed, especially in small company like speed, is your superpower, like so many kind of big companies. So many industries are so slow, so bureaucratic. So if a normal company wants usually does something in seven days, we want to do it in a day. If a normal company does something in seven weeks, we want to do it in a week.


A normal company does something in seven months. We want to do it in a month. So we love to count time in dog years. And that speed has enabled us to go from two humans and a dog to the 14th most valuable beer on the planet in just under 15 years.


JAMES KENNEDY: Amen. But you're clearly very comfortable with the speed. So you you're keeping me on my toes on my paws. Excuse me? That was that was bad. That was bad. But I want to move away from this sort of marketing and the corporate and the punk rock and down to the personal level, because your life, I'm guessing, has changed immeasurably.


You know, you you you You've kind of, you know, for people on the outside who who are like starting up a business or a band or whatever it might be you've you've done it. You know what I mean, you've started out. You put the whole new, disruptive model you've taken on the mainstream, and now you've got all the success to to show for it. And you're still true to your values.


You've got great, great product that's very well respected and loved on the streets. Has it changed you as a person at all? How has it changed your life? Is it like we all imagine it is that once you get to the top of that mountain, it's all fucking awesome. And life is great and you know you're bathing and your millions. Or is it just you, you're the same guy but now you just got less time and more shit to do and more pressure and more stress. I mean, is it is it what we imagine? Or is it something else?


JAMES WATT: Great question. So for me, it's it's never been about the money at all. And if it was about the money, I would have sold the business completely three or four years ago. And I'd be like sitting on a beach somewhere, drinking a cocktail and never have to do anything ever again. And that that's not who I am. That's not what I want For me, it's always been about, like, stating something enduring something that we're proud of. So, like myself and my team are given our kind of energy or time or commitment or passion, like we want to build something kind of look back in 5, 10 years time and be proud to be part of that.


We've tried to be part of a company that did something differently, that the climate that changed the beer industry and it's it's nice to be successful. I still live in the same place that I lived in before I was before I was successful. I still I still do the same things I still like. My best friends to this day are the people that I used to work with on the on the fishing boat.


So I I think my my life and who I am is kind of changed very, very little and still so focused on like every single day I wake up just like I did in like the first, the first week. It's like this is what I love. This is my hobby. I get to do this as a job. I get to work with people I love. I get to make something that brings people joy. That brings people together, that they can find that they can find, like enjoyment and relaxation and the beauty, the beauty.


And I get to elevate the state of of fear, which is something I'm insanely passionate about, so I wouldn't want to stop for a second. Hopefully, I'm doing this in 5, 10, 15, 20 years time because it's something I absolutely a door. And the success is the Ah, the success has been good, but still very much the same person in the same place. Try to do the same thing just, I guess, with a bit more kind of personal comfort, which which is nice, but, the ability to the ability to scale.


And I often kind of get asked by journalists and kind of people interviewing me like, what do I think of what we've done, what we've achieved, what we've built in the 1st 15 years, and I wouldn't say I'm callously indifferent to it, but I I'm reasonably indifferent to it. So for me, what is exciting is OK, what can we do from from here. So we've built ourselves an amazing platform. We now make beer and high tech beautiful facilities in in Scotland, in Columbus, Ohio, in Berlin, in Australia, in China, in Japan, in in Ireland, we've now got distribution in 65 countries.


We've got an equity punk community of 220,000. So what we've done so far? Ok, what can we do from here? How can we turn our business into the world's leading beer company at the same time?Showing business can be a force for good, flying the flag for sustainability and elevating the status of beer in as many people's lives as possible. And that's what I'm excited about, that that's what gets me out of bed every morning. And that's what I'm determined to put everything the line to try and achieve over the next decade.


JAMES KENNEDY: Love it long will you continue, man. I mean, how do you, I got one more personal question. How do you manage your, the practicalities of your insane workload, then? I mean, do you get down time? Do you get rest time? Do you get to exercise? Because, like, I'm not flying anywhere near the level you are, man. I'm you know, I spend most of my time in a house in my pyjamas like I am now, you know, like, do it, do a podcast. I'm supposed to be writing my second book, which I've been working on for fucking months and recording a new record. Like I get to do you know, all my favourite things in the house. But even even I struggle to find time, to meditate, to exercise, to eat well, to visit my mum, to have some downtime and see the misses.


I can't imagine how hard that must be for you. Do you manage to do any of those things? Or is your life just fucking high speed?


JAMES WATT: No, I mean, I I have to and I think it's so so important. And what I find if I don't make time to do those things, I don't take the best version of me to work. If I don't take time to exercise, if I don't take time to kind of spend quality time with my daughters if I don't ensure that I eat well, if I don't ensure that I sleep well, I'm also huge at the cold water immersion at the moment. So if I don't make time to go in my, my, my if I don't do those things, if I don't get enough outside time, I I I maybe like 70% of the and work ethic and like focus that I think I need to take to work.


So it's almost if I'm building up the blocks of my time. Obviously, I want to be I I work a lot like a hell of a lot and I want every hour that I work to be as effective as it possibly can be. But I know that over the course of a week, if I don't make time to do those other things, those hours that I work are not going to be as effective. So it almost I don't feel guilty about doing those things because I know that the work that I do is going to be better, because I do those things that I enjoy and because I do those things that keep me, keep me healthy, keep me focused, keep me connected and such an important way of using my time.


And I'm like so into time management. So every single human, regardless how successful they are, regardless of how much money they are, all gets 24 hours in a day. And for me, what determines to a large extent how successful someone is is how effectively they use their time over the course of a day. So I do loads of things like I I batch my meetings. I only reply to emails at certain times and too many people, they just kind of they have no structure to how they use their time. So they'll send an email. They do a hop about every time you switch tasks. It costs you focus. It costs you energy.


It's a kind of more likelihood to get distraction, and it can throw a bit of kind of social media strolling in at the same time. So I I monitor how many minutes I use my phone a day. I monitor how many minutes I'm on social media a day extra that I record that I try and keep that so I can focus on other things. I spend a lot of time doing what I would call like deep focused work so my favourite way to work is a do not disturb sign on my door with noise cancelling headphones on.


I give my phone to my assistant and I turn it off and you need to create that space to focus because otherwise you're trying to do deep work. But at the same time, you pack away an inbox, you jump on to social media, you do a phone call, you need to create the space for that. And then I also like to block out significant amount of time spent with my team.


But I like to do that kind of back to back to back. So I'm in that mode where I need to be engaging where I need to be a leader where I need to connect with with people so thinking very consciously about how I use my time, how I structure that time and how I minimise the opportunity cost of wasted time by switching between tasks and how I maximise the focus I have.


I think it really helps me, and the difference between a productive week in a in a less productive week is absolutely massive. But then, if you times that by 52 if you times that by 520 over the course of a decade. So I truly believe that these little things can add up if you do them again and again again, So can they. Really discipline, disciplined and structured in terms of how I use my time and kind of how I allocate the focus that I have That is some great advice.


JAMES KENNEDY: Yeah. I mean, I'm guilty of a lot of those errors myself. I'm trying to write a book, and then I'll I'll take I take a break. I'll go on Facebook and then half an hour later, you know, it's like, What am I doing? So yeah, I'll be Oh, wow.


JAMES WATT: My uncle's got a new dog. Oh.


JAMES KENNEDY: Oh, that's really interesting. I'm gonna spend half an hour talking about that. So I'm guilty of that myself. So I'm gonna take that away, for sure. Because I got I got a lot of shit that I gotta get done.


JAMES WATT: The best work that I always do is when I'm completely undistracted. So you've got to carve out a few hours at a time. No internet, no phone calls, No connection, nothing. And you need to almost decouple your head from where things are.


So you can't something I often say to the team and say, Say to myself as well, You can't build the future if you're so concerned with what's happening at the moment. So you've got to kind of create that space to be able to look ahead and build something. And I think I've got some good qualities that as I see you, I've probably got some things I need to work on as well. I think my strongest my strongest suit, is that ability to kind of build something, create something. But you've got to give your head the space and time to be able to do that.


JAMES KENNEDY: That is great advice. Yeah, I will definitely be taking that on board myself. What do you get from the cold border therapy?


JAMES WATT: Oh, I love it. So I started doing it about two years ago. I actually one of the investments that I've made recently is a company called Monk, which is designing a beautiful kind of ice bath to go in people's homes, and I originally started doing it to kind of help recover from from work out from exercise. But what I'm really into now is the kind of mental health benefit. So every time you do it, regardless of how many times you've done it, it is it is still very difficult.


But I've now got like a ice bath in, in in in my home, so every morning or going for 2.5 3 minutes. And the fact the kind of sense of accomplishment that you've done something that difficult first thing in the morning and it's impossible not to feel good. Afterwards, you get kind of flooded with flooded with endorphins. You kind of feel more alive than after you've had kind of two or three coffees, but it's also kind of so beneficial for your heart, for your muscles, for your recovery.


But that kind of buzz that high, that focus that kind of sense of accomplishment as, it's always a very difficult 22 minutes and what I love about it as well. You've got to be exactly there, so you've got to be so focused and so present. If your head somewhere else, you need to jump out after 10 seconds, you need to be calm. You need to slow your breathing down. I always find it difficult to meditate because my head is quite noisy.


You can't have a noisy head when you're in cold water. You've got to be so calm, so focused, so relaxed. So so in that moment. So I think there's so many benefits, I think it's gonna be the next. It's quite niche at the moment. I think it's gonna be the next big mainstream health thing that more and more people people do. And it's just got so so many benefits and also benefits in terms of kind of weight loss. It kind of eats up off your body as well.


Benefits in terms of kind of reducing inflammation, reduce some kind of aches and pains in your body, and if you exercise, if you work out, it massively speeds up recovery as well and huge amount of mental health benefit benefits as well. So I would encourage everyone to do it, and and you don't need to have an ice bath. So I started by doing kind of 15 seconds every day at the end of the shower, on cold and after a few weeks.


You build it up to 30 seconds and 45 seconds in a minute. And if I'm travelling, if I'm in a hotel, if I don't have access to the ice back itself, it's just two minutes full cold at the end of the shower and you get exactly the same benefits. You don't even need to invest in anything and anyone can get the benefits. So it's it's, it's It's tough, it's tough. But doing something tough kind of builds up mental resilience, and everyone needs a kind of good, good amount of mental resilience.


I think so. For me, it's a It's a fantastic thing. And I would, one of the things that I'm kind of most reluctant to to not do as part of my day.


JAMES KENNEDY: Well, you you've convinced me to give it a go because a few people have mentioned it on the podcast, and it does sound like something I definitely need to do. Oh, God, the idea of that just fills me with terror, so I I'll give it a try. I'll give it a try, and I'll tweet about how I got on with it.


JAMES WATT: Ok, let me let me know. I'm excited to hear how you how you got on

JAMES KENNEDY: It won't be good.


JAMES WATT: And maybe if we do the podcast again, we can We can do it whilst we're up to the neck in ice water.


JAMES KENNEDY: Yes. And we'll have the aforementioned pint of Black Heart as well.


JAMES WATT: That's the one.


JAMES KENNEDY: Let's do it. Sounds good.


JAMES WATT: See how many minutes the podcast is, Maybe one or two.


JAMES KENNEDY: I think you'll win that. I'll be like, Fuck this. I'm out of here, man. I'm more than happy for you to win. Well, James, I got one last question before I let you go, because I'm gonna try and get away early because I know you got shit to do. We've got quite a few it themes in common.


As I said, I'm in a band. My band is called James Kennedy and the Underdogs, which was taken from my book that came out in, in the lockdown. My life was a rock and roll underdog. I was I'm a political punk rock band. My album is called Make Anger Great Again. I know you've got a thing called Make Earth great again. And also I've got a thing called the Dog House, which is fans with flaws basically touring out and about because we're like a DIY punk band. We've got, a database of fans that put us up on their sofas and their floors, and it's called the Dog House.


So we've got quite a few with dog related themes there that come from my band name. I just wanted to double check. I'm not gonna have that. I'm not gonna get chewed up by the Brew Dog mafioso at any point, you know, Am I or is the is the head dog giving me a green light and said It's OK?


JAMES WATT: You are all good and like some of those things that you just mentioned that can I see so much resonance with what we do? And I love some of those initiatives you're doing. So I will definitely check out the band and check out the book.


JAMES KENNEDY: Oh, thank you so much, man. I'll send you some shit, man. I'll send it to your assistant. I'll get whatever the irrelevant P O box is to send it to and I'll post it across.


JAMES WATT: Well, we can we can Thank you by sending you some beer as well.


JAMES KENNEDY: Oh, well, I will never, ever say no to that. So thank you so much, man. I really appreciate it, James. I'm gonna let you go now, man, because I know you got loads of important shit to do. Thank you so so much for giving us your time today, dropping all the pearls of knowledge and wisdom on us. And thanks for quenching our thirst with all these gorgeous amber neck jama over all these years as well. And for sticking it to the big dogs and bringing a bit of punk rock to the pint glass. So thank you so much, man. And I hope to see you again soon.


JAMES WATT: Awesome, loved the conversation. Love the questions. And thanks for having me


JAMES KENNEDY: Any time at all, man. Thanks again, James. Speak to you soon, mate. Take care.


JAMES WATT: Speak to you soon. Take care. Bye bye.


JAMES KENNEDY: There you go, guys. Raise your glasses and howl like drunken Dobermans. The main dog of the brew, Mr James Watt. I hope you enjoyed that chat. That guy certainly knows his stuff? He's got a lot to say and he does not mince his words. There's a lot of great info and advice there, I think for anyone running or starting a business or indeed a band or whatever, you know, it's very kind of James to share all of that wisdom so generously.


And, you know, I I unfortunately I got so carried away with all the questions I totally forgot to ask him, as I always do with the guests. You know what is coming up from HQ. Which fortunately, you know, these guys don't need my help with any promo, so I'm sure he's gonna be OK about that. But as I mentioned earlier, the guys do have a creamy new addition to their arsenal of fun called Black Heart, which is absolutely fucking delicious Stout and is available at all of their bars as of right now and also in can form at the supermarket.


And I would 100% recommend that you go and sink one of those cold bar boys at the first opportunity. I know James and Co have had a lot of criticism over the years for different things, and I know that they are divisive and I know that people are going to be saying to people, Why didn't you grill him about this and grill him about that, you know? But that's, you know, I'm not.


I'm more interested in the wisdom and the learning opportunities. This this ain't fucking Jeremy Paxman, you know what I mean? And I just think that is such an interest investing a unique entity in the world of business and what they've done is so interesting. So I'm much more interested in getting into the minds behind all that and the practical insights that you lucky bastards can gain from someone who's clearly supremely talented in areas that I and I'm guessing most of you motherfuckers are certainly not.


So why not listen and learn? You know what I'm saying? You don't need me to tell you, but Brew Dog are at Brew Dog dot com at Brew Dog on Twitter and Brew Dog official on Instagram and Mr James Watt is at Brew Dog James on Twitter and Instagram. So go and give them a follow. I hope you gained some useful ideas there and some definitely some food for thought.


As always, do leave some comment. Start a conversation, join a conversation, share the episode around and let me know what you guys think. Don't forget to subscribe and join the Secret Society at www.JamesKennedystuff.com/tribe. And I will see you again next week with another awesome awesome guest until next time, my friends have a great week.


Fight the power and I love you loads.

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