20 Pieces of Advice From 20 Years as An Entrepreneur in the Beverage Industry
By Janet Johanson, CEO & Founder, BevSource
The 20 years I've spent building BevSource have been both enriching and, at times, extremely challenging. My journey and the people I've met have transformed me. Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing because every experience has taught me something.
When things seem chaotic - as they often do in the world of beverages, I lean on the lessons I've learned - some through the advice of others, and some from trial and error - to guide the way. Here are 20 guiding principles that have helped me grow and learn over 20 years in the beverage business.
1. Stay in the dirt as long as you can
If you want to learn something, immerse yourself in it. That means getting into the details, learning the ropes, and doing the work. If you're lucky, you'll fall in love with the work and want to bring others into the dirt with you, and your team will grow. But it starts with you getting your hands dirty.
2. Listen first
A lot of entrepreneurial advice emphasizes having a vision. But a successful picture of the future can only come from truly understanding the people around you and what they want and need.
3. Build for the future
If you’re building for today, you’re already behind. Practice thinking further out. There’s no way to know what will happen along the way, but constantly reminding yourself where you’re going will help you make the best decisions to get there.
4. Seek out change
“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”― Jack Welch
Don’t just embrace change when it inevitably comes. Seek it out first. Wherever you’re sitting, you can see things that could be improved or enhanced. Push for progress. The person who is coming to make things better is you.
5. Always be planning
The goal isn't to create the perfect plan but to continue getting better at planning. You can't predict all of the elements that will change as you go, but the better you get at planning, the better you become at assessing risks, taking action, and improving your performance.
6. Take accountability
You're going to make mistakes. Take accountability and listen to other perspectives so you can learn something from every mistake and move forward.
7. Don't make business decisions when you're emotional
Emotions can serve us, but they can also cloud our judgments. Evaluate ideas and advice when you can do so objectively and with care. Stay focused on what you can control and let go of negative emotions or feedback that doesn’t serve you.
8. Be a connector
Take time to connect with people and connect them to others—every connection matters. Nothing builds more connection than honesty and the willingness to do the work.
9. Never Stop Learning
Commit to continuous learning in whatever form it takes. Whether through books, podcasts, seminars, or a coach, mentor, or formal education, knowledge opens doors and helps you see opportunities. Never stop learning about yourself, others, and the world.
10. Don't be the smartest person in the room
Everyone has something to teach you. The fastest way to get where you want to go is to surround yourself with the people who can teach you what you need to learn to get there.
11. Give credit
Be aware of the people around you who have great ideas but don't have the voice or confidence to bring them forward. Help amplify their contributions and give them credit.
12. Use your superpower
Figure out what you do that feels easy to you but is something you see others struggle with. Own your superpower and leverage your skills to add value and make your unique contribution to the world.
13. Create exciting opportunities
If you want to attract and keep great people, give them the chance to shine. Keep building opportunities worthy of your team and the one you want to build.
14. Meet your fears head-on
When fear is holding you back, think of the worst possible scenario. Make a plan for what you would do if the worst happened, and then let go of the fear.
15. Get a great mentor
Find someone you admire and ask them to mentor you. Be specific and clear about what you want help with, and keep in mind what you might be able to offer in return.
16. Ask for what you want
Most people don't get what they want because they never ask. Once you know what you want, practice asking. If someone says no, ask why and incorporate what you learn into your next request. Getting a “no” from someone might just mean it’s not the right person or the right time.
17. Don't reinvent the wheel
Finding something someone else hasn't done or tried to do is rare. Learn from others so you can take the idea further.
18. Be authentic
Others may be able to replicate what you do, but they won't be able to see it or do it how you do. That's why being authentic and creating a space where others feel safe to be their authentic selves is one of the most significant advantages you can give to your beverage company.
19. Walk the talk
It's easy to say you're about something but much more difficult to prove. Acting on your principles is more convincing than posting them on social media. Use what you have and what you learn to take action every day to create the world you want to live in.
20. Enjoy the journey
It's exciting to think about the future, but it's just as important to celebrate the good things at every step and stage along the way. Don't overlook the micro-moments that are trying to tell you something. Cherish those moments.
I'm incredibly grateful to the beverage industry for the unique opportunities and people it has brought into my life. Here's to another year of learning, growing, making, and enjoying great beverages together.