By Clare Goggin Sivits On December 26, 2023

When to Hire A Distilling Business Consultant

Workers help install a still at a distillery that's becoming operational with help from a distillery business consultant.

New and existing craft distilleries both face operating challenges as they launch and grow their businesses. During those times, an experienced consultant offers powerful guidance and support. Their expertise helps bridge the gaps any distillery may trying to jump over themselves, allowing the business to focus on other priorities.

As a liquor marketing agency, we’ve teamed up with several distilleries who’ve found value in working with consulting firms, such as Distillery Now. In fact, we’ve worked closely with Kris Bohm, the owner of Distillery Now – and someone with an impressive resume in the distilling industry. He’s worked on everything from rum production and product development to distillery design, safety and operations optimization and equipment sales and removals.

For any distilleries out there wondering if a consultant might help them solve a problem they’ve encountered – whether it’s about getting the business off the ground or navigating growing pains while expanding – we spoke to Kris. He told us why, when and how distilleries work with consultants like him to successfully manage a wide range of issues. Here’s what he said.

Why Do Distilleries Need Consultants?

According to Kris, new distilleries benefit from consulting services to help them get established and save time and resources while planning out the business. “A consultant can provide real world insight to ensure time spent planning is effective and reality based,” he says.

On the other hand, an existing or operating distillery finds they need a consultant when they’re preparing for a business shift or expansion. “That planning can be time consuming,” Kris notes. “It is best to hire a consultant who can assist with planning from the outlay.”

Essentially, hiring a consultant is just a good business decision. “The financial success of a distillery hinges heavily on the sales and marketing of the business,” Kris points out. “There is no better person suited for this job than the owners of the business. If the owners are mired in planning for expansions or growth they are likely missing the opportunity to create the most value within their business. A consultant can help fill the gap for times when a full time employee may not be the long term solution to the problem.”

Commonly, distilleries source help from consultants to address budgeting – and how to acquire equipment within budget. But other popular services include “business and budgetary planning, equipment selection, equipment install and start up services as well as equipment operation training,” according to Kris.

When Do Distilleries Seek Consultants?

Trying to plan a new distillery and get it operational can be a difficult task – especially for anyone not thoroughly familiar with all the rules, regulations and requirements of the industry. Additionally, it can be hard to parse out what equipment will be needed for certain products and how to source it, etc. etc. There’s a lot that goes into opening a brand new distillery that some new business owners may not even be aware of.

That’s why new distilleries might look for help as early as the planning stage. “There are immense unknown costs and variables in starting a distillery especially for folks who do not have experience in the industry,” Kris discloses. “An experienced professional can help to navigate the unknowns of a start up and provide guidance on the best path forward.”

After launch – even well after the business is established – distilleries may again seek out consultants to help when ongoing operations pose additional challenges. That often occurs when it’s planning for growth.

“Expanding a distillery operation can be technical and time consuming,” Kris explains. “When a distillery is operating, the owners and distillers are often mired in day to day operations. A consultant can assist with planning for an expansion to ensure, the expansion is ideally on time, on budget and meets the growing needs of the business. This allows the operators of the current business to not lose focus on their existing business.”

What Can Consultants Do for Distilleries?

The services offered by consulting firms, including Distillery Now, vary. Kris offers support for distilleries at all levels and all stages of the business. “This includes business planning, those under construction and currently operating,” Kris discloses. “We tailor our services to specifically meet the needs of individual clients to help them move forward with their business.”

Kris told a story of one such client he worked with. “A client of mine planned to start their business with a continuous column still, which has a very large output of distilled spirits,” he says. “I was hired as a consultant to review their equipment plan and construction plans.”

“Upon review it became apparent to me that the building and surrounding space where the client was starting did not have enough square footage to accommodate all equipment needed to support this still and its potential output,” he continues. “We assisted the client by revising their equipment and construction plans to align with the potential capacity of their space.”

How Do Consultants Work with Distilleries?

For Distillery Now, any prospective client can opt for a free introductory consultation. During that time, the distillery gets into the details of their biggest business challenges and discusses them with Kris and his team to help build a plan of action.

“An introductory consultation is normally about an hour in length with a phone call or in person meeting,” describes Kris. “The purpose of an intro consult is for the consultant to get to know the client and understand the challenges they face. As part of an introductory call for new clients, we have a questionnaire that is filled out prior to the call to better understand the goals of the client. We determine the needs of the client during this call and discuss how we can assist to meet their needs.”

From there, Kris – or whomever the consultant may be – works closely with the distillery to address challenges. Maybe it’s an equipment issue or a question around ongoing product development. Whatever it is, the client needs to fully trust the process.

“Buy in and work from all people involved in a project is essential to the success of the business and the work being completed by the consultant,” Kris emphasizes. “While many great consultants can complete projects with little input from the owners, the owners’ involvement is critical to long-term success. In most cases the solutions provided by a consultant will be implemented by the owners so the owners’ participation with the consultant is critical to its success.”

What’s the ROI on Hiring a Consultant to Get the Job Done?

It’s probably the biggest question on any business owner’s mind. Why pay someone to do it when it seems like something they could do themselves? Bottom line: it’s gonna save you time, resources and money in the long run.

“The ROI of a consultant is as simple as the time versus cost of time formula,” Kris discloses. “A consultant can save a client many hours in research and planning with their vast experience. The best return an owner will see on their time is to invest time into their business. If many hours are spent by the owner mired in the minutiae of planning construction or growth, they are likely missing other opportunities.”

Clare Goggin Sivits

As a marketer with a strong writing background, Clare Goggin Sivits has worked in the beer, spirits, and wine industries for nearly a decade. She oversaw digital marketing for a small wine startup as well as a craft brewery and distillery with a nationwide footprint. A Florida ex-pat, Clare now lives in Portland, Oregon, and continues to write about craft beverage marketing and the industry as a whole.

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