Spike and I are asked constantly about the history of starting Terrapin. We always reply with how we met in 1997 while working together at another brewery in GA, and decided we could make more aggressive and experimental beers than what was available at the time in the SE. We talk about spending 3 years trying to raise investment capital and getting nowhere due to the late 90’s craft beer shakeout, the dotcom boom (then bust) and finally September 11. We finally got desperate enough to pull out the credit cards and go for it. 162 barrels in year 1, over 800 barrels in year 2, our first paycheck in year 5 (!) and we have never looked back.
But there is more to the story. And that can be found in three or our ten company values. Those are RESPECT OTHERS, PROVIDE A GREAT WORK ENVIRONMENT, and HAVE FUN! Where did those come from?
In the spring of 1998, our then brewery manager took Spike, myself and others on our team to opening day for the Atlanta Braves. They were playing the Milwaukee Brewers and it seemed like a no-brainer for a team building exercise for brewery employees. When we returned the next day the owner of the brewery took our manager aside and proceeded to chew him out. The next thing we knew we were all outside tarring the parking lot. Did it need it? Maybe, but to us it sure felt like punishment for going to the ballgame. Spike and I decided right then and there that we were going to open our own brewery someday and we promised ourselves that we would never, ever treat our employees like that.
Since starting Terrapin in 2002, we have been big believers in open book management and high employee engagement. Have we always walked the walk? Unfortunately not. For years it was too easy to get bogged down in the realities of running a business and just trying to survive. More than once employees had to remind us of our promise to put them first. In late 2011, with the help of our new CFO, we finally put to words our Mission Statement and Values. And at a company meeting in April of 2012, we made a promise to the employees that within 5 years we would be voted a “Great Place to Work”. We have until April 2017 to make that promise a reality.
In the meantime we have hired a full time HR person and are now getting feedback from our employees on what they envision as a great workplace. Just the other day, our HR person was talking to a brewery in CO about some of the benefits we offer. The other brewery said we were better than just about every brewery in CO with the exception of New Belgium. What a huge compliment!
To all current Terrapin employees – we realize we have a long way to go. Hang in there, we are headed in the right direction and with your help we will become the “Great Place to Work” we have always wanted to be.