Brewing in Singapore

One man's adventure of brewing beer in Asia.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Train Kept a Rollin'

The New Year has brought some changes to our small company. Yes, we are small. We are owned by a huge company (Asia Pacific Breweries – APB) but the Archipelago Brewery “company” is small. We have only six employees, we had nine but … well, as I said the new year brought some changes. We lost three of our team; our sales manager/person (Max Lo), our operations manager (Chong Hui Cheng), and our Envisioner (Chan Loo Siang). They were all friends and I am sad to see them leave. But I think that each will find success in their next endeavor.

As I said Archipelago is small, and APB is big (they own over 28 breweries throughout Asia). Now, working with a big company has some decided advantages; the benefits are good, they have money (so you can have good equipment), they are strong and respected in the industry, and you can piggy back on that muscle (like getting better pricing on raw materials). Of course there are downsides too. A big company (like a big ship) is not maneuverable, it is slow and takes great effort to change its direction. It is complicated, there are layers of systems and layers of management, and even finding out who the correct person to talk to about an issue can be difficult.

Since Archipelago shares many systems with its next door neighbor (the Tiger Brewery) I seem to run into the big vs. small issue with some regularity. We have our own brewery (separate building, brewing equipment, sales and marketing) but we share many of the other services of the larger brewery; utilities (water, sewer, steam, CO2, electricity), billing, purchasing, warehousing, payroll, etc. I come from a small business background so I sometimes I feel like a fish out of water. I seem to always be messing something up – I have not used the right form, or I have sent my wrong form to the wrong department, I did not check with …. Somebody, or I need to get “X” before I can have “Y”. I just can’t quite seem to get in sync. It’s all a bit like the movie Brazil for me.

If you are a big company all that may work for you, but when you're a small company wedged into the big company system it can create conflict and frustration, especially when your small company was purposefully designed to be quick and responsive to the market. And I think that was part of what brought about all three of my friends leaving, trying to be maneuverable while attached to a train going down its own tracks.

Now what got me started on this train of thought was some of the good things about being attached to a big company. My personal favorite is our shares utilities. After five years at Anderson Valley Brewery (where almost everything is self generated and disposed – including sewer and some power) is like a dream not to have to worry about water, sewer, steam boilers, CO2, electricity, generators, fork lifts etc, etc, etc. (my utility requirements are not even one tenth of one percent of what they use next door). There are other nice touches too – we have our own company doctor, our own cafeteria that serves about 300 meals a day (both breakfast and lunch – the typical lunch is about $1.00 USD - free salad on Tuesdays), a bus service to take people to and from work, regular health screenings, free passes to movies, the zoo, the bird park, and about every sports event, and a pub that serves free beer to all employees. Yes, the working life in Asia is very different than it is in the USA.

Sometimes I am a bit frustrated because I have not yet learned the system or sometimes I am just frustrated with the system. One has to learn a certain sort of Zen attitude to get along in corporate life anywhere, otherwise it is just all too much and you get derailed. Now I am not saying I have mastered this (not by far), but I am beginning to learn – all be it a bit slower than some, but I am learning.


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At 3:20 AM, Blogger Monkey said...

i guess we all feel like that sometimes, being swept along by a greater force but hey think of the free beer and movie passes! wow lol sounds like really good benefits :D

either way i think your beer is really good :P


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