Lift Bridge Brewery: Client Highlight Interview
This month’s Client Highlight features Dan Hawkes’ client Lift Bridge Brewing Co. Founded in 2008 by friends and neighbors, Lift Bridge Brewing Co. has grown to become the seventh largest brewery in Minnesota. CEO Dan Schwarz shares how EOS has helped the company grow and define its Vision, all while maintaining “our home-brewing roots.” Located in Stillwater alongside the bridge it is named after, the brewery distributes beer and root beer throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin and eastern North Dakota. As the business continues to grow, Schwarz and the Lift Bridge team use EOS tools to stay aligned to their Vision.
YESS!: What drew you to EOS?
SCHWARZ: I was having lunch with a friend and she asked how things were going in the business and I told her we were feeling stuck. We were working hard but were spinning our wheels. She recommended I read Traction and I finished it in two days. I could completely relate to the issues outlined in the book, issues like hitting the ceiling. We had added more staff and were constantly putting out fires and dealing with other peoples’ issues and had no good process for it. Profitability was not growing as we expected it to either. I felt like the book illustrated what the problem was, and then how to solve it. Having a solution to solve the problem was pretty compelling and seemed like the right thing to do.
YESS!: What has been the biggest benefit of EOS on your business?
SCHWARZ: One thing I really like is that the number of meetings we have and the time spent on meetings has been greatly reduced. Our meetings have become really refined, and are focused on solving issues and moving forward. They’ve become more effective.
HAWKES: Profit has increased, and the accountability in the company has been wonderful. Now everyone is accountable and completing their rocks and to-dos; that has allowed Lift Bridge to achieve these results.
YESS!: What has surprised you?
SCHWARZ: The impact of EOS and how quickly the changes started to take effect. We expected it to take a year before we saw any changes, but we actually saw changes pretty quickly. Implementing the Level 10 Meetings was huge, and giving the Core Values speech and sharing the company Vision was great for our team. Everyone loved hearing where the company is heading and how they can be a part of it.
YESS!: What partnership and leadership transitions have taken place since implementing EOS?
SCHWARZ: We’ve had some people step up into new leadership roles and take on new responsibilities. We’ve seen the team grow, which is exciting.
YESS!: How has EOS impacted your people decisions? Can you share an example?
SCHWARZ: We’ve really focused on the Core Values and now we incorporate those Core Values into our job descriptions so that the people who connect with those values are the ones who join our team. On the Accountability Chart, we took a long time reorganizing our seats and we’ve gotten to a good structure now after several iterations.
YESS!: How has the team come together as a result of EOS?
SCHWARZ: There’s more trust and people are more open. Everyone knows it’s okay to say “this isn’t working, what you’re doing isn’t working,” because it becomes an issue we’re all working on to solve. No one has to bear the weight of it themselves.
HAWKES: They are quick to be open and honest, and don’t take anything personally. Everyone lists obstacles, barriers and opportunities in the meeting and solves them as a team. They identify the issue, discuss it, and come to solution.
YESS!: How have your profits been impacted?
SCHWARZ: Our profits have expanded quite a bit, which has been great. We have more than doubled our profit margin.
YESS!: How have your meetings improved?
SCHWARZ: People are coming with their to-dos completed and are bringing issues and ready to talk about them. Our meetings are much more effective. We used to have a 3-4 hour meeting as a leadership team once a week. Now we hold a leadership team Level 10 meeting, which is 90 minutes. We solve way more now in those 90 minutes than we ever did in those 4 hour meetings.
YESS!: What has been the most challenging part of implementing EOS?
SCHWARZ: It’s taken us a long time to get the Accountability Chart right; in the beginning we changed it almost every quarter. We also spent a lot of time working on our Scorecard and getting the right numbers to reflect the business and how it’s operating.
HAWKES: When we first started, the Lift Bridge team struggled with getting the right people in the right seats. Dan made some fabulous decisions on the Accountability Chart and based his decisions on roles and responsibilities. He used this tool for the greater good of the company.
YESS!: How has accountability changed within your organization since EOS?
SCHWARZ: It has been a very dramatic change. Before we’d have tasks and projects that would linger. Now, we’re tracking everything and making sure people are staying on top of it. If they’re not, it becomes an issue and we work through it. Our efforts and projects are far more aligned to our Vision as well.
YESS!: What EOS tool has been most valuable?
SCHWARZ: At a high level the V/TO is my favorite because it has the longer range view; you can walk it back from the 10-Year Target to the 3-Year Picture to the 1-Year Plan, and map how to get to each of those different stages. On a weekly basis, the Issues List and the Level 10 Meeting are my favorite. I add issues every day, and we’ve been able to compartmentalize issues. We ask, Does this need to be solved right now? Can it wait a week? Then we prioritize in the Level 10 Meeting or it goes to the V/TO long-term Issues List. Being able to park items for the day and continue working is very valuable.
YESS!: How has your business changed since implementing EOS?
SCHWARZ: The biggest thing is everyone in the company knows where we’re heading in the next 10 years, and they are all focused on getting there. We didn’t have a good method for sharing that vision before EOS. Now everyone is rowing in the same direction. After we have our EOS quarterly we update everyone on the meeting and share some key performance indicators, state of the industry and how we’re performing.
HAWKES: The Lift Bridge team takes every meeting seriously. Their Rocks and to-dos completion rate has increased, and now they are at almost 100% completion consistently. In the early part of the journey when they had open seats, they delegated, elevated and promoted from within; this really helped them gain traction. Now they’ve rolled out EOS to the larger company, and everyone is on board and is doing the work. They are enjoying it.
YESS!: What is the most beneficial part of working with an EOS Implementer?
SCHWARZ: I like it because it allows me to just focus on being a participant in the Quarterly session rather than trying to facilitate. And you really do need someone to facilitate and keep things on track. It’s also nice to have a third party and somebody neutral to be a sanity check and balance out the personalities.
At the end of the day, what Schwarz finds most rewarding about his company is hearing from people who have enjoyed Lift Bridge beer, whether that’s during a special occasion or a regular day. “It’s hearing we served your beer at our wedding or I was out fishing with my dad and we drank a Farm Girl and had a great day,” he shares. “It’s really cool when people appreciate a product you make.” You can enjoy Lift Bridge at the Stillwater brewery or find the brand in all major liquor stores.