BrewDog CEO James Watt On Past Management Mistakes

, BrewDog CEO James Watt On Past Management Mistakes

(BrewDog Founders James Watt and Martin Dickie)

BrewDog’s James Watt, who founded the now global craft brewery along with Martin Dickie, is an outspoken man…A man willing to own his past mistakes.

Here’s the deal…

Although BrewDog began as a Scottish garage brewery in 2007, it has grown into an international drinks maker that in addition to brewing, owns a cidery, a distilling operation, now employs over 2,000 team members and has over 100 bars all over the planet.

In spite of a difficult year marked by a controversial BrewDog documentary and accusations of having fostered a toxic workspace, Watt’s quick to celebrate the company’s many successes. But on January 19, he took to Linkedin and owned up past mistakes he regretted…like sending some of his management team on a $1million archery retreats.

And because we like him (many don’t) and were struck by his business acumen and unflinching self-appraisal, we are reposting this aspect of his article in full…


BrewDog’s $1m Archery Retreats

Between 2014 & 2018 we spent the best part of £1 million on sending as many of our managers as possible to fancy management development retreats. Over the course of 5 days managers from all over our business would receive talks on leadership as well as do team building exercises such as climbing walls, falconry or even archery. (Please note the archery and falconry were not combined.)

I thought we were doing the right thing by investing in our people and I thought I was helping them become better leaders.

But this was just a cop out. We had a lot of inexperienced managers at the time due to our high growth and our preference to promote internally. These people all had great potential but were light on experience. Rather than do the hard work internally to set them up for success in management roles and create a culture where we focused on developing our junior manager’s skills, I took the easy option, I outsourced the task and mentally ticked the box.

The result was substandard leadership across the board in our business which impacted the daily lives of many of our people.

The lesson I learned was that in any high growth business investing in developing your leaders all across your business and creating a culture of management development is one of the best investments you can make. Sometimes you just can’t duck the hard things.


Say what you will about James Watt but he’s not afraid to acknowledge his mistakes both professional and personal.

And not everybody does that….

, BrewDog CEO James Watt On Past Management Mistakes###

Want more mistakes?




(All image credits: BrewDog)

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