When I was a kid going up north was a big event in the summer. It was an exotic trip. There were new kids to play with at the campground or on the beach. There were woods to walk through, lakes to swim in, and exotic places to eat (different hamburgers). When I got a little older I could ride my bike and go fishing for bluegills and sunfish with my dad.
I recently took a trip up north. I went to our state association summer meeting and convention. It was great after the last 18 months to see my colleagues in person. People assume that our meetings must be wild and lots of beer drinking. For sure we have a few beers and tell stories, but we have great seminars and business meetings. I also have found that I can always learn things from my colleagues on their business challenges and what they are doing to solve them. We have people who sponsor our meetings, including suppliers and vendors, and often they sell and have helpful ideas too. After a long time in business, most of our businesses are family so you get to know other families across generations. So you feel connected to what happens in all the good and sad times families go through.
While I was up north I also took the opportunity to personally visit two of our brewery partners. First in Traverse City I visited Right Brain Brewery. I met with the owner Russell Springsteen. He gave me a tour of his production facility and we sampled various products. We discussed what things he was having success with in his taproom. We also talked about where he thought the business was heading and the challenges he is facing. He sent along some samples of things we could add to our portfolio for our sales team to try.
After the meeting, I drove across northern Michigan from the Traverse City area to Alpena. It was beautiful. I took a lot of country roads and saw a ton of woods and small towns. I’ve never been to the Lake Huron side of the state. It was way quieter than all of the tourist hustle and bustle in Traverse City which has grown considerably since my childhood visits.
In Alpena I visited another brewer partner for the first time. Austin Brothers has been around for a while. I met the family and was hosted by their sales manager Chris Heikkuri. He previously worked for a colleague in Oakland County so we have a similar background. He gave me a tour of their facility and shared quite a bit about their history and background. Again, we sampled various beers on tap. Again we talked about what was successful for them and what their asks and goals are for us as a distribution partner. It’s our philosophy to represent each partner as they wish to be represented with our customers. Austin Brothers also sent along some packages to sample to add to their growing business.
So, some things have changed about going up north and some have stayed the same. It’s still a different and beautiful natural setting. Now I play some golf instead of fishing for bluegills in a rowboat. I still get to try different food like the great barbecue at Austin Brothers. I get to meet new people and old and familiar friends and share stories and begin new chapters. We have great partnerships with great people and for that I am thankful. So that’s the magic of up north.