When Bad News Happens to Good Leadership

As is most often the case, we prefer to exist in a predictable world, where life functions almost like clockwork and without significant interruptions.  We say we understand that this is not a real possibility, yet we balk at delivering bad news or accepting the reality of adverse situations.  (Why me? Why now? Actually, why ever?)

In the ebb and flow of life (and business) each perspective provides necessary feedback to keep the entities vital.  News can contain some of both positive and negative, and effective leadership can see and convey the promise in the bad as well as the cautions inherent in the good.  Just as physical pain is ultimately a natural safety feature to prevent worse injury, working through bad news can stop an impending problem from becoming potentially worse.

A good leader will recognize and not shy away from difficult situations. Let the buck stop with you.  If you are delivering a message, say it concisely, clearly and compassionately.  If your company is at fault, own the responsibility.  Any specific plan in place to prevent reoccurrence or to compensate for any inconvenience should be addressed in a concise manner.  Then get out of the way, rather than belabor the effect of any negative situations.

When you detect incoming trouble, what is your response?  Are others comfortable sharing information without fearing a negative reaction from you?  Do you respond in a confidence-inspiring manner, whether or not it involves immediately addressing the problem?

Bad news can make for some amazing teachable moments.  A good leader appreciates the opportunity to help solve problems and to show others how to learn and grow from them.

Contact us for current wine industry career opportunities.

Hiring Great Talent


The key to hiring great talent is to cultivate a company culture that makes your company a place where talented people want to work.  Offering a great salary and generous benefits is all well and good.  However, talented people are that way partly because they love the work they do.  They also know, being talented, that they are in demand.  Hence they will be attracted to companies that cultivate this and empowers them to accomplish great things.

The first way to make your company a desirable place for talented people to work is to always give your employees respect.  That also means setting high, but achievable expectations.  Follow that example yourself and your employees will follow suit.

The next way to attract and hire talent is to always place your best employees in positions of power and influence.  This gives a signal to talented people that they will be able to grow in your company if they perform up to and beyond expectations. The sort of people you want to work with will consider this a challenge and will strive to achieve.

Finally, you need to be heavily engaged in the hiring process.  Many managers tend to slough off the drudgery of selecting and interviewing applicants to someone else, such as the human resources department.  The person applying for the job will be working with you, so you need to be involved in every stage of the hiring process.  You will be able to access the applicant’s skill set, intelligence and emotional intelligence in order to determine whether that person is the best fit for the position.

For more information, contact us.

Key Factors of Motivation

He who sees things grow from the beginning will have the best view of them. – Aristotle

Is motivation a plan, a state of mind, or an action? Motivation involves several key areas that start in the mind and move forward. First, in order to feel motivated, you need the energy of motivation itself. This energy can be found in the core of being where we find what matters to us.

Motivation for professional success, healthy living, and helping others all relate to one another because motivation increases with each area of life that we put energy into. The beginnings of motivation often relate to ambitions and the desire to accomplish, which is also what helps us maintain high motivation when we face problems and difficulties.

It takes time for motivation to turn into reality, yet through consistent efforts, we become able to actualize what we envision for ourselves. Motivation doesn’t stop when we accomplish one goal or one-hundred goals: it keeps propelling forward, feeding itself toward greater and greater accomplishments that lead to a profound sense of life purpose.

Another way to maintain motivation is to take pride in what you do. Jobs and tasks well done involve enormous attention to detail, awareness of extenuating circumstances, and knowledge. This process of attention, awareness, and knowledge doesn’t stop either: it grows as we grow. If we don’t take time to appreciate when we do a good job, then we in turn lose motivation. Whenever possible, congratulate yourself for the things you have accomplished.

Motivation and success mean little over time unless we care about what we do. In this sense, motivation becomes a way to create meaning in our lives. It involves understanding how and why you care about certain goals and aspects of life. Remember that no one can tell you what anything means to you, as you are always tasked with the responsibility of creating meaning for yourself. Everything you see and do has meaning, and other people only influence you as much as you allow.

The Trouble with Hanging on to Misfit Employees

 The following article is by Judith Sherven, PhD 

It would be ideal if recruiting worked perfectly and all new hires were perfect assets to your specific workplace culture. But that’s not ever going to be the case. We humans are a widely varied bunch and every process — recruiting, onboarding, and management — is dictated by the uniqueness of the people involved.
So there are always going to be some new hires that in due time reveal themselves as inappropriate to the requirements and spirit of your workplace culture. And typically, all too often, these people are kept on and on and on until the inevitable has to happen. They must be let go. But usually this follows months and even years of team upheaval, manager distress and disappointment, and of course inadequate work ethic and output.
What’s the problem? Why is it so hard to pull the plug on these folks early on?

Three Key Management Traps:
1 – False Hope
You believed in the person when you agreed to hire him/her, so you want to give that person as much time and freedom to get acclimated and prove you were correct in your decision. You know it’s often challenging at first when someone joins an existing team or takes over for a leader that has now left the company or been promoted to new stature and greater responsibilities.
So you continue to hope that all will be well — in due time — even when the signals start to appear that it won’t. After all, you are terrifically busy and you don’t want to believe that you made a mistake and now have to let this person go and hire someone new. After all, that’s going to be a drag on your time AND on your ego AND on your professional reputation.

2 – Not Wanting To Hurt Anyone’s Feelings
Most people would prefer to never hurt anyone’s feelings or upset the status quo. And business managers and supervisors are no different. So rather than bring up the evidence that someone is having a difficult time, or is acting out their dissatisfaction by coming late to meetings, refusing to be present in team meetings by monkeying around in their iPhone, or routinely turning in their work after the deadline you wait, you put off the “big talk for small boys/girls.”
And it just gets worse. And worse. And even worse. Until you absolutely have to take action or your entire team or company will be all over you to do something.

3 – Hating To Admit The Mistake In Hiring
It’s not just that you have to face having confrontational conversations with the misfit in question; you also have to come to terms with the fact tat you got it wrong during the recruiting process. And even if you inherited the person when their former manager left the company or got promoted, you still had faith that everything would work out.
But now there’s no room for turning a blind eye, hoping against hope that you will be redeemed as having made a good decision in bringing the person on and/or having hoped they will turn themselves around and become reformed. You must accept defeat and it feels terrible.  So what to do the next time?

Three Management Misfit Musts
1 – Address Issues Immediately
The biggest mistake managers make is to wait to bring up problems. It gives both people a false sense of optimism that everything will be alright when it isn’t now and may never be. Nip problems in the bud, as they say, and you’ll be way ahead of the game when the person does step up to the plate OR they continue to spiral downhill making their exit a foregone conclusion.

2 – Allow Only One Second Chance
The second biggest mistake we see is managers waffling about what to do. They announce one thing (“You have to meet the next deadline or we’ll need to meet with HR.”) and then do something else (“I appreciate that there was some difficulty in your family this past month, perhaps you can get everything on track now.”) leaving the manage to believe they have many more options and/or chances going forward and therefore making the task of letting them go more prolonged and more painful—for both of you.

3 – Cut The Connection ASAP
We’ve seldom seen a PIP (performance improvement program) lead to someone turning it around and being able to stay on the job. We’re not saying never do it, but it’s cleaner and more in keeping with fair treatment to let the person go, allowing HR to take care of the specific details, so that the person can get on with their professional life and you can move on to recruit a more appropriate replacement. The sooner you can come to the conclusion that the person will not ever be a good culture fit, the better for everyone involved.
The key to moving forward with less pain and considerably reduced use of your precious time is to remember that almost never do people change their stripes in order to fit in where they don’t actually belong in the first place.

Original article can be found here

The True Meaning of 'Ladies and Gentlemen Taking Care of Ladies and Gentlemen'

The True Meaning of ‘Ladies and Gentlemen Taking Care of Ladies and Gentlemen’

Above the door of any serving area in a Ritz Carlton hotel is a sign that reads, ‘Ladies and gentlemen taking care of ladies and gentlemen.’

We’ve always like that phrase because it is a dignified and courteous reminder that the way we present ourselves to one another matters greatly.

This is never truer than it is in a professional context. It should go without saying that the quality of your work matters, but the way you conduct yourself and the image you project are of great importance, too.

To put it simply, people like to work with other people who are clean, collected, well-mannered and polite. No one wants to work on a project with a coworker who is sloppy, and people will avoid a team member who is mean, spiteful or rude.

Remember — each of us is always on stage. You make have heard the saying, ‘You only get one chance to make a first impression.’ To that, we’d add that it only takes one misstep — one instance of thoughtlessness, one day of poor personal appearance — to undo many days of meticulous upkeep. This is why it’s vital to be consistently courtly and polite.

So, back to that sign on the Ritz Carlton; if you can carry yourself like a lady or gentleman in any work-related context, chances are that you are well on your way to being the sort of worker employers value and coworkers want to be around.

As we all know – in the wine and spirits industry we always want to be that person on and off the stage.


When Not Everyone Agrees With You

The workplace can be a stressful environment, especially when people must work together to find solutions to urgent and complex problems.  Inevitably, not everyone in the workplace agrees with one another, and it can be difficult to propose new ideas when they carry the possibility of catalyzing disagreement and conflict.  It’s important to continue contributing new ideas even though not everyone may agree with you.  In addition, it’s equally important to know when to graciously defend your ideas, and when to allow for the possibility that you could be wrong.

Being wrong feels like being right.  In the workplace, and in life, it’s essential to keep in mind that being wrong can feel exactly like being right.  Kathryn Schulz explored this idea in a recent TED talk, in which she points out that there’s nothing that feels inherently different about being wrong compared to being right.  Thus, it’s necessary to accept that an idea that feels completely on-target could still potentially benefit from improvement.

What don’t others agree with, and why?  After accepting that not all of our ideas are right, or are the best solution to a particular problem, it’s important to take a moment to ask what it is that others don’t agree with.  Seeing our ideas from another person’s point of view can help us think critically and objectively about our ideas in order to determine whether we should continue to defend them, or whether we should let them go.

Ask for specific alternate solutions.  If somebody has spoken up in order to disagree with your idea, he or she should be prepared to offer an alternative solution.  It’s easy for others to criticize, but if they do so they should be able to back up their own ideas.  For example, ask those who disagree to tell you which solutions they think would be better suited to solve a particular problem.

To learn more about achieving success and improving your workplace environment, please visit our website or blog for a variety of articles.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us!

Are you Curious?

4 Reasons Why Curiosity is Important and How to Develop It

Curiosity is an important trait of a genius. I don’t think you can find an intellectual giant who is not a curious person. Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, they are all curious characters. Richard Feynman was especially known for his adventures which came from his curiosity.

2013 is a new year. A new time for all of us to discover what makes each of us unique and wonderful and how we pull that back into the universe.

In the Wine Industry, curiosity is the mainstay of our existence. Ask any Winemaker, if it wasn’t for curiosity wine would not be what it was is today. With the shrinking of the individual family wineries and the drive to recreate over and over again the same wine flavor profiles we may be losing what makes us special on many levels.  Not allowing ourselves to take the time to allow curiosity and discovery to take over we will lose what makes us special.

When looking at yourself or your team or your company…ask yourself, “Are you curious?”

If you discover that you have been in the weeds and lost your way to curious behavior..I have listed a few ways to take it back.

But why is curiosity so important? Here are four reasons:

  1. It makes your mind active instead of passive Curious people always ask questions and search for answers in their minds. Their minds are always active. Since the mind is like a muscle which becomes stronger through continual exercise, the mental exercise caused by curiosity makes your mind stronger and stronger.
  2. It makes your mind observant of new ideas When you are curious about something, your mind expects and anticipates new ideas related to it. When the ideas come they will soon be recognized. Without curiosity, the ideas may pass right in front of you and yet you miss them because your mind is not prepared to recognize them. Just think, how many great ideas may have lost due to lack of curiosity?
  3. It opens up new worlds and possibilities By being curious you will be able to see new worlds and possibilities which are normally not visible. They are hidden behind the surface of normal life, and it takes a curious mind to look beneath the surface and discover these new worlds and possibilities.
  4. It brings excitement into your life The life of curious people is far from boring. It’s neither dull nor routine. There are always new things that attract their attention, there are always new ‘toys’ to play with. Instead of being bored, curious people have an adventurous life.

Now, knowing the importance of curiosity, here are some tips to develop it:

1. Keep an open mind

This is essential if you are to have a curious mind. Be open to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Some things you know and believe might be wrong, and you should be prepared to accept this possibility and change your mind.

2. Don’t take things as granted

If you just accept the world as it is without trying to dig deeper, you will certainly lose the ‘holy curiosity’. Never take things as granted. Try to dig deeper beneath the surface of what is around you.

3. Ask questions relentlessly

A sure way to dig deeper beneath the surface is asking questions: What is that? Why is it made that way?When was it made? Who invented it? Where does it come from? How does it work? What, why, when, who, where, and how are the best friends of curious people.

4. Don’t label something as boring

Whenever you label something as boring, you close one more door of possibilities. Curious people are unlikely to call something as boring. Instead, they always see it as a door to an exciting new world. Even if they don’t yet have time to explore it, they will leave the door open to be visited another time.

5. See learning as something fun

If you see learning as a burden, there’s no way you will want to dig deeper into anything. That will just make the burden heavier. But if you think of learning as something fun, you will naturally want to dig deeper. So look at life through the glasses of fun and excitement and enjoy the learning process..

6. Read diverse kinds of reading

Don’t spend too much time on just one world; take a look at another worlds. It will introduce you to the possibilities and excitement of the other worlds which may spark your interest to explore them further. One easy way to do this is through reading diverse kinds of reading. Try to pick a book or magazine on a new subject and let it feed your mind with the excitement of a new world.

Ok, now that you have had good read about curiosity, if you are curious about the Benchmark process – please give us call 707 933 1500 or shoot us an email.  We would be delighted to connect with you.


The New Science of Building Great Teams


Artwork: Andy Gilmore, Chromatic, 2010, digital drawing

If you were looking for teams to rig for success, a call center would be a good place to start. The skills required for call center work are easy to identify and hire for. The tasks involved are clear-cut and easy to monitor. Just about every aspect of team performance is easy to measure: number of issues resolved, customer satisfaction, average handling time (AHT, the golden standard of call center efficiency). And the list goes on.

Why, then, did the manager at a major bank’s call center have such trouble figuring out why some of his teams got excellent results, while other, seemingly similar, teams struggled? Indeed, none of the metrics that poured in hinted at the reason for the performance gaps. This mystery reinforced his assumption that team building was an art, not a science.

The truth is quite the opposite. At MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, we have identified the elusive group dynamics that characterize high-performing teams—those blessed with the energy, creativity, and shared commitment to far surpass other teams. These dynamics are observable, quantifiable, and measurable. And, perhaps most important, teams can be taught how to strengthen them.

Looking for the “It Factor”

When we set out to document the behavior of teams that “click,” we noticed we could sense a buzz in a team even if we didn’t understand what the members were talking about. That suggested that the key to high performance lay not in the content of a team’s discussions but in the manner in which it was communicating. Yet little of the research on team building had focused on communication. Suspecting it might be crucial, we decided to examine it more deeply.

Why Do Patterns of Communication Matter So Much?

It seems almost absurd that how we communicate could be so much more important to success than what we communicate.

Yet if we look at our evolutionary history, we can see that language is a relatively recent development and was most likely layered upon older signals that communicated dominance, interest, and emotions among humans. Today these ancient patterns of communication still shape how we make decisions and coordinate work among ourselves.

Consider how early man may have approached problem solving. One can imagine humans sitting around a campfire (as a team) making suggestions, relating observations, and indicating interest or approval with head nods, gestures, or vocal signals. If some people failed to contribute or to signal their level of interest or approval, then the group members had less information and weaker judgment, and so were more likely to go hungry.

For our studies, we looked across a diverse set of industries to find workplaces that had similar teams with varying performance. Ultimately, our research included innovation teams, post-op wards in hospitals, customer-facing teams in banks, backroom operations teams, and call center teams, among others.

We equipped all the members of those teams with electronic badges that collected data on their individual communication behavior—tone of voice, body language, whom they talked to and how much, and more. With remarkable consistency, the data confirmed that communication indeed plays a critical role in building successful teams. In fact, we’ve found patterns of communication to be the most important predictor of a team’s success. Not only that, but they are as significant as all the other factors—individual intelligence, personality, skill, and the substance of discussions—combined.

Patterns of communication, for example, explained why performance varied so widely among the seemingly identical teams in that bank’s call center. Several teams there wore our badges for six weeks. When my fellow researchers (my colleagues at Sociometric Solutions—Taemie Kim, Daniel Olguin, and Ben Waber) and I analyzed the data collected, we found that the best predictors of productivity were a team’s energy and engagement outside formal meetings. Together those two factors explained one-third of the variations in dollar productivity among groups.

Drawing on that insight, we advised the center’s manager to revise the employees’ coffee break schedule so that everyone on a team took a break at the same time. That would allow people more time to socialize with their teammates, away from their workstations. Though the suggestion flew in the face of standard efficiency practices, the manager was baffled and desperate, so he tried it. And it worked: AHT fell by more than 20% among lower-performing teams and decreased by 8% overall at the call center. Now the manager is changing the break schedule at all 10 of the bank’s call centers (which employ a total of 25,000 people) and is forecasting $15 million a year in productivity increases. He has also seen employee satisfaction at call centers rise, sometimes by more than 10%.

by Alex “Sandy” Pentland

Harvard Business Review

Alex “Sandy” Pentland is a professor at MIT, the director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, and the chairman of Sociometric Solutions.




Are you building a tribe? Or just selling wine?? Lessons from our beer brewing friends…

Lagunitas Brewing Company tasting success


For a guy responsible for the creation of more than 14 million gallons of beer last year, Tony Magee seems curiously resistant to calling himself a brewer.

“I don’t think we’re in the beer business … we’re in the tribe-building business,” he said, standing among towering stacks of bottles ready to be filled in his warehouse at Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma. “Beer just happens to be the common currency” of the would-be members of the tribe.

In this case, he’s building the tribe of craft brew fans who enjoy the beer and the quirky, iconoclastic sensibility of his 20-year-old Lagunitas Brewing. That tribe has underwritten an astonishing burst of growth that has propelled the business from a struggling local bit player to a nationally-known brewery on the cusp of full nationwide distribution.

Two years ago, his brewery, in a quiet industrial park on North McDowell Boulevard, was producing 161,000 barrels of beer, or around 5 million gallons, placing him a modest No. 17 on the Brewers Association annual list of craft brewers for 2011. A blast of growth brought that total to 254,000 barrels last year, enough to vault Lagunitas 11 places to No. 6 in 2012. It could pump out as much as 480,000 barrels this year, during which he expects to hire his 350th employee, a growth of about 100 in just 12 months. The expansion is almost certain to push the brewery even higher on the 2013 list.

And it’s hardly finished. Even as he continues to add equipment in Petaluma, Magee is preparing to join the rarified ranks of brewers with production facilities in multiple states, opening an outpost in Chicago this summer. The new brewery will start at about 300,000 barrels but eventually could produce 1.7 million, in addition to the 520,000 barrels from Petaluma when the current expansion is complete. The beer already is distributed in 34 states and the Chicago facility will allow Magee to spread to the rest in just a few years.

“I don’t know how big the company can be … The way it is is fabulously exciting, but we’re also growing this year at a 72 percent rate year-to-date,” he said. “I don’t know; there is something irrational about that, but yet it’s true.”

Lagunitas has staked out a reputation as quirky and irreverent, with a let-it-all-hang-out ethos including colorful and cheeky labels and promotional material drawn by Magee himself, featuring dogs, circus performers and burlesque dancers.

He dubs brews with self-deprecating names such as “Lagunitas Sucks,” a highly-hopped seasonal beer originally brewed as an apologetic substitute for the popular annual offering “Brown Shugga,” which the company couldn’t manage to get out on time one year.

“The packaging is unique in a lot of ways; it’s designed for intelligent people,” said Ron Lindenbusch, longtime Lagunitas marketing director. (In Lagunitas’ slightly twisted world, the title on his business card is “Beer Weasel,” while Magee’s cards often say “Imperial Warlord.”)

Another beer got the name “Censored” after federal authorities turned down the original name — “Kronik” — saying it was a reference to a popular slang term for marijuana.

Yet another beer commemorates a darker chapter in the brewery’s history: a 20-day shutdown by state alcohol officials in 2006 after undercover agents observed widespread marijuana smoking at the company’s weekly open houses in the days before the public taproom was built. Magee turned that into “Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale,” a seasonal beer that the brewery describes as “especially bitter … unforgiven … unrepentant.”

“I really do not want the press and beer geeks and chat rooms to tell that story for me,” Magee said, cheerfully admitting that marijuana was once a major part of the corporate culture. “I’ll just tell it myself so that we own it.”

And that’s where “tribe building” enters the picture.

“Another way to put it is story-telling,” Magee said. “A tribe gets built around stories, commonly-held stories that everybody agrees on … we want to tell our story” through the beers.

The success of Lagunitas comes amid an explosion of competition, with nearly 2,400 small breweries operating in the United States today, on top of traditional behemoths such as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors.

For all the hectic growth at Lagunitas, Magee is a relatively little-known figure, even within the tight-knit community of brewers.

“For a few years, he’s been something of a mystery man,” said Paul Gatza, executive director of the Brewers Association, a trade association of smaller brewers. “People in the industry didn’t know him really well.”

Magee admits he has little use for the chummy world of brewers, with its conferences, festivals and collaborative beers co-created by multiple breweries.

“If you’re hanging around with the crowd, you’re going to end up making the same beers, thinking you’re all special,” he said. “Me? There is something I like about the idea of taking chances.”

Magee, 52, was born and raised in Chicago, where he studied at New Bauhaus Institute of Design. He eventually dropped out to perform in a Chicago-based reggae band (he remains an avid musician today) and he held a series of menial jobs, none terribly successful, in his retelling.

He moved to California in 1987 looking for what he has described as a “new start,” and tried to apply his art and design training as a printer in the North Bay.

That business, too, was struggling in the 1990s when his brother gave him a home-brewing kit. He soon was hooked.

His wife, Carrisa Brader, quickly evicted him from their kitchen, where he was creating a considerable mess. So despite owing tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes to the state and federal governments, he begged and borrowed enough money to buy a tiny professional brewing setup and opened Lagunitas in Marin County in 1993. He quickly outgrew the septic system on the site and began searching for new locations, settling eventually on Petaluma.

The development of the brewery, outlined in his 2012 book, “Lagunitas Brewing Company: The Story,” seems to consist of a manic quest for growth while frantically trying to hold off suppliers, bankers and tax collectors, all eager for repayment of late bills.

He writes of the first 10 or 12 years of the brewery’s life as “like being chased down the street by a pack of wild dogs.”

Brader, who now heads production and logistics for the brewery (her business cards say “Prime Minister” or “The Plant Lady,” a play on words referring both to her job and to her love of the plants in the office), credits her husband’s tenacity and sprawling intellect for getting Lagunitas through those years.

“He just has this amazing ability to learn anything he needs to learn,” she said. “When you’re starting a business, you have to wear a lot of hats. You have to wear all of them, in fact.”

As the business has stabilized, she said, he has shown a talent for bringing in the right people who have more formal business education to build the brand.

The people he attracts “are independent thinkers, but they get what the brand is about,” so they don’t need close supervision from the top, she said.

Magee expects to generate about $90 million in revenue this year and he says all of those old debts are long-since retired.

“People are like ‘how did you do it?’ and I say, ‘I’m not sure,’” he said. “You try to put it out there, put it in a way that’s honest, not the way people think you should or the way you think people expect it to happen. And you find your own voice, you know?”

Magee credits some of his success to being able to spot future trends early. His flagship India Pale Ale, for example, came out in 1994, a time when the style was in the shadow of the milder pale ales made famous by Sierra Nevada Brewing in Chico. While others dispute his claim to have pioneered the highly-hopped West Coast version of the IPA, he clearly was one of the first craft brewers to make it the centerpiece of his lineup.

The meteoric rise of Lagunitas has come at a price. The city of Petaluma has struggled to digest the burgeoning business, which has outgrown the city’s four-year-old sewage treatment plant. Magee has to truck his nutrient-rich brewing wastewater to Oakland for disposal.

City and county officials, however, say the benefits outweigh the growing pains. Not only is the business generating tax revenue and jobs, it is drawing new business to the area. Two smaller breweries are opening within a few hundred yards of Lagunitas, with several more in the works in other parts of the city, said Ingrid Alverde, economic development manager for the city.

The brewery, along with a few nationally-known competitors in the area, including Bear Republic Brewing in Healdsburg and Cloverdale and Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, are drawing new beer-loving tourists to the area, said Ben Stone, executive director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.

The board is preparing to release a detailed report next month on the effect that the growing local beer market is having on the economy.

The dizzying expansion of Lagunitas also has forced the previously low-profile Magee out of the shadows. The process hasn’t always been smooth.

The blunt-spoken Magee, who peppers his conversations with casual profanities that are hard to reproduce in a newspaper, has riled up the beer world by pointedly criticizing several of his fellow brewers, often delivering his broadsides on his stream-of-consciousness Twitter feed.

Among other dustups, he has criticized No. 3 brewer New Belgium Brewing of Colorado for taking public financing to build a second brewery in North Carolina, funding he turned down in his Chicago expansion. He attacked the popular trend of putting high-end craft beer in cans, saying the mining practices necessary to produce the aluminum are harmful to the environment. He mocked a new beer glass co-designed by Delaware-based Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Sierra Nevada, comparing its shape to a sex toy.

He’s locked horns with the Brewers Association, criticizing its decision to change the definition of “craft brewery,” raising the annual production limit from 2 million barrels to 6 million, a move widely seen as a way of keeping Boston Brewing Company, makers of the Sam Adams line of beers, within the ranks of “craft brew” as it expands.

“Jim Koch is NOT a craft brewer, nope,” Magee wrote on his Twitter feed in late 2011, referring to the high-profile founder of the Boston Brewing Company.

He’s also been vocal in opposing a bill pushed by the Brewers Association to slash federal excise taxes on beer, saying now is the wrong time to be taking tax money away from governments to give to well-off brewers.

“He’s a loose cannon,” said Larry Bell, head of Bell’s Brewery of Kalamazoo, Mich., the No. 7 brewer on the list last year, who has joined Magee in opposing the excise tax bill. “Tony says what he thinks, even if that goes against the mainstream.”

Other major brewery owners, including Koch and Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman did not return calls for comment on Magee.

New Belgium CEO Kim Jordan defended the tax incentives, saying it was an appropriate way to help reduce the risk of the huge investment in a new brewery while guaranteeing economic benefits to the city of Asheville, N.C. She declined, however, to respond pointedly to Magee’s criticism.

“Life is too short,” she said. “It’s up to us to make it sweet.”

Magee admits that he has a tendency to speak his mind, but he says he never intended to challenge or attack his fellow brewers.

Citing Ernest Hemingway’s oft-quoted line about his whole career being an effort to write just “one true line,” Magee said he is “just trying to find ways to say one true thing, through the beer, through the business.”

Not to say that he enjoyed the controversy. He compared the reaction to some of his comments to “having someone just tie you up to a stick and throw rocks at you.”

After several widely-reported Twitter controversies in the past two years, he says he’s become more guarded in his personal comments in recent months, fearing that it might reflect badly on the larger company, “because what you say has a megaphone on it” now that the brewery is so large.

Closer to home, Magee’s reputation is less contentious. Since its founding, Lagunitas has made a policy of supporting local charities, usually in the form of free beer or use of the brewery’s space for events.

“If you’ve ever gone to a fundraiser or political event in the last 20 years, you’ve probably drunk some of Tony’s free beer,” said Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey, who has known Magee since the early days of the brewery and recently supported him in his successful effort to get permits to build a small hop farm and distillery near his home overlooking Tomales Bay.

Although he turns down offers to join charitable boards and rarely gives cash donations, Magee has made a policy of giving nonprofit groups free access to his brewery at times it is closed to the public.

“It’s very simple: You live in a community and you need to participate in it,” he said. “Hell, you want to participate in it. You get to know people, they get to know you and the beer.”

Although Magee also opens his doors to political fundraising events, he is stridently apolitical, to the point that he says he has not cast a vote in an election in his life.

“Does that make me a bad guy?” he asked with a laugh.

He said the brewery gives away hundreds of kegs per month to worthy causes, and more cases of bottled beer, but he doesn’t keep track of the number.

Petaluma Mayor David Glass said the Lagunitas name is so ubiquitous at charity events and city festivals that “I am at the point that I am looking to see if the logo is missing from anything. And it’s not.”

Trying to maintain that sense of community is important as the business grows, to help maintain its soul, said Don Chartier, events coordinator at the brewery (“Mr. Nice Guy” on his business card).

“As big as we get, you push back against that corporate attitude and structure,” Chartier said. “But as long as Tony’s in charge, it’s not going to have that.”

Magee agrees. He said he has no intention of ever selling the brewery and he is working on grooming a new generation of leaders who can replace him eventually and carry on his quirky and stubbornly independent legacy, no matter how big the brewery may grow.

“I think we could be as big as Coors. I think we could be as big as Anheuser-Busch,” adding a shrug and an unprintable expletive. “It’s just a matter of being sure we’re in tune with people, that we’re recognizable and authentic and resonate.”

No matter how large he grows, he said, his guiding philosophy will remain the same as when he was struggling to put out 500 barrels of beer a year.

“If people like what we’re doing, they will drink it,” he said. “And if they drink it, I will replace that one so they can drink it again.”

(You can reach Staff Writer Sean Scully at 521-5313 or