Still hurting from a bruising dispute last year that nearly split the organization in half, the Colorado Brewers Guild, which advocates for and represents more than two thirds of the state’s craft breweries, will enter the 2017 legislative session this week without an executive director.
John Carlson, who led the organization for two decades, stepped aside in August, a few months after fourteen breweries, including the Colorado’s four largest, broke off to form their own organization, in part because they disagreed with Carlson’s management style. The two groups reunited in November.
But the search for a new director will be guided by someone who knows a lot about leadership: Kim Jordan, who co-founded New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins in 1991 and turned it into the fourth-largest craft brewery in the nation and an industry leader, not just for beer trends but for sustainability, social activism and employee relations.
One of the “most successful female entrepreneurs in the country,” according to Forbes, Jordan “is worth an estimated $225 million, just $25 million shy of making” the magazine’s list of America's top sixty richest self-made women in the country. But she is better known for turning New Belgium into an employee-owned company, for creating an activist corporate culture and spirit, especially when it comes to the environment, and for making the company one of the best to work for year after year.
“Building culture is what Kim Jordan knows how to do,” says Guild spokesman Steve Kurowski. “There is no better project for her to lead at the Guild. It brings a lot of comfort to have such a strong hiring committee…and to have her involved.”
Jordan serves on the Guild’s hiring committee and volunteered to collect résumés and to design a “characteristics and capabilities matrix” that will help guide the process.
“We all want to be on the same page,” she says about the committee, which includes Left Hand Brewing founder Eric Wallace, Upslope Brewing founder Matt Cutter, Pagosa Springs Brewpub owner Tony Simmons and Strange Craft owner Tim Myers.
“It was purely out of guilt,” says Jordan, who agreed to be part of the newly formed Guild board of directors since New Belgium had been one of the fourteen breweries that broke away last year; boardmembers each agree to be on committees and to volunteer their time to help with different tasks. “I told them that I have a lot of other things going on, but I am willing to [serve on the board] for a year.”
Last October, Jordan announced that she would step down from her day-to-day role as CEO — becoming chairman of the board — and that New Belgium chief operating officer Christine Perich would take over. But just a year later, Perich left the role. Jordan says Perich may have been uncomfortable with some of the duties of CEO.
So Jordan is back to running the day-to-day operations of the company and conducting a national search for a leader. “Our timeline is pronto,” she says, adding that she plans to stay on for a while after the new CEO starts. “When you hire someone from the outside, they don’t have those years of experience that become sort of like shorthand. So I want to help them navigate the landscape of New Belgium.
As for the Guild, it will enter into the 2017 state legislative session with its lobbyist, along with a strong government-affairs committee made up of brewery leaders. “They are ready and capable of carrying the load,” Kurowski says.