New Belgium’s Kim Jordan and the Future of Work

Kim Jordan, Co-founder & CEO, New Belgium Brewing Company

This week, I listened to Kim Jordan, CEO and co-founder of New Belgium Brewing, makers of Fat Tire and several other craft beer brands. Kim spoke to a fully packed audience at Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

In the end, the mostly 20-something crowd were so inspired that it seemed they would immediately start working for New Belgium if they were given the opportunity!

Kim’s success story inspires millennials. She and the work culture she has nurtured at New Belgium tells us the future of work.

She started the business in 1991 with her ex-husband from the basement of their home. Today, the fully employee owned company is a leader in sustainability with 580 employees.

Culture defines Kim’s business model. She and her team have built a unique work culture on a simple but profound concept- bring joy to work.

Here are some tips from Kim to bring joy to work:

  1. Develop rock solid fundamentals for your business. A solid road map sits at the core of what you want to be.
  2. Social responsibility is important. Believe and act respecting the triple bottomline- people, planet and profits.
  3. A great work culture will allow an open book management policy and enable all employees to have equity in the business. New Belgium is fully employee owned.
  4. Develop a “high involvement culture” that is transparent . Offer financial literacy to your employees so that they know where your business is heading. “Hear from your employees.”
  5. Use one language to describe your purpose, make it simple and clear. Use it religiously.
  6. Leader’s must be consistent. Say and do things that matter.
  7. Make sure that talented people are “allowed to bloom.”
  8. It is really important to say “yes” to an employee who has energy and wants to be creative.
  9. Create ceremony and ritual in your business culture. Have opportunities to celebrate.
  10. Rituals bring “deep-rooted connections” and help you be entrenched in the needs of your community.
  11. Don’t lose site of your craft. In the case of New Belgium, it’s the ancient craft of creating wood beer.
  12. A great culture will get you people who will work with their head, heart and hands.
  13. Have fun. Employees should not miss the rich playfulness of life.
  14. The culture should allow employees to fall in love with work. People need to have your back.
  15. Revel in goodness around you.
  16. Give back.

Oh…by the way, Kim never mentioned the five-letter word that most business leaders dread: trust. Fortunately, she doesn’t need to as it has become part of the culture she has developed at New Belgium.

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