Former Revolution Brewing chief commercial officer Donn Bichsel Jr. has launched 3 Tier Beverages, a Chicago-based sales and marketing consulting firm.
But Bichsel, who departed the Chicago craft brewery in November, doesn’t like the term “consultant.” He describes his new role as a “fractional director of sales and marketing” who can offer nearly two decades of professional experience after working at some of the world’s largest beer makers.
According to Bichsel, the need he’s found in the market among craft breweries is for someone with fresh eyes to examine the business and slow everything down. Many companies are growing at such a fast rate that they may have “forgotten why they’re in the industry in the first place, and what their brand means to them and what message they’re trying to put out to the world about their company,” he added.
Bichsel’s services are tailored to his individual clients’ specific needs, including developing sales and marketing personnel, building wholesaler relationships, devising marketing and go-to-market strategies, examining pricing, evaluating brand portfolios, creating seasonal programs, and identifying mission statements and a company’s overall ethos.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all [solution],” Bichsel told Brewbound. “Just like not every brewery fits every size for everybody.”
3 Tier Beverages’ current client roster includes Castle Island Brewing Company in Norwood, Massachusetts; Cruz Blanca Brewery & Taquería in Chicago; Seventh Son Brewery in Columbus, Ohio; Haymarket Brewing in Chicago and Michigan; and Marz Brewing, which is working on a line of CBD products, in Chicago.
Bichsel said he can manage around three full-time clients at a time, devoting a quarter of his time to each client and leaving open a quarter to explore other opportunities in the alcoholic beverage space.
“It’s generally about a three-month ramp up,” he explained. “It takes about a month to really dig in and understand what’s happening at a brewery. It’s about another month to really put together the strategy, and then it’s another month to activate it. Then, we can look at the relationship moving forward and either winding it further up or winding it more down.”
Potential clients are distributing breweries between 2,000 and 30,000 barrels annually. For breweries larger than 30,000 barrels, Bichsel provides a “forensic look” into sales and marketing personnel to ensure those company’s organizational charts are aligned to meet current and future needs.
Eventually, Bichsel expects to add staff, including a full-time sales analyst and another sales director to provide fractional support to beer companies. Nevertheless, Bichsel hasn’t closed the door on exploring potential full-time opportunities, but he’s focused now on pushing 3 Tier Beverage forward and catching up on what he missed while helping grow Revolution.
Bichsel joined Revolution in 2012 as its sales and marketing director and helped to shepherd the then-brewpub to an 85,000-barrel regional craft brewery with distribution in seven states. His resume includes sales leadership stints at MillerCoors, Goose Island, Heineken USA and Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.
Since departing Revolution, Bichsel said he’s learned more about the craft beer industry over two months than he did over the last couple of years due to being so dialed into the Chicago craft brewery’s rapid growth.
“Revolution just moved so quickly because we took advantage of so many great opportunities that were there in front of us,” he said. “We didn’t have to struggle in that period between 2,000 and 15,000 barrels.”
And now Bichsel is helping guide the next crop of small to mid-sized breweries through their growth phases.
“I’m having so much fun being a part of these companies that are at the early stages of their growth,” he added. “It’s so enjoyable to dig in and provide value to companies that are taking their first steps or evaluating the path that they’re on.”