Ryan Petz | Crain's Twin Cities

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Ryan Petz

Background:  

Ryan Petz is co-founder and CEO of Minneapolis-based Fulton Brewing, which has been producing beer since 2009. Earlier this year, the company reached a new agreement with Artisanal Imports to expand distribution beyond the Upper Midwest, into states including Ohio, Florida and New York. Additional markets are planned for 2018.

The Mistake:

When we first began, I suffered from what I later learned was called “analysis paralysis.” I totally lacked experience in the beer industry. I was still in business school at the time, in classes where I could come up with custom projects, so I did one on a brewery. I saw the opportunity out there, but I wasn't quick enough to say, "This is a great idea; let's run with it."

I'm fairly cautious in some ways, compared with other entrepreneurs. When doing something new, I'm not always very sure of myself. I like to see analyses.

We built the downtown brewery in 2011, and as a result of being new and cautious, we got a small building and outgrew it very quickly. There was interest, but I was still very hesitant, so I think we missed some opportunities early on, when we could have grown bigger sooner.

I asked myself, "How many ways do you need to prove an answer to yourself before you just go for it?"

The Lesson:

After a while, I asked myself, "How many ways do you need to prove an answer to yourself before you just go for it?" We built our second building, a production brewery in Northeast Minneapolis, exactly three years after the downtown space. By that point, we'd seen the opportunity and knew we needed a lot more space right away. So we departed from those tentative first steps and took some bigger ones, into a large manufacturing facility.

We've continued to expand each year within that building, and we also gave ourselves a long runway to grow so we can do so for decades, not just years.

We’re adding a lot of new territory [all over] the country. Until August, we hadn't expanded our distribution in a year and a half. But in the past three months, we've added Kansas, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida. There has been a lot of interest in each of those states.

Given how the craft-beer industry has grown in the past few years, we didn't know what to expect. A lot of these places have bustling scenes of their own, but so far there has been a great response.

Follow Fulton Brewing on Twitter at @FultonBeer.

Photo courtesy of Fulton Brewing