Book Notes – Business for Punks: Break All the Rules – the BrewDog Way by James Watt

The book | Read in May 2016 | Rating 4.0

It was so hard to cut down my notes for this post. Almost every highlight I’d made seemed worth sharing. This is one of my favourite business books, and I encourage you to set aside time to read it too. That and Anything You Want by Derek Sivers, of course.

Notes and takeaways

  • Scratch your own itch. Be selfish and make the product you want to exist.
  • Start a category, not a business. Focus on growing your category rather than just differentiating your brand.
  • If you can’t create something which is brilliant enough to sell itself, don’t start a business.

Make crafted products you love, create environments you want to hang out in and give the kind of service you’d love to receive yourself.

  • Hiring sales people too early means you’re pushing too hard with a product that’s not right. Don’t peddle mediocre goods.
  • “Having enemies is a good thing. It proves that you stood up for something sometime in your life.” – Winston Churchill
  • “Safe is boring, safe gets lost, safe is over. Don’t follow the herd. Lead from the front, break the rules, and to hell with convention and consequences.”

We like to scare the living daylights out of ourselves every six months or so.

  • Marketing is the sum total of everything you say or do.
  • Anything you do which isn’t completely aligned with your mission is “a tiny little suicide” for your business. And death can come from as few as ten inconsistencies or indiscretions.
  • People aren’t stupid, and marketing bullshit doesn’t work. Be truthful inside and out. Then you’ll be listened to.
  • “Humour is the best way to make anyone fall in love with a brand, or even a human.”
  • “Even how you hold your internal management meetings is now marketing. For our 2015 planning session we went free diving in a fjord in the Arctic circle with killer whales.”
  • David beats Goliath, over and over. Not having a budget is “a massive advantage masquerading as a thinly veiled constraint.”

You would be better off blowtorching your hard-earned cash, than spending it on advertising.

  • “The cornerstone of any effective low-budget marketing strategy is plentiful online content that reinforces how your company lives your brand, your mission and your values”.
  • “If you really want to put a dent in the world, then you need to spike it and add some dynamite.”
  • Actually do something worth talking about.

You can now potentially reach the whole world for less money than it costs to put an advert in the Manchester Evening News.

  • “If your content is good enough, you can cause a viral tidal wave from your bedroom.”
  • With a great product, the only investment you make is time.
  • Even with a small tight-knit core of passionate fans you can change the world.
  • Don’t compete on pricing or advertising. Compete on education, information and passion.
  • Ensure all the tiny things are amazing.

Out-teach the competition and put the emphasis on your mission and not your products. You need to have a huge focus on educating the consumer about your category and look to empower them to make the best choice possible. And they will thank you with their loyalty and custom.

  • “Sometimes astonishing things can happen when you give brilliant content away online for free”.
  • “Don’t push, create pull. Push is dead. Start creating some real pulling power.”
  • Too many product launches and options lead to fatigued customers and wasted attention.
  • “You need to strive to create an environment where everyone feels like they are in the inner circle because they actually are.”
  • “Whatever it is, you better make sure the vision is one shiny mother. It needs to be stratospherically awesome and totally compelling. Unless it gives everyone goosebumps go back to the drawing board”.
  • “Unless you add amazing people to your team, you are going to spend a hell of a lot of time trying to get average people to consistently make great decisions.”

Hire too many idiots and you will become one yourself.

  • Bad call equals bad leader.
  • Be ruthless about daily time to create.
  • Few revolutions are started from behind a desk.
  • Goals are best achieved through the ruthless application of systems.
  • “People get addicted to how busy they look. Reactionary workflows are the workplace equivalent to heroin: savagely addictive and deadly. Jam on the anchors, put it in low and take the next exit, and breathe.”
  • “It is much better to disappoint a few people over some small things than to give up working on the vital things.”
  • “Look for inspiration everywhere. The only place you should never look is within your own industry.”

You need to be quietly planning how to blow the status quo to pieces and create a whole new world order. Planning how you can make every single aspect of everything you do better, stronger, faster and more brilliant.


Start having two desks: an analogue desk and a digital desk.

If you have a company, make a staff handbook that clearly and succinctly represents your vision, values, mission and culture.

List five of your biggest challenges right now, and then go out and do something about them.

Every week I write a list of our five most pressing challenges and pin it to my wall and stare at it so intently with such a steely determination that I burn it into my retinas. And then I do everything I can to solve the problems.

Next time you want to answer emails like everyone else, sit down and be original.

Create the time and space to be proactive if you want to create the future.

Be tenacious, unwavering and true. Follow your own instincts and hold true to your course. Work hard, be passionate and enjoy the ride. Oh yeah, and don’t even pretend to give a damn about what anyone else thinks.”