In a two-part blog post, we are highlighting the work and wisdom of local entrepreneur and innovator Doug Dayhoff, former President of Upland Brewing Co. In an interview with our Xtern, Anna Carpenter, Doug reflects on his successful business career thus far and discusses some of the highs and lows that he has encountered in the process. If you missed part one, you can read it here.
“In my career history, there were two big breaks. One was having an opportunity at a relatively young age to take on a leadership position at a company that was growing rapidly and doing interesting things. That was thanks to one of my early mentors, Michael Fitzgerald. The second big break came as a result of my network coming out of graduate school at Dartmouth. Andy Palmer, my classmate who was both a friend and mentor, connected me with top-tier software entrepreneurs and venture capitalists on the east coast.
Of these two breaks, one allowed me to get promoted into a role that was above my experience level while the other gave me access to some very sophisticated investors and experienced technology entrepreneurs. I was able to learn and grow quite a bit from both experiences.
One of best decisions we made at the brewery was to make a large invest investment in the niche, lambic-style of brewing: wood-aged, mixed-culture fermentation. When we made the decision, it was not evident that there was a big opportunity in it, but it was something that we had been fiddling around with for years and really enjoying. We thought it was a neat expression of our artisanship. That style of brewing has become the point of difference for Upland relative to the 7,000 other breweries in the country, and has allowed us to sell nationally and to be welcomed into events all over as one of the top breweries in the country. You never know it’s a good investment until you have the benefit of hindsight, but that one established a durable point of difference as the market became very crowded.
While the success stories are always great, I would have to say that my growth as an entrepreneur has been a result of both the screw ups that I’ve executed on my own, along with great recommendations and advice that I’ve received from other people. I guess I learn fastest from my own mistakes and other people’s wisdom.
In terms of my entire career so far, I’m proud of how we’ve always focused on creating a good culture and strong team. Getting that right creates an environment for good things to happen. I have worked with some of the same people repeatedly in multiple companies and that has been fantastic. To have the same people working together throughout their 20s, 30s, and 40s in different contexts has been rewarding for me. And one person whom I mentored early on in her career has gone on to become SVP at Salesforce, and now she’s someone I call for advice. I love it – I’m so proud of her success and have no problem reversing the call and asking her for help!
The best advice I have to give people who are looking into pursuing a life of innovation and entrepreneurship is to study finance and accounting in undergrad or in your first job. It doesn’t have to be your major, but you need to know it. If not finance and accounting, try pursuing data science or engineering. And then early in your career, take a job in direct sales. Learn how revenues are really earned.
I also think there’s a lot to be said for working your first 4-6 years out of college in an organization that is well-resourced and has good management systems in place, and not in a small bootstrapped company. If you do this, you can learn what a well-run company looks like and feels like. Later when you’re in an early-stage company that’s not yet developed good systems, you’ll then have some sort of compass that points in a better direction. That will make you an asset in the long run.”
Part 2 of 2 | Read part 1 here