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Just-In-Time Cafe Podcast: Streamlining a Successful Business Launch Using Lean Six Sigma -

This month we’ll visit with visit with the DiFrisco Family who successfully launched the Hell n’ Blazes Brewing Company with process improvement principles and a tap room for doggies.

We’ll bring you an app that let’s you pull all your social media into one place while remaining a slacker. In the news, we’ll hear about how a southern California city and its university got together for the good of their citizens and how Nike is breaking new ground by using Lean principles to alleviate sweatshop conditions. We’ll honor the Father of Quality, Dr. Deming, by celebrating his birthday along with the fact that his lessons still predict success for companies like CVS in today’s marketplace. And for this month’s Q&A we’ll find out what to do with questions that have already been answered for you. Iced coffee season might be coming to an end for some of us, so join us with your beverage of choice this month at the Just-In-Time Cafe!

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Podcast Transcript

Welcome to the Just-In-Time Cafe,’s official podcast, where we help you build your problem solving muscles. We share best practices from over 20 years of success helping organizations from the Fortune 500, to small and medium size business, to government achieve their goals using Lean Six Sigma.


Tracy:  Hey, Elisabeth.

Elisabeth:  Hello, Tracy.

Tracy:  How are you today?

Elisabeth:  I am good and I am psyched because I think the weekend is close.

Tracy:  It is. And, you know, it’s a gorgeous day today, so I think we should maybe go somewhere else besides the dining room. What do you think?

Elisabeth:  You know, why don’t we go up to the roof deck?

Tracy:  Sounds good to me.

Elisabeth:  All right. I’ll still grab some menus and I’ll meet you up there and I will get you an iced coffee.

Tracy:  Oh, thank you. You rock!

What’s on the Menu (Podcast Agenda)

Elisabeth:  Okay, Tracy. Let me tell you what’s going on today. We are going to review an app that celebrates the slacker in all of us. That’s our appetizer for today. We’re going to talk about how a city and its local university are collaborating to keep the city in lights. We’re going to find out what Nike learned from Toyota to combat sweatshop conditions in developing nations. We are going to find out what connects the Quality great, Dr. Deming, whose birthday is this month, to CVS Pharmacies of all places. Today’s Q&A, we’re going to find out what to do with questions that have been answered for you. And then, today’s special, we’re going to talk to members of a Florida family that use process improvement to launch a brew pub with taps for dogs.

Tracy:  I didn’t know dogs liked beer. That will be interesting.

Elisabeth:  Yes, it will.

Appetizer: Slack

Tracy:  So, Elisabeth, tell me. I’m anxious to hear what is the appetizer that is—why slacking is good for us.

Elisabeth:  Thank you, Tracy. This is an app called Slack, right? This is a messaging app, but it does a lot more. It helps people communicate together, and you and I are familiar with it now because our team is now using it. We basically have different channels, so different projects get different channels and we can message each other within those channels. We can also have a public channel up there sort of a—you know, all points bulletin for the whole team and for the whole company. And then we’ve got—you could have it project-based. You could have it department-based. You can share files. You can share PDFs. You can share images. It’s super-easy, all drag and drop, intuitive. You could have it on the computer, your phone. And then what I think we’re really appreciating is that we’ve also got an extension on it called Room and that gives us the ability to have our video conference calls. So that’s really nice.

Tracy:  Yes.

Elisabeth:  And we can see each other in kind of a nice put screen way where we’re all on the screen. So I’m appreciating that.

Tracy:  Yeah, I really like this for virtual teams. It’s very similar to Google Hangouts but with a little bit more capability. And, we’re using it and I’m really glad you brought that up because I really am liking it so far. It seems fairly easy to plug in with your team members especially if they’re virtual. And, I really do like the video tool and I’m glad that we’re seeing a lot more applications that involve that like Facebook Live and Google Hangouts and Slack because it does add that personal element for teams, which is a very important part of creating teams.

Elisabeth:  It is. And actually, you just mentioned something I forgot to say about it. You can also have streams from your other apps. You can put your Twitter stream on or you can put Instagram on there. So it really sort of gives you an all-in-one spot to watch all of your different channels. So, that’s it.

Tracy:  Nice.

Elisabeth:  That’s our slacker app, Slack. if you want to go check it out.

Tracy:  Make slacking a lot easier than before.

Elisabeth:  True. All right, next up. Tracy is going to take us to the bulletin board. Take it away, Tracy.

Bulletin Board

Tracy:  Yeah. So, the one I’m going to be talking about, the thing that was interesting in the news that I picked as part of the topic that I would love to share is around the city of San Diego partnering with the University of California-San Diego, UCSD, to learn about process improvement. And one of the reasons why I really liked this article is because I had the pleasure of co-facilitating the class that they were at at UCSD. So I actually know some of these black belts. They were—I got to see some of their projects first-hand and ultimately the success that they’ve been having around some of their projects. So, things like improving emergency call times, right? So, fire rescue departments and the 9/11, they were able to improve—a 16% improvement in response times for that. They also have faster street light maintenance. So, if there’s a light out, it used to take a long time—longer than 3 days and now they have actually cleaned that up and that saved about $15,000 on that project. So, that’s exciting. It creates a little bit more safety. Nobody likes it when they’re on a street in the dark and the light doesn’t work. And so, it’s really nice to see these things and I think—

I guess the side story that you don’t see in this article is that they also had a presentation on storm water and how it’s really illegal in California for anything to go down the storm drains except for rain. So even if you are washing your car and the water from your hose goes down there, you’re breaking the law. So, I think all of the students in the class actually had a good lesson about the fact that they might be breaking the law.

Elisabeth:  Good to know.

Tracy:  Like, “So, we didn’t know that. Okay, good to know. We’ll sure keep that in check.”

Elisabeth:  Yeah. I love that. I love that it’s in your backyard and I love that it’s government but also, you know, education both looking out for the citizens, right? So it’s using process improvement to take care of citizens, which is what it’s all about.

Tracy:  Yes.

Elisabeth:  And mine is similar. It’s sort of a broader one. I found an article in Harvard Business Review and this is about lean techniques and how they can alleviate sweatshops.

Tracy:  Oh.

Elisabeth:  So they’re looking at, you know—Toyota production system has spread, you know, globally and helped manufacturers everywhere but not really in the developing world. It’s not happening in places where a lot of us are getting our goods, you know. If you look at where things are made, in India, in China and other developing nations, then they’re not using the Toyota production system. And this study was trying to understand what if they did, right? The assumption is that if you bring principles to—these lean principles that it’s just going to raise the cost of living. The assumption is that improving working conditions cost money and is that really true in the long run? Right? If you really bring the principles in, that, you know, everybody has a part in fixing the process in looking for problems and trying to solve them together as opposed to kind of the old system which came from Ford really. Mass production, everybody is specialized. You only do a little piece of the process. You’re only responsible for that. You’re probably paid by the piece.

And turning that on its head and saying, “Well, why can’t we bring those principles into developing nations?” And they looked at a study where Nike did that. They brought lean principles into their suppliers and they basically saw a huge drop in violations of labor standards. Those went down 15% and that basically means people were—impact people’s wages, their benefits, their rest days. So the net result is people had better take-home pay, better work-life balance. And they’re not seeing any ill effects. So the idea is why can’t this happen elsewhere? It would be great to see this happen because this is the reality. This is where our supplies are coming from. And why don’t we bring—

Tracy:  Wow.

Elisabeth:  Yeah, why don’t we bring modern management practices into these nations?

Tracy:  That’s a great story. I really like that because it’s really busting the myth that, you know, big companies, the only way they can turn a profit is to open sweatshops and, you know, go for cheap labor and not care about the employee or those kinds of things. So I really love that. I think that’s a great story to share.

Elisabeth:  It is and I’m looking for more of it. So, up next, we’ve got Tools of the Trade and Tracy—

Tracy:  Yes.

Elisabeth:  What are we going to look at for Tools of the Trade? What’s our book this month?

Tools of the Trade: Out of the Crisis by Dr. W. Edwards Deming

Tracy:  So, the book we’re going to be talking about today is Dr. Deming’s Out of the Crisis featuring his 14 points for the transformation of management. And as you said, Elisabeth, this month is his birthday. So how old would he have been?

Elisabeth:  116. And he worked until he was 93, right up until his death. So this is like not that long since he’s been gone.

Tracy:  Wow. So—and, you know, it’s really—and I’d love to hear a little bit about the—you did a blog on him last month or is it this month?

Elisabeth:  Yeah, it’s this month for his birthday.

Tracy:  Yes. And so I’d love to hear some of the things that you talked about in the blog and some of the 14 points that you think were really critical or impactful for today’s day and age.

Elisabeth:  So one thing that really struck me and it’s so interesting going back and just refreshing yourself on a quality great like Deming because obviously his biggest impact, what he’s known for, is taking Japan from the devastation of World War II to becoming the juggernaut of manufacturing in the ‘70s, which shocked everyone. Before that, Japanese goods were cheap and shoddy, and now it became the choice, right? That’s what everybody wanted. They wanted the Japanese transmissions if they knew if they were different transmissions on a particular American car.

So, he had a huge impact in his time, but if I go back and we look at these 14 points, the first one is this whole idea of clarifying purpose, you know, constancy of purpose. So why does this organization exist? Really getting clarity on why are we in business, you know? It isn’t just to make money. Why are we making money? What are we doing? And this brought me to a modern day company that’s really focused on that and really changed the way they worked, which is CVS, because they changed their purpose statement to be we’re going to help people on their path to better health.

Now once you say that, right? That means you can’t sell cigarettes, so they stopped. So it really changes what you do and people worked together to get to that purpose. So it really rallies people. They can get together. They can really get behind the reason a company exists as opposed to, you know, just hitting various targets and getting to different goals, you know. What is the reason? And I think that that’s something that’s coming more and more into play, this idea of purpose. But Deming had it years ago, right?

Tracy:  Uh-huh. Yes. And it’s really sad. I mean he—you know, the joke is that he went to Japan because nobody in America would listen to him. And, the rumor is that as he got older, you know, and started working with a more American company is he would just get very irritated because he felt like people weren’t listening and he was just repeating himself over and over and people are just looking at him like “I don’t know what you mean or what you’re talking about.” And so I just—you know, I never got the pleasure of meeting him, but I did have the pleasure of meeting people that have worked with him, and those are some of the funny stories that they would share about his idiosyncrasies as he got older.

I think some of the 14 points that really spoke to me are—some of the ones that are really speaking to the culture of organizations like lead the change. Be a leader. Don’t rule by fear. Allow pride of workmanships. All of these things I think organizations still struggle with and, you know—it’s kind of speaking to what you were mentioning about Nike and creating an environment where it’s just not about cheap wages. It’s about creating an environment that cares for employees.

Elisabeth:  Yeah.

Tracy:  And if you do that, it’s almost like you’re saying the work will take care of itself, you know. You’re making sure there’s a culture that’s ripe for process improvement, you know. People are empowered. They want to make change. They’re allowed to make change and how are we as a leader promoting that and encouraging that, and often what we hear is, “Management has the solution. Management has the idea, so just go implement it,” and they don’t involve frontline workers.

And I’ll just say one other thing about this is unfortunately I think one of the best parts about what I do when I help organizations with process improvement and I’m sure you’ve seen this too is getting a feel for the culture and every culture is different. And unfortunately, I have seen a lot of disrespect unfortunately. Practices are cultural behaviors that aren’t nice. They’re not actually promoting good behaviors with the employees. They’re not doing anything about it and I think that’s what’s shocking. I don’t see that many, but when I do see them, I’m quite shocked that that still happens.

Elisabeth:  Yeah. Yeah. I think what’s a great way to sum him up and to bring this to a close is the final statements on his 14 points is transformation is everybody’s job, and I love that. You know, transform together. And everything you’ve just said leads to that. You know, if it’s everybody’s job for united behind a common purpose, then it is everybody’s job. So, really just want to give a shout out to Deming this month and every October, I think.

Tracy:  Yeah. And happy birthday!

Elisabeth:  Happy birthday, Dr. Deming! All right. So, next up, we’ve got a special request and Tracy is going to answer a question that came in from one of our learners.

Special Request

Tracy:  So, I think this is kind of a pivotal question related very much to what we were just talking about. This was a learner that asked, “What if you were asked to take on a Lean Six Sigma project and in the area where the leaders within that department already have the solution in mind and they don’t want to go through the hassle of Lean Six Sigma?” So, didn’t we just say—didn’t we just say that a leader’s job is to empower their employees? And part of that means you’re not handing them a solution. You’re not saying go implement this. Your management philosophy is not just do what I tell you. It’s really—and so I really feel a little empathy for this person because that’s not where you want to be. You want to be in an environment where leaders are doing that for you and that they’re allowing you to, you know, focus on root cause analysis.

So I will say that often, you know, we are trained to have solutions and we run into this as well. Everybody jumps to solutions. It’s what we’re trained to do. And so to stop and think about and stay with the problem or the question for a while and then, you know, explore root causes is a little unusual. People aren’t used to it if they haven’t done process improvement.

So, I would say if you needed to—what would you do? I would say, “Well, let them do it then.” If they have the solution, just go let them do it. Don’t let them waste your time forcing me into a solution they’ve already come up with. What’s the point of that? That’s a waste of your time. That’s a waste of their time and it’s kind of disrespectful.

Elisabeth:  Yeah.

Tracy:  So, tell them to give you a problem next time then and that’s what I would recommend.

Elisabeth:  I’m with you, Tracy. I back you 100%.

Tracy:  So, up next is Elisabeth is going to talk about an interview that she had with a business-owner and I’m dying to hear. Does this place really have beer taps for dogs?

Elisabeth:  This is a family, the DiFrisco’s in Merritt Island, Florida. They opened a brew pub and Clare is a process improvement consultant and she really brought her family into her world and they used a lot of techniques to build and design this brew pub. It took a lot of time and she involved I think her 3 sons, her husband, her nephew and it’s been a raging success and it starts with voice of the customer and, Tracy, that’s where the tap room for dogs came from, is they had dogs. They wanted to be able to bring their dogs into restaurants, but they wanted a place where the dogs were welcome. And the taps—the taps ran water, Tracy, I will admit, but this is such a fun interview. I cannot tell you enough. I think everybody would enjoy it because it’s both a great story and it’s also full of great ideas if you’re thinking about starting a business. So, I’m looking forward to it.

Tracy:  I can’t wait to hear it as well.

Today’s Special: Interview with Jonathan & Clare DiFrisco of Hell n’ Blazes Brewing Company

Elisabeth:  Hello. And thanks for joining us for today’s special. Joining us at the Just-in-Time Café, I have process improvement consultant, Clare DiFrisco, and her son, Jonathan DiFrisco, who’s the operations manager of the Hell ‘n Blazes Brew Pub. They’re calling in from Merritt Island, Florida, so let’s find out a little bit more about them. Clare, why don’t we start with you?

Clare:  Good morning, Elisabeth. I’m happy to be here with you. I have spent most of my career in healthcare, probably half of my career. And prior to becoming a consultant, I was the vice-president of IT for a healthcare company. And through the mergers and acquisitions of the 1990s, I had to learn Six Sigma and Lean concepts in order to pull off our lofty goals. It worked so well that I became a consultant and have been consulting Lean and Six Sigma at all levels across a broader ray of industries for the past 16 years.

Elisabeth:  Thank you, Clare. And truth be told, I’m familiar with Clare as a consultant and she is very, very fine consultant. And, how about you, Jonathan?

Jonathan:  My background is in Mathematics. I graduated 4 years ago from the University of Miami in Mathematics and Economics. And for the last 4 years, I’ve been working at a tech company in California doing data research and data analytics for a company that made all sorts of websites and interactive applications. So, my angle coming into the brewery was sort of an analytics person, math background who has just a knack for making kind of, you know, computer models and programming software for real day-to-day business.

Elisabeth:  Nice combo. So let’s take a step back a second. The brew pub, which is what we are talking about today, can you give our listeners a little bit of a sense of what this brew pub is like? What kind of a place is it?

Jonathan:  Well, if you walked in, it would—you know, it’s essentially a bar right now. It’s a bar that hosts 12 to 15 different brews at a time, but from the—you know, from kind of my perspective, we’re more than a 9:00 to 5:00 production facility in the back there. So it’s kind of—from a consumer’s perspective, where it just looks like a fun bar to hang out at; from our perspective, it’s definitely a production operation where about 5 or 6 of us are juggling everything from the brewing process to marketing to the bookkeeping to understanding the whole analytics of what we’re going through and then the staff in the tap room.

The difference between a brew pub actually and a brewery is that we have plans to expand this into a distribution model in the next few years or so. So, right now, we sell everything right out of the tap room. We’ve only been open for just over 2 months now, so in due time, we’re looking at expanding into production operation that entails distribution as well all across Florida, all across the Southeast hopefully.

Elisabeth:  Big plans. That’s impressive. And I’ve been hearing about this for a while through Clare and I was, you know, intrigued immediately at, you know, where this idea came from and the realizing that it was really turning into a family affair. So one thing you guys did it sounds like is figure out who does what. So, what are the roles in this? I know there’s a lot more players involved.

Jonathan:  Yeah. So, you know, we kind of had a natural evolution of roles. So, for the last—I guess we bought the building back in June. Don and Clare bought the building to host our operations where we, you know, one of the installed brew system. There wasn’t anything there. It was not set up to be a production facility. So, my dad who’s the owner of the company, his nephew, my cousin, Andy, who recruited our brew master, our local guys from Melbourne. They’ve been in the brewing industry for a few years now. Then they recruited my brother, Jim, and myself to kind of round out the team of 5.

And for about a year, we were just a construction crew essentially. We were construction crew who did everything from framing to demolition in our building because we knew that, you know, in all the preparation for this brewery to be installed. So that’s kind of been the last year for us until breaking off, which seems fairly recently, into you know who’s doing the bookkeeping, who’s keeping records for taxes, who’s creating the brewing schedule. We have 2 brewers and their roles are pretty clear-cut for when it comes to staff in the tap room, managing the actual bar for us. Those are managerial roles that myself and Andy take on and then Don is in there, you know—his hands are in every aspect of it with guidance and with experience.

Elisabeth:  I’ve seen Clare’s touch in some of the design, right? The layout and the look of the place. And also, I think I remember, Clare, you’ve got a youngest son in China. Didn’t he go and visit the facility where they were building the vessels for the brew pub?

Clare:  He did. Our youngest son, Adam, is in China. He’s in Beijing and he’s been there for 2 years and he’s affluent in spoken and written Chinese. So, as we’ve talked about before over the course of this whole process, Elisabeth, we had 2 big tracks of developing new business. We had the building which was a historic renovation. The building is 120 years old and needed a complete renovation as well as getting this new business up and running. So, one of the massive undertakings was the creation of the brewing equipment itself, our whole system, which is the heart of our business. And we have that built in China and our son Adam had been kind of the liaison between us and the Chinese factory to make sure that the requirements were clear and that we were getting exactly the system that we wanted. So, that was critical for us. Anyone who’s worked with design, development, any kind of improvement projects, you know how much the requirements are critical.

So that was our link to making sure that the requirements were solid. So, he had visited, communicated with and that was a huge endeavor that actually if you look at the brewery today and the system, the equipment is all enclosed in glass from the tap room. It has come together beautifully. It was a huge challenge though and we were lucky to have that at Merritt.

Elisabeth:  This is such a great story of—you guys are clearly brimming with family talent. It’s impressive. And one thing I’m also keen on and I know that in terms of sort of the process improvement world, and you come from that world, Clare, or you got forced into it. And one of the things you had to do was decide whether to buy that building, right? You know, rent, buy, like what should you do? And how’d you make that decision? I know you pulled in some tools to make that happen.

Clare:  Yeah, we did. Actually, I’ve been a bit of a coach on the side lines for this whole process and the core team, who Jonathan had talked about, have been hands on 100% the whole time. Well, early on, the idea was that we would do distribution first and that we would lease a very small space to be a tasting room. And the more we got involved and explored the different goals that we were trying to achieve, we ended up in kind of a tough decision-making. I don’t know. We were spinning around, spinning around about where to lease and what to lease and what the building should look like.

So, I pulled the team together and we used a criteria matrix. So, really to eliminate that verbal cyclone and we were kind of at a point where we just kept postponing the decision-making. You know, all those in favor of postponing decision-making shrug your shoulders. So we pulled out the criteria matrix and said, “OK, what’s the criteria?” Laid it out and we had one of the options there, was to purchase the building which none of us thought would rise to the top. And after the exercise, the team sat around their big rustic table and looked at—they said, “Oh, my gosh, I think we need to buy.” And we said, “Where we wrong? Did we pick the wrong criteria? Did we miss something?” We went through and analyzed it again and the team was so aligned around what we did and that is exactly what we need to do.” And there was really no turning back.

So, part of the structure of these tools, what it brought to our team, is that we have a very diverse team and everyone has—they’re subject matter experts in their area. But pulling us together from these different perspectives to be able to get completely aligned around a decision, that happened multiple times. But the decision to purchase this building was probably the biggest and the most dramatic breakthrough. So from that point on, just shortly after, we bought this building. It’s a 16,000 square foot, you know, old building and that’s what as Jonathan said, we became these 2 tracks of total renovation. And by the way, let’s build a whole new business on this side that neither Don nor I nor Jonathan had ever had anything to do with. So, it was critical that we use structure so that we can pull us together.

Elisabeth:  So, this really is kind of in the world of Lean Six Sigma, the demand view or design project, right? So to your point, you had to invent this whole thing. You had to design the building to suit you and then you had this other track of building this business. And, I know Jonathan, with your background in data analysis, you sort of dove in and created a new tool for this. Can you describe why you built it and what it does?

Jonathan:  Yeah, sure. So, there was a point early this year, so we hadn’t yet received our brewing equipment and—you know, so we got the brewing equipment on 4 different containers—4 different semi-truck containers that we had to unload and build within a few days or we had to at least, you know, unload within a few days and have it all set up. There was this argument going on between when that day comes, which was a variable, and when we open because we wanted to start—you know, we wanted a solid lead time for opening because we wanted to create that hype and make sure that we open correctly, how many beers we’re going to offer that, you know, on the day that we opened.

And there was this argument going on between the owner saying, “I’ll open up with one beer. I want people in this tap room as soon as possible.” And the brewers who had an idea that, you know, unless we open with a variety of 15, we are never going to catch up to the demand because we’ll always be playing from behind trying to replenish. And there’s this kind of lack of ability to find common ground. So, the way I solve every problem is to program it into a computer and, you know, run through different scenarios. We kind of created this replenishment resource utilization model that shows how we utilize our different fermenters and lead time on different brews, you know, because each one has a delay of, you know, 3 to 5 weeks. So we took a rough shot modeling that—and put together a timeline of what different opening weekends would mean in terms of what beer we could offer, how many gallons of inventory we had and what that meant for replenishment.

So—and through that simple question or at least get the argument onto solid terms, that was the first step. And that turned into a whole different model of it’s, you know—and now it’s become our full inventory model. It is a repository for the data on all the different brews that we create. It’s a full calendar of what we’ve been doing for this year and it has a production model that shows well into the future what our offers are going to be and now we use it as a rescheduler too because we can see down the line what we’re going to be short on and when.

Clare:  Wow. Nice. In the visual management perspective, the way that this has been created, Jonathan created this in Excel and it’s very visual in nature so that even the brewers, our general manager who are not familiar with Excel, they haven’t worked with that in the past, can see visual with color-coding when each of the fermenters, barrels will be emptying, getting close to empty, full. And it’s got a lot of predictive modeling in it as well. But the visual aspect is something that the team uses daily to make decisions and because this is a new—relatively a new industry, this big brewing companies and tap rooms, it’s not like you could just go to the store and off-the-shelf buy “Here’s how to manage my brewery system.” So this kind of innovation was pretty much new and Jonathan still to this day is refining it as we learn more now that we’ve shifted into actual data versus predictive.

Elisabeth:  How cool that it became sort of a visual control for you, like a dashboard that as you say everyone responds to daily. That’s really cool.

Jonathan:  Yeah. And we use it often. And it comes in handy when we’re talking about ordering supplies, ordering grain which is something that has to happen not regularly as in, you know, every 2 weeks. But it has to happen with an eye towards when the next brews are. So, you know, you can see it feeding into inventory in terms of buying raw materials and all sorts of things, what we’re offering that day, what we’re offering in the next week, and when we’re going to release certain things.

Clare:  Well, you could see going from Jonathan’s spreadsheet, 2 weeks later, there are bushels of pumpkins now in the inventory area. So that’s visual management as well.

Elisabeth:  Love it. So, I know that you used a lot of process mapping to look at all the different lines that you had to keep aware of, like you’re saying you sort of had 2 different tracks going. But I also know that because this is really a design project, you had to get voice of the customer information. How did you do that?

Clare:  We actually—we started out very early on. So this is even before the decision to buy the building. And again, these tools and concepts of structure new to everybody in the team, we did use the high-level process map, the SIPOC tool which is just one way to do a high-level map. And we did that to identify for the group again so we could align around the same concepts and get that shared vision. We did a SIPOC or a high-level map for each process and one of the key elements of a SIPOC—that’s what the C is—is the customer. And when we identified for each process what the customer was, it was a natural lead into, “OK, so what are the requirements of that customer?” So, those requirements of the customer and the requirements of the business became really fundamental in all the future decisions that we were to make.

So, where do we get our voice of the customer data from? We got it from all of our past experience in the different areas. For example, Jonathan mentioned that our general manager, Andy Pinkerton, he’s also my nephew; he has been managing a craft brewery for 12 years in this same area. And so he had a lot of experience with these specific customers. And then we had to do a lot of benchmarking—and actually, my sons are avid customers of craft brews, so they have lots of experience and they offered even—can you imagine how giving these guys—are offered to go around the country and taste from different tap rooms—

Elisabeth:  No.

Clare:  –around the country together.

Elisabeth:  The sacrifice, Clare. The incredible sacrifice of these young men.

Clare:  This is what they were saying. They took on for the team and did a lot of research on their own. So, it all came to life with the SIPOC, which by the way is one of my favorite tools. If my hair was on fire, I would still do a SIPOC.

Elisabeth:  Nice image, yes.

Clare:  It’s that important to the structure, but we did from the brewing process to the scheduling to our service how we are going to provide the service once we do get the customers in the door. It really gave us focus in things like identifying who are these customers who are coming in. We have men, women of different ages. What do they want? And we walked through the experience—the customer experience on our SIPOC and said, for example, something that seems little but changed a lot for us. We don’t want people to have to wait at a bathroom and we want the bathroom experience to be lovely. It changed that—highlighting that on the SIPOC turned into a complete change on the blueprint of expanding the ladies bathrooms and making it a place that people want to go and are pleased with the experience.

And actually, in—I don’t know, most of the articles that have been written about our place, the bathrooms come up, and I can tell you we still have the flip chart with the stickies in our barn where we originally did our planning about the bathroom experience, so one tiny example of customer requirements and how we were able to nail at least a lot of them early on.  

Elisabeth:  That’s such a nice message because it really—you had a clear idea in mind of what you wanted to deliver for people, you know, what the experience was that you wanted them to have. And as you said, drove all the way back to the blueprint and made such an impression on people that that’s what they focus on. That’s really cool. So, Jonathan, I got a question for you, my last question for you. This is a big deal and I think not everybody comes out okay when they go into business with their brothers, their cousin or their, yeah, their cousin and both their parents. So, as you look back, what are you—what’s your takeaway from this? Sort of what are you most proud of?

Jonathan:  I would say most proud of up until now had been the construction phase where the 5 of us would get together kind of every day and we could really learn from each other in circumstances that were pretty tough for everybody. You know, there were projects that were—you know, we were working alongside a lot of contractors, a lot of professionals and it took a lot of focus and trust and understanding of what each other were trying to teach, kind of putting our pride aside, putting our subject matter expertise aside in a lot of cases too to get—you know, to just get random jobs done. We would show up without knowing what the day was going to hold and we’d end up, you know, framing the bathrooms or doing new flooring somewhere.

You know, working with your family that often is definitely tough because, you know, it’s all day and then we’d go home and have dinner together and then we spend the weekend together. So, it can be overbearing at some points. But, no, I mean this is what I signed up for, definitely understanding that my parents are, you know, brilliant business people and I wouldn’t have given up the experience to learn how this business was grown from the ground up for anything.

Elisabeth:  That’s nice. That’s very warm. So, we’re coming to the end here and there’s 2 things I want to point out. One, I want to say that I was so blown away by the fact that you have a tap room just for dogs. All right. So little water spigots in places for dogs and I’d love people to be able to see this, Clare. So how do they find you online?

Jonathan:  Hell ‘n Blazes Brewing Company. You type that into any search engine and you could find our website, our Facebook we’re very active on, and we try to be all over the place. That’s one of my jobs, which is sort of kind of—it’s pretty typical of us. You just needed someone to do it, take care of all the, you know—take care of everything digital. Get us out there and since I’m best with a computer, it fell to me. So I’ve done, you know, my best to get us on to the Yelp! and Trip Advisor, Facebook and, you know, anywhere that you could find us. We have a lovely website that’s, you know, very fittingly designed by Clare to, you know, make it seem as warm as it is to be in the tap room. So, yeah, check out our website. We’ve got, you know, picture galleries of the whole renovation process and, you know, each room has a dedicated page to show you what we’ve gone through and the detail that we had to understand to make this dream a reality.

Elisabeth:  Thank you, Jonathan. Any last words from you, Clare?

Clare:  Yup. Thanks for letting us share our story. It’s a lot of fun and it’s not too often that I get to talk about our geeky process improvement and continuous improvement aspect to this whole thing. So thanks for the opportunity, Elisabeth.

Elisabeth:  Actually, Clare, my to-do list or my pocket list includes getting a brew at the Hell ‘n Blazes Brew Pub. Thanks guys.

Jonathan:  Thank you, Elisabeth.

Elisabeth:  Cheers.


Tracy:  Well, I’m really glad we enjoyed this day up here in the rooftop and I’m done with my iced coffee and now I got to go back to work. So as much as I enjoyed talking with you about the current events and what’s going on with the Lean Six Sigma, well, it’s time to say goodbye.

Elisabeth:  Goodbye, Tracy. Goodbye everyone. Thanks for another great podcast of the Just-in-Time Café. See you next month.

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Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.

Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. For over 25 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Starwood Hotels & Resorts build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.