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How Good Businesses Are Like Good Bourbon

How Good Businesses Are Like Good Bourbon


Everything I learned about successful business came from bourbon. The best bourbon starts with high quality water, and that is the constant throughout the distilling process. You lose some in the process, but that good water foundation does not change. This water contains a lot of different elements like limestone, which gives a calcium-rich result but is also iron-free. The best water increases the chance of a smooth-tasting bourbon.

The best businesses have the same fundamental component: quality people. If you have quality people, not just friendly or name-brand placeholders but individuals who are willing to do the heavy lifting, your chance of having a “smooth” result is greatly increased. Didn’t say it was going to be easy. Like the “angels’ share” in the distilling process, you will lose some of your best people. Also, like bourbon, you need different components. Technical, business, and research are all different and need different people. Unlike bourbon, you do need iron. An iron will and stomach to manage people and distractions.

Next, good bourbon needs to ferment. Add yeast, a mix of corn, rye and barley malt into a big vat that forms a mash. The best bourbon uses some of the mash from previous rounds of the distilling process. Next, add some heat, and the best comes to the top while the rest is removed. The best bourbon goes through multiple distillings to ensure only the best “white dog” is ready for the next step in the process.

Successful companies take time to ferment. describes a business.. .oops, I mean ferment, this way: agitation; unrest; excitement; commotion; tumult. If that isn’t the definition of a dynamic company, I don’t know a better one! Your team will do all of these things; let them. Don’t try to force them. Let them ferment to come up with the best solutions. Your job is to make sure you have the right ingredients, and yes, add “heat” to move the process along. Some ideas, methods and people will be lost in the process, but a better product will bubble to the top. Remember, give it time to ferment or your (white) dog won’t hunt.

Next step for bourbon is more time, time spent in a charred, oak barrel. This maturing process gives bourbon its reddish-brown color and unique taste. Notice it is a maturing process, not an aging process. Too much time will ruin the taste, just like too little will also diminish the quality. Maturity is the goal for good bourbon. Experienced tasters ensure it has matured to the desired taste, and then it is bottled and ready to be enjoyed.

Businesses need maturity. How does maturity come? By time and experience. If you rush it, your business will not reach its potential. Conversely, if you take too much time, you will miss your window and never bring your “flavor” to fruition. Get some veteran “tasters” to routinely check the maturity of your company, and it will be ready for the top shelf!

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MARTY W YNKOOP is a successful entrepreneur who drinks his bourbon neat, the way Elijah Craig intended it to be enjoyed. Along with his bourbon, a good cigar enhances his focus on his current and future projects. His “maturity” includes most of the areas within a business. You can reach Marty Wynkoop at

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