Dan Riley is the president of Riley’s Brewing based out of Madera, CA. A third-generation brewer with a passion for the craft, Dan ensures that the brewery’s products are manufactured to the highest quality, for a competitive price, and meet delivery demands.
Where did the idea for Riley’s Brewing come from?
It began with my grandfather, Ernest Woods, who was my grandfather on my mom’s side. Dating back to Europe, my family has always been into farming, then when the woods family immigrated to the United States, they started brewing beer. He taught my dad how to brew and my dad taught me. It has been in my family for generations. The brewery then grew too big for my garage and started going commercial, so we needed a name. We figured Riley was a good solid name, my last name, hence Riley’s Brewing was born because the hobby got out of control.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day starts at 5am and work begins at 6am. The first thing when I get to work is to figure out who needs me. Then I try to sit down and catch up on notes, then have manager meetings within the various business functions where I get pulled every which way. My day typically ends around 8pm, during the second shift at the distillery, which ends at 12:30 am. To stay productive I make sure other people are productive and that people use me for problem-solving.
How do you bring ideas to life?
You write your own rules if needed! When we shifted to producing hand sanitizer during COVID-19, the rules weren’t even in place when we started, so we jumped in and wrote them ourselves. Now we work in collaboration with the FDA to make sure we are compliant. Overall, I believe you find out what consumers want and give it to them. No one person can know it all, so I find people that specialize in what I need to bring the idea to life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Right now, the trends are reinventing themselves. The exciting part right now is the unknown, we are in the exploring stages. The economy and world are reopening. We are seeing what people will gravitate too. So it is the trend of the unknown.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One of my best habits is working out. Get up and workout. Working out and staying fit helps the body and clarifies the mind.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I don’t know where to begin! Go back to school, don’t worry about who is sitting around you and the after-parties. Study business management and finance. I am a veteran, so go into the service early. At the end of the day, it is about money and where it comes from, so without knowledge in business and finance, you will go broke.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Just jump into new projects. When I jump into certain things, people don’t always agree with me. Like the sanitizer. It’s expensive and there were a lot of unknowns. I just went ahead and ignored my advisors on that one and took a leap of faith, I’m glad I did!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Again working out and staying fit. Keep yourself in a position that you can understand and control your environment. Treat your mind and your body well. Also, look to the future. Ask yourself what is your legacy? What are you doing next? How can you make America a better place than you found it? I have kids so I always ask, how can I make my kids better? How can I make them want to be more successful than me?
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Marketing! Knowing who your customers are and what they want and give it to them. It doesn’t matter what I like or want, your customer is the one that matters. Keep your customers happy and buying from you again and again.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Financing, you have to know where your money is coming from and going to. Know when things aren’t working and going wrong and when to stop. Do recaps on your products and look at reports, if it doesn’t work, pull the plug.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
If I had time right now, I would invest in a cleaning company. Not like a janitor, but a team to kill viruses in commercial spaces like offices, malls, animal shelters, prisons, jails, and nail salons. COVID-19 is big with dogs and cats, it can stay alive in the hair for days. So I believe the best business idea would be anything to do with cleaning and sanitizing.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The $100 would be more of a giveaway. I gave $100 worth of sanitizer to a small family business that is behind on all of their bills. This allowed them to take out that needed expense and reopen. I believe it is all about working together, helping each other, and ultimately rising together.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
My marketing team! Pass on work to the people that know what they are doing. Beer and sanitizer is a people business. So having a marketing team that connects with our customers and followers via social media in particular is one of the most valuable tools in helping us to stay productive on the manufacturing side.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Goal. It is about the law of constraints. It is written like a story but by the end, you understand his business practices. It teaches you about no matter how hard you work you get these bottlenecks. It is a great book, everyone should read it.
What is your favorite quote?
At the risk of taking someone else’s tagline – “Just Do It.” Just dive in, yes it can be hard but just get it done. No excuses. That is the veteran in me.
Understanding who and what your customers want and give it to them.
Write your own rules.
Treat your mind and your body well.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.