James Watt: ‘I did push people too far’

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Questions asked: James Watt was interviewed by Steven Bartlett on his Diary of a CEO podcast (image: Diary of a CEO)
Questions asked: James Watt was interviewed by Steven Bartlett on his Diary of a CEO podcast (image: Diary of a CEO)

Related tags Brewdog Beer Craft beer

Scottish brewer and operator BrewDog co-founder James Watt has admitted to “pushing people too far” and setting “unattainable standards”.

Dragons' Den ​entrepreneur Steven Bartlett questioned Watt in his The Diary of a CEO ​podcast.

He addressed the Punks with Purpose letter​ last June, which claimed staff were “left burnt out, afraid and miserable” by bullying.

Watt outlined the BrewDog Blueprint​, which is a roadmap that aims to set out the future of the business built on beer, people and planet.

Too demanding

Bartlett asked Watt about what it was like to receive the letter. He responded: “It [was] hell. This is my life’s work and some of that feedback was fair and valid, some of the feedback was disingenuous but we took the approach of whether we agree with it or not, we took it as an opportunity to get better.”

In the podcast episode he said: “I think it’s completely fair to say at times [on] the journey, I’ve been too intense, I’ve been too demanding.

“That I have set standards for the team, which I would set for myself but for a lot of the team members, that is unattainable.”

He stated he would pick parts of some of his favourite business leaders but as part of this he said: “I did push people too far.”

Bartlett also asked him about reports from the BBC ​about Watt’s investment in Heineken.

Change of mind

Watt said: “They said I held £500,000 worth of shares, I invested £500,000, I quickly sold it down so at the time they said it was £500,000.”

In answer to being questioned why he invested in the big brewer, Watt added: “Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.

“At that time, and it’s the most stupid thing I’ve ever done, if I could go back and change any single thing, that would be very high on the list, just because it is at odds it sits with our values and how we do things as a company.”

However, he highlighted how he considered the thought this could result in a distribution deal but that wasn’t the case.

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