The co-founder of the Aberdeenshire-based brewer took to Linkedin to tell the tale, revealing that the things he deals with as a CEO still blow his mind.
A few months ago, BrewDog hired a new member of the sales team for one of the companies it operates in. She interviewed well and almost seemed overqualified, said Watt. They were excited to add her to the team.
Watt continued: “She then started like a house on fire, winning fantastic new distribution points, ensuring beer deals with famous music festivals and sending sample fridges to top influencers.
“We were especially delighted that she managed to list two of our beers in a key supermarket chain we had been trying to crack for years.
“She had been every insistent on working alone and demanded the business give her the space she needed to operate.
“She refused to have anyone attend her meetings with her even though our head of sales in that country was very keen to join her at the supermarket meetings.”
The results were so good that the team decided to accept her operational idiosyncrasies, explained Watt.
She produced signed purchase orders on emails form the relevant customers she had sold to which quickly dispelled any doubts over her effectiveness.
One purchase order alone was for more than 100,000 of BrewDog beer.
However, said the co-founder, alarm bells started to ring when the head sales for that country met two of the influencers she was sending monthly beer shipments to and was surprised to discover that they were yet to receive anything.
After this, everything “unravelled quickly” for the rogue sales team member.
The team discovered fake emails, faked meetings and forged purchase orders. She had even gone to the trouble of setting up fake email addresses which mimicked the actual email addresses of real customers.
Instead of sending the purchase orders to the brewery from the real address which would have been, for instance, firstname.lastname@example.org this person simply set up and use email@example.com instead.
“The crazy thing is that if they had applied this level of focus and ingenuity to their role, they would have genuinely been unstoppable,” said Watt.
When the team spoke to customers she had produced the purchase orders from they said they had never even heard of this person.
Even the address this employee had provided was fake.
Watt added: “I am just really glad we found out before we shipped 100,000 cans of delicious BrewDog beer to a fake address, never to be seen again.
“I just wanted to share this story as there is a whole different side to being a CEO that nobody ever speaks about however, I am sure my fellow CEOs out there can relate to having to deal with this type of craziness on an almost daily basis.
“The lesson? If it seems too good to be true, then perhaps it is."
But it wasn't all bad. Through identifying the fraud and being upfront before any real harm to either us or our customers, the brewer has ended up establishing some great relationships which it hopes will lead to those new distribution points soon.