Sunday, November 16, 2008

How soon is now?

(I needed a break, so I've been listening to the Smiths)

For the first time in ages, money has been a daily concern in my professional career, which is supposed to be about beer to the exclusion of most everything else. At least that's the way I've always approached it.

So far, NABC as currently constituted is holding up well amid the familiar economic problems in the nation at large. We’re holding our ground.

The money concerns I mention are about the beer, in the sense that my company needs money to finish the new brewery in downtown New Albany, which has been partially built but not finished. Until we get a financing package in place, we’re stymied. It has been a frustrating few months, to say the least.

Had we been ready to borrow in 2007, it is likely that one or the other bank would have handed us a pile of greenbacks sans much at all in the way of collateral. The fact that banks did this far too often is the precise reason why we now have a world financial crisis, and in some ways, it would be nice to have a finished project even if we now might be part of the overall problem rather than still standing outside on the doorstep, waiting to be processed.

Banks now insist that they’re practicing “old-fashioned” banking, and this means that they’re holding tightly to their reserves and insisting on conservative lending principles that a younger generation of bankers never even knew existed. Trust me – I’ve listened as they’ve confessed to their ignorance, and how much they’ve had to learn since matters began heading south.

I’ve also heard them cast doubt on the suitability of NABC’s brewery project by noting that they’re not funding start-ups (er, we’ve been in business for 21 years, altogether, and are expanding a brand, not creating an entirely new one), and also they they’re avoiding restaurants.

To the latter, I’ve responded: “Makes sense, but if you’d just take a look at this helpful business plan we spent six months writing and see that the taproom’s a small part of the beer production operation … wouldn’t want to trouble you, of course … we’re here to answer your questions, after all.”

There are times when it makes me want to scream. To all those borrowing idiotic amounts of money at unreal interest rates to fund houses you couldn’t afford in an exurb that I detest, hey … thanks for all that. And thanks to the people who indulged/conned you into thinking you could afford things you can’t. Thanks for voting Republican and acquiescing in the pell-mell shedding of regulation, which might have restrained you from your intrinsic greed.

However, in this situation, the truth of the matter is that the glass of beer is half-full, not half-empty. We took a long time to work through the details of the plan for the new operation, and that’s been good. It's better that way, and I feel even more confident about it now. The fact that we’ve had to go back and look for creative ways around the lending impasse has also been beneficial. I know more about SBA programs and leasing arrangements than ever before. When things break, we're going to be lean and efficient ... at least, more so than before.

Yes, I’d rather be focusing on the beer itself. At the same time, concentrating on all the rest of the financial minutia is an education I’ve sorely needed to further. Eventually it will enable me to return to the beer itself, because we’ll find the financing partner and finish the project, even if it takes longer than we’ve planned.

The beer’s going to taste even better then. Trust me.

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