Bruce Gray of Small Bar and Left Handed Giant Brewing Co.
From competing in Ironman triathlons to running one of the top rated craft beer bars in the UK, there's a lot going on in the world of Bruce Gray. We tried to keep up as he told us more...
What is it the company does?
We make modern beers using the freshest ingredients, inspired by the giants of the Avon Gorge and the pioneers of the craft beer world. In our bars we showcase the very best small, independent breweries from the UK and beyond. We have a heavy focus on customer engagement and try to make every interaction in our bars an experience. Quality of service, product and environment is paramount.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
To surround myself with great people and give them the freedom, support and platform to fulfil their potential.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I began as a golf professional in my teens, with my career being tragically cut short due to a lack of talent. I moved into management in the golf centre and learned skills in the licensed trade within the restaurant and bar there.
I moved to Edinburgh in 2009 and managed bars until the opportunity arose to open and manage the very first brewdog bar in Aberdeen. I discovered a new scene in the craft beer world and 2 years later, having opened the first 8 Brewdog bars I left to found my own company, Craftcentric Ltd (now trades as A New Wave) wholesaling great craft beer throughout Scotland. At the same time along with 2 partners I founded The Hanging Bat in Edinburgh, a showcase craft beer bar still recognised as one of the premier places to drink craft beer in the UK.
I sold my shares in both companies after a year and set up my own venture in Bristol, launching Left Handed Giant, brewing modern beer inspired by the pioneers of the craft beer world, Big Beer Distribution, a craft beer wholesale company showcasing the best microbreweries in the UK, and Small Bar, a showcase venue for the best small, independent breweries in the UK and beyond. We have since opened a 2nd Small Bar in Cardiff and have been rated in the top 2 places to drink craft beer in the UK (Skyscanner 2015), Ratebeer Best Places to Drink 2014, 15 and 16, and are regularly voted best bar in Bristol by various publications. Left Handed Giant is currently rated the 14th best brewery in the country and Pale has just cracked into the Top 50 in style in the world.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Having the confidence to follow your own path, and the humility to recognise that you need others to support you and plug the skill gaps that your own abilities expose.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
I work in a fast moving industry. Trying to stay on top of current trends and remain at the forefront of the industry is a daily challenge.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I compete in Ironman Triathlons and other endurance sports. Long miles and early mornings on my own in the hills and pool give me the space and stress outlet to be have a clear and motivated mind.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A pro golfer.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Many things but I believe that if you have open lines of communication throughout your team you can usually stop any large frustrations building. We also drink a lot of beer…
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
To be regarded as one of the best breweries in the world, and to have 3 Small Bars in 3 different cities, all of which are regarded as the premier place to drink and learn about the world’s best breweries.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Surround yourself with great people who challenge you daily. They’ll push you to be the very best you can be as much as you will push them to be the best they can be.
Apathy is the enemy. Challenge yourself and those around you to be better today than you were yesterday. If you achieve that, you’ll not go far wrong.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
This quote: "The limits I thought I could see in the distance dissolved as I approached them.. not real at all, but mere assumptions"