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Off-Centered Leadership: The Dogfish Head Guide to Motivation, Collaboration and Smart Growth

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Find out what happens when companies stop competing and start collaborating. Off-Centered Leadership  considers an innovative approach to business by exploring what happens when companies stop competing and start collaborating — both externally in the marketplace and internally in building a culture of communication, trust and alignment. Brimming with lessons on entrepreneurship and culture from the founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, one of the fastest growing independent brewery in the country,members of his leadership team and external mentors from the worlds of business and art,  this game-changing text turns competition on its head by showcasing how competing organizations can work together—and with other local businesses—to reach a common goal. The text dives into how Dogfish Head has blazed a new trail through the development of a revolutionary business model that has called upon musicians, community organizations, and even other breweries to keep product development fresh and create engaging customer experiences. This book documents and addresses the growing pains a company experiences as it evolves from the awkward early start up years into a mid-sized sustainable company with hundreds of co-workers. Calagione is candid in sharing his personal leadership challenges and success and calls on other seasoned vets inside and outside the company who inform and influence the journey of growth and creative expression Dogfish Head is on. This book is rich with practical information entrepreneurs and business people can apply to their own professional journeys. Competition has long been the name of the game in the business world, but what if there was a different way to approach business? The collaboration over competition approach to business has been proven to foster positivity, productivity, and, ultimately, success. By partnering with your competition instead of trying to outsell them, you could actually create a memorable customer experience that will have people coming back for more! Internally as well the dogfish approach has evolved and is not traditional org chart driven top down leadership. Calagione shared the challenges of evolving from a founder-driven entrepreneurial company where he was the sole creative and strategic director into a more collaborative collective where he is now one of many creative and strategic voices in the company. Off-Centered Leadership is a groundbreaking book that explores the power of collaboration within the business world.

269 pages, Kindle Edition

First published December 14, 2015

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Sam Calagione

16 books14 followers

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Displaying 1 - 10 of 10 reviews
Profile Image for Gina Ragland.
25 reviews4 followers
December 28, 2017
As a huge fan of Dogfish Head, I am a bit torn on this book. When reading about Sam's first-hand experiences, collaborations, and obstacles, I found the book to be incredibly interesting. Once it steered to interviews with other people in each chapter, I then found the book to be very dry, and found myself struggling to get through it on several occasions. It takes a lot for a leader to not only admit, but then actually implement change to try to overcome management challenges, which speaks volumes of Sam. If this book focused on simply Sam's perspective and experiences, I feel it would be an incredibly strong business management book.
Profile Image for Ramon van Dam.
347 reviews4 followers
March 30, 2023
Not very insightful, but interesting nonetheless. Like with everything that Sam writes, I read every sentence with his voice loud and clear in the back of my mind.

He is being quite honest about his own faults here, which is something to be admired. The interviews were not that interesting overall though, especially the ones with people that are not a part of Dogfish Head.

Nice read, nothing special, but also not bad. Middle of the road book at the crossroads of the topics of beer and leadership.
Profile Image for Valerie.
902 reviews5 followers
July 4, 2017
Sam Calagione is back and he has many stories to tell. In this book, we gain additional insights about DFH and his work to create partnerships. I appreciated how he went about approaching them and the insights that he shares throughout. An interesting read!
105 reviews6 followers
February 24, 2017

If you want to think highly of Dogfish Head and Sam Calagione please grab a copy of "Brewing Up a Business" and never ever ever get even close to this book. It's that bad. Yes.

For background - all the times throughout my homebrewing years to opening and growing my brewery I have been a fan of Sam and Dogfish Head. I had Dogfish Head hoodie, and I wore it to rags as I was determined that next one will be one with my brewery logo. I liked "Brewing Up a Business" a lot. It was authentic, passionate, insightful and fun read. It was motivating and inspiring. So I was hoping for next installment for a series - how small and budding brewpub grows into the internationally celebrated brand. Although, I got something very different.

First, it failed my "one hour test." If nothing interesting happens after one hour of reading it does not deserve any more of my time. Nothing happened in first few chapters. Given my particular relationship with Dogfish, I did make a rare exception and kept going, but it didn't get any better.

There was a nagging feeling that this full story is not genuine. After 20 years there is understanding that Sam's management style needs to change. But why? 20 years of running a successful business using "I'm majority stakeholder, and you do that I tell" and suddenly - "We need to change" with no hint of why. Dogfish is doing very well and keeps innovation, at the same time, best-selling beers have been around for the decade. Everyone is super happy and supportive and yadda-yadda, but we need to change. Why? If this is a real insight of the need for leadership style change why you still need signs in your car and tattoo to remind you of your decisions? For me, it's highly unlikely that Dogfish made such change without significant internal or external pressure. But actual "why" is carefully avoided. So we don't know.

Another problem for me is that it tells about intention, not about experience. Bookshelves are brim-full with well-intentioned and well-written books based on what someone thinks how one should run a company. Very few books are the reflection of real life experience. It would be a valuable book if, after few years, it would tell how Sam turned Dogfish around. Writing down your intentions and plans was probably very useful exercise for Sam, but it makes a lousy book. Reality has not yet given it's feedback to this lovely plan.

This book is full of marketing - how innovative we are, how creative is this beer, how we received this award, how our customers love us, etc. It forms constant background noise, and you feel like reading real estate ads for new homes.

No business or leadership ideas are being communicated. I was expecting some new and insightful ways how Dogfish Head is being managed. Preferably backed by real-life experience. What worked, what didn't work, why something worked and some other thing didn't. All you get in first half of the book is an intro to SWOT analysis.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
4 reviews
February 16, 2018
Collaboration and creativity over competition and corporatism... got it, Sam.
Profile Image for Tim.
127 reviews
February 18, 2017
First, let me say I've been a big fan of Dogfish Head and founder Sam Calagione since Brew Masters, a short-lived television show. I love the beers and appreciate the company's approach to connecting with its audiences on social media. In the book, I liked Sam's self-awareness and willingness to look in the mirror. Here he was leading a highly successful 20-year-old company, which he built from the ground up. but he hadn't necessarily set it up to thrive as a family-owned business for the next 20 years. This book sort of took the reader through the process of how Dogfish Head sought to position itself for future growth — building a legacy — and eliminate the "founder's syndrome" that had somewhat hamstrung the organization because Sam was so involved in day-to-day decisions.

In addition to Sam's personal account, the book is filled with many interesting interviews discussing different approaches to leadership and how to best guide whatever ship you're leading. I gained a lot of insight and plan to work on implementing several of the ideas (especially finding ways to step back more at times and really let the team grow).
Profile Image for Tyler.
17 reviews
June 9, 2016
A leadership book with the signature dogfish head off centered style. Sam's writing is as always, fun and a breeze to read. This book details the Dogfish Head leadership mantra of collaboration in the workplace instead of competition. It's an intriguing style but one I feel wouldn't work everywhere. Interviews are spread throughout with some top dogs across the brewing landscape. There is a part in the middle though that feel very un-dogfish head where Sam details some weird corporate chart theory. Still a fun insight on a well run business.
Profile Image for Daniel O'Leary.
18 reviews1 follower
May 29, 2017
Sam is genuine in his recounting of the start-up to the last few years of his brewery, Dogfish Head. There are a lot of excellent points in this guide to collaboration and leadership. It is not only for people in the brewing industry, but for anyone leading in any capacity.
Profile Image for Brad.
143 reviews
September 17, 2017
I may have had the wrong idea when I chose this book. I love Dogfish Head (DFH) beer. I like their “off-centered” approach to things, and I like their charismatic founder and leader, Sam Calagione. I also enjoy learning perspectives about leadership, especially in small or growing companies. As it turned out this book was focused heavily on the specific niche of DFH problems, so I didn’t learn much about leadership. When presented, I did enjoy the anecdotes about the company as well as several of the interviews – both internal and external to DFH.

The major insight in the book was Sam personally transitioning from the risk-taking “lead by gut” leader suffering from “founder’s syndrome” to a leader on a strong team that can take the company forward while maintaining his ideals. There’s a lot of discussion about a “strategic plan.” As I mentioned, this is fine information if you happen to be suffering from founder’s syndrome or don’t have a strategic plan, but otherwise, it’s just perspective on someone else’s struggles.

Learning about the other aspects of DFH, however, was fascinating – their approach to independence and staying “craft;” their dedication to supporting and advancing “craft brewers” in America; and successes and challenges with collaborations. There are some universal ideas on those topics.

The narration was good – the reader’s voice read with a similar passionate inflection that I would expect from Sam himself. The reader did well with the back-and-forth interviews – describing who was speaking without feeling too repetitive.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you fit into two categories: 1) A rabid DFH fan who’s willing to wade through corporate advice to hear worthy corporate anecdotes or 2) you are a risk-taking founder having trouble sharing control of your company’s leadership.
Displaying 1 - 10 of 10 reviews

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