Your Business With James Caan 2017 - 107
DANNY WALKER, 35
RUNS PSYCHOPOMP, AN INDEPENDENT GIN DISTILLERY AND BAR IN BRISTOL
Get it in writing
I learned the hard way
that not everyone is as
good as their word. I'm
naturally quite trusting and happy
to have a chat with somebody, agree
to something and see it through. But
in the early days, with contractors,
schedules, costings and deadlines,
I realised afterwards I deﬁnitely
should have had promises in writing
because when problems arose I
didn't have any comeback.
the status quo
When you run your own
business, you live it every
day. It's hard to see what's not working
and what needs to get ﬁxed. We have a
dripping tap with a jar underneath it
that gets emptied every day. It's been
like that for eight months. It's a great
metaphor - I'm so used to it, it has
become part of the status quo when, in
fact, all I need to do is get a plumber in
to ﬁx it. You become so absorbed with
the business, it's hard to take a step
back but every so often it's important
to look at it with fresh eyes.
professions for a reason
My business partner, Liam,
and I have done things
ourselves that would have been better
done by someone in that profession.
We wanted to save money and retain a
level of control by doing them
ourselves, but we have come to realise
there are big advantages to using
trained professionals who will do a
better job than you.
It isn't necessarily about things
going wrong, but rather about
the time it takes. We had to learn
to value our own time ﬁnancially
more than we were doing. In the
beginning, I'd frequently get home
In the early days,
Liam and I often
at 10pm and sit up until 1am doing
our accounts, when we could have
just paid an accountant to do them.
roles are important
In the early days, Liam
and I found ourselves
both responding to the same emails.
We hadn't clariﬁed exactly who was
going to do what and often ended
up double-paying bills. Although
we work closely together, we didn't
have clearly deﬁned roles.
There's much more clarity now. I
was a bar manager, so I'm still very
hands-on: I distil with our distiller
Mark, who we took on a year ago and
taught the process to, and I can often
be found serving drinks, too, with our
team, Mark, Emilio and Steph.
Striking a balance
between ambition and
realism is difficult
We set up Psychopomp in
Liam's basement in 2013 and launched
oﬃcially in May 2014. Liam and I
shared a huge love of gin and started
out making it as a hobby - we spent
ﬁve years learning to distil! In the end,
our hobby essentially got out of hand
and we had to turn it into a business.
I now have the practical role in the
business because Liam works full-time
as a cardiologist.
We moved to our current property
when we outgrew the basement, but
within 12 months we'd also outgrown
that. Now the business can't expand
because we don't have enough space.
In hindsight, if we'd have been more
ambitious and moved somewhere
bigger sooner, maybe the business
would be bigger - or maybe we'd be
broke. Those kind of decisions are
really diﬃcult - you've got to push it
but you also don't want to overshoot.
We're pleased with where we're at
though and the business is in proﬁt.
Gin is a good business to be in!
To ﬁnd out more about Psychopomp,
visit microdistillery.co.uk □
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