Andrew is an Accountant & Whisky Connoisseur
Andrew Ven De Beek, returns to the podcast from episode 173 to talk about how his business is shifting towards the alcohol distribution industry, making his own whisky, the culture he tries to create at Illumin8, and more!
• Specializing towards alcohol distribution industry
• Creating his own whisky
• Building the culture at Illumin8
• Balancing performance and authenticity
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Welcome to Episode 354 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett, and each Friday, I’m following up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited, my book is out. You can order it on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites. If you’re interested in getting the book for 25 or more people, maybe clients or your team, there’s a form at whatsyourand.com. You can get a discounted pricing from my publisher. The least I can do is hook you up with that. Thanks so much for everybody who’s reading it and and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. Thank you so, so much for those.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe on the podcast, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Andrew Van De Beek. He’s the founder and Head of Purpose at Illumin8, outside of Melbourne, Australia, and now he’s with me here today. Andrew, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Andrew: John, it is an absolute pleasure, mate. Happy New Year to you, my friend.
John: Ditto, ditto. Yeah, it’s still New Year’s in Australia as well. I know the time change makes it a little weird, but —
Andrew: That’s called Happy New Year’s for the next, probably, three or four months because, bring it on with 2021. We got this.
John: I don’t even know what day it is. I don’t even know what’s going on.
Andrew: So they say between Christmas and like when you go back to work. In Australia, we normally take off about three to four weeks. It’s not even about what day it is. This is like, what am I supposed to be doing today? Am I going to a bar? Am I catching — do I have to get out of bed today? I don’t know what’s going on.
John: I feel like that’s been me for like 10 months.
Andrew: We’ve been well-trained.
John: Exactly. It’s always good catching up with you. I know this is going to be a blast. I have seven rapid-fire questions that I didn’t ask you the first time. Get to know Andrew here. Here we go. First one is, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones.
Andrew: Game of Thrones. I did not read Harry Potter, and I very much enjoyed Game of Thrones.
John: Okay, well that makes it easy. Would you prefer to talk or text?
John: Talk. Yeah. Oh, this is a good one, favorite season, summer, winter, spring or fall.
Andrew: Oh, that’s real tough. That’s real tough. I was born in the spring, but Aussies, we love our summer because we can hit the beach. Even though I don’t really have a beach bar, but we can hit the beach. Yeah.
John: Yeah, yeah, summer. Okay. All right. When you’re traveling, planes, trains or automobiles.
Andrew: If someone else is making it move, definitely a plane. If I’m making it move, let’s go on automobile. If it can be automatic, make it a train.
John: Okay, so all three, a little bit of — yeah, that’s funny. Yeah. If someone else is driving it, not the plane. If it’s on me, you drive it, rather.
Andrew: Yeah, I’m not going to fly that plane, not just yet.
John: Right, right. That’s funny. How about this, three more, books, Kindle, real book or audio version?
Andrew: I would go audio version because I don’t really read all that much, but I like to listen.
John: Yeah, and you can do it on double speed. I do that a lot with videos as well. Your brain, it’s amazing how much your brain picks up at that rate. This one’s a tough one, rain or snow.
Andrew: Snow, easily. Magic, snow is magic. It’s just — I took my friend and six-year-old and my wife, we went to Europe. Actually, when we last spoke, we were going for this Europe trip. We finished in Scotland, driving through the mountains with — it was like you were in another world. It was amazing.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew: As an Australian, where we don’t get that much snow in Australia, for me, that’s the deal.
John: No, no, I agree. Rain just — I think rain ruins everything. Rain at night when I’m not doing something. The last one, toilet paper roll, over or under.
Andrew: Over, always over. You want to be pulling that thing towards, you, not out from under the thing and scraping whatever is on the wall.
John: I didn’t even thought of that part of it. That’s an excellent point.
Andrew: Yeah. How often do you clean behind your toilet roll on the wall? What kind of germs are in there, mate? Jeepers.
John: Oh, man, I didn’t even think of that now. Now, it’s a slam dunk. I don’t even care. So, it’s been a slam dunk. Last time we talked, Utah Jazz, which was hilarious. You had pictures from being courtside at the games when you visited, and then also whiskey, which I feel like helps make it through a Utah Jazz season. I’m not sure, but it’s been rough a little bit.
Andrew: Look, following the NBA, last year obviously was quite interesting. Anyone who follows it quite closely will know really Rudy Gobert was kind of the reason that NBA was shut down because of COVID. We won’t need to go into detail about that. But we came back on the bubble, everything was looking really good, and then we collapsed in the first round of playoffs. Hey, we’ve signed a couple of — Mitchell and Gobert’s back in town, and Jordan Clarkson’s playing well, so the team’s looking okay.
Whiskey, though, oh, mate, I to tell you what, the last nine to 10 months of my life, I have purchased more whiskey than — because when you’re stuck at home — in Australia we were in a lockdown for a while — you’re stuck at home, you’ve got nothing to do, so you jump on your phone. You look. Oh, that one looks interesting. All of a sudden, you’re getting five to 10 bottles delivered to your door, every couple of days. You wife starts going, “What’s going on? Why is there so much whiskey around?”
John: I’m opening a bar, the Illumin8 bar.
Andrew: She knows that that is one of my ultimate goals in life is to open a whiskey bar, so how can I do that without having tested, tried, consumed and collected various amounts of whiskey to know what’s going to be behind said bar?
John: There you go. I love it. I feel like that’s almost tax-deductible as research. Not quite, but it’s close.
Andrew: I like your thinking. I really like it. Points for attempts there. That’s good. Very close.
John: Those points will also land you in jail, and that’s not good.
Andrew: Yeah, possibly.
John: Yeah, but that’s so cool to hear that you’re still same passions, the same things that still light you up before. The whiskey though, you’ve taken it to a new level with the DIY, if you will, make your own.
Andrew: I have.
Andrew: Yes. One of the fortunate things for me being a business advisor is that we specialize in a few different industries, and one of those that we’re getting to some deeper specializations in is the alcohol production industry, wine, beer, spirits. So, one of our clients manufactures gin and whiskey and a few other spirit-based things. I pulled them aside. It was probably about a year and a half ago. I said, “I want to make my own whiskey. What do you reckon?” We spent a bit of time, and I’m going over what’s going to go into it, where we’re going to source the grain from, what barrel and so on and so on.
Then in April, I took delivery of my little baby, a nice little five-liter ex-bourbon American oak barrel of whiskey which is affectionately known as Vande whiskey because of my last name being Van De Beek and whiskey. So, I’ve taken it to the next level. It is sitting here. I tasted it about a month and a half ago with a few mates, and it was like rocket fuel because it went in at 69%.
John: Oh, my goodness.
Andrew: Which, often, it does when you distill things. It comes quite high. We’ll let it sit there for a few years, and we’ll pull it out. Hopefully it’ll be a real delicious drop to share with mates.
John: Yeah, yeah, because that’s what I was wondering, is how long do you have to sit there and watch it?
Andrew: Well, I watch it. Instead of TV, I just put it on a shelf, and I stare at it. I’m like, come on, buddy, you can do this. Get there, you golden deliciousness. So, the time depends on how much of a stickler you are on the rules and what country you live in.
If I was in Scotland and this was going to be Scottish whiskey or — we wouldn’t call it Scot whiskey, they’d just call it whiskey because they’re in Scotland. Three years and one day, it must be aged for, and then it can be called whiskey. If it’s before that, if you bottled it before that, they’ll often call it a whiskey spirit or something like that.
In Australia, because of our temperatures and whatnot, so you can imagine, the hot and the cold inside the barrel, the liquid’s expanding, compressing and doing all kinds of stuff with the wood; it’s two years in Australia.
Andrew: When you have a tiny barrel, like I have a five-liter barrel, it could be three months before it tastes good. You don’t want to sit it in there for three to four years because it actually might get to a point where it doesn’t taste good. So, realistically, if you’re not commercially going to bottle something an, wanting to call it whiskey and trying to get some level of reputation, you just taste it every month or so and wait until you think it’s good. You go, bang, that’s great. Pull it out. You might cut it with a bit of water or something to reduce the alcohol volume because it’s quite strong. Then you drink it. Everybody says, “That was fantastic,” or that was terrible and everything in between, and away you go.
John: That’s fantastic, man. That’s so cool. Did you work with them on the flavors and what goes into it?
Andrew: I did, yes. What I effectively said to them is like, my favorite whiskey is Highland Park, which is the northernmost distillery in Scotland. I have a dog, and I named him Highland Bark, after the whiskey, so I’m big fan of that.
Andrew: I like a bit of peat, but not like a heavy bit of peat. I effectively said I want it to be slightly peated, which is the smokey flavor you get in whiskey. I wanted to have a bit of that salty, briny kind of texture about it, and a little bit of fruity, fudgy nuttiness in there. We said, all right, that’s what we’re looking for. Then we sorted out different grains. We actually made this a five-grain whiskey. Five different grains went into it to try and get those textures and flavors and whatnot. It’ll come out, and hopefully we’ll be super, super happy with it. I can tell you what grains it has in it, if you want.
John: Yeah, yeah, what grains, I was going to ask, because five, yeah, what did you put in there?
Andrew: All right, so we started with 45% of Maris Otter grain. This is brands and styles of grains. You’re not going to know any of them, neither will I. 17% of light Melanoidin. I can’t even pronounce that word.
John: You’re reading this off the card on the side of the barrel.
Andrew: I’m reading it off the card. Yeah, I’m not going to remember this stuff. There’s another 17% of Simpsons medium peat. I’m assuming Lisa and Bart got in on this, and Homer and Marge. There’s 17% of Best Vienna. Although I wonder what’s the Worst Vienna like. If I put that in, would it be any different?
John: If you’ve done average Vienna and saved a little bit.
Andrew: Yeah, just right in the middle. Then we finished with 4% of Bairds heavy peated and then away we go. There’s a bit of yeast, a couple of different yeasts in there. It is very interesting. It is very, right now, tasting, it is very strong. You definitely wouldn’t be drinking it properly. You just have a sip and see where it’s at. Yeah, it’s fun, mate.
John: That’s cool, man, I love it so much. I love it even more that it’s in the industries that you guys are helping and the businesses and clients that you worked with, to make this. It’s not something where you show up as uber-trusted advisor, accountant, business consultant person. You show up as, hey, I’m Andrew, and I also love whiskey, so what’s up, type of thing.
Andrew: It is a huge part of relationship-building and making, when you actually are interested, have some level — you don’t have to be an expert on what they do, but have an understanding and appreciation for that. Because you can come alongside them and show interest and learn and grow and hence, make some whiskey or do some cool stuff with them, if they’re in a different industry, and away you go.
John: Yeah, and I love it. You’ve been living and breathing this message since before we met even, which is cool. Just for people that are listening that are like, well, no one’s going to care, or it doesn’t have anything to do with the work, specifically, what do you tell people? How do you build that culture at your organization? How do you show people that it’s okay to have these outside-of-work things?
Andrew: It’s not hard to show them that it’s okay, but it’s sometimes hard to show them the appropriateness of how you manage that. Like saying, hey, it’s cool to be you. Everyone’s like, sweet, I’ll be me. Then they run around, and they’re a pack of idiots. How do we do that appropriately? Everybody wants a bit of recognition. They want to feel good about themselves. They want other people to be interested in because there’s a bit of that — that’s a healthy ego, I would say. Healthy ego is like, I want people to care about who I am and what I’m about, and I want to be able to share what I am and what I’m interested in or something that I might be passionate about that you don’t know.
Showing that in a way where we appreciate one another for that is fundamental. Provided that it doesn’t cross a line and become a controlling aspect of a relationship, it’s perfect. So, we’re just seeking courage by doing. Just be yourself. We’re a team of 16 now at Illumin8. I think when we spoke, we would have been a team of seven, maybe. That was about two and a half years ago. So, managing a larger team with that approach does become a little bit harder because there’s just more voices in a room. You have to make sure that everybody in that environment feels like they are comfortable, and they have that space to be themselves. They’re not being overpowered by some other people who’ve been there for longer or who have the louder voice.
I think part of that is personality profiling when you’re hiring people. It’s about, as a leader, giving them a platform to be themselves and allowing them to make mistakes, potentially, and allowing them to get their teeth sunk into things they ordinarily wouldn’t be able to. As a result of that, they take more responsibility and ownership on their role, the business and where they fit within that, authentically using their skill set as well.
John: That’s so true. You hire people that are adults, that are educated and good at what they do. Trust them to do it. So much in the professional world is very much looking over your shoulder and treating people like toddlers. It’s mind-numbing to me that people want to do that. It’s gotta be exhausting to manage.
Andrew: The challenge is every — not everybody. A challenge is, a lot of the time, you expect people to operate and think like you do. I’m a 35-year-old bloke who has a big beard and drinks whiskey and has a couple of kids and likes basketball. If you’re a 21-year-old female who doesn’t have a beard, doesn’t drink whiskey, doesn’t have kids, doesn’t like basketball, straightaway we’ve got a significant amount of difference between the two of us. That’s not to say that they’re not amazing at who they are and what they do. That’s just to say we’re different.
So, the older I get — I’m still pretty young in the world of what I do, but we just hired a 21-year-old the other day, and have been with us for a few weeks. We had our Christmas party at my house. We started playing beer pong, and she’s correcting us on how to play beer pong. You know what? We should probably listen to the 21-year-old because she probably plays beer pong a bit more than the 35, 40-year-olds that are hanging out here. So, we’ll let you decide that. It’s really going, at what point does this person have valid argument in a position where they can add value and do it appropriately, and go from there.
John: That’s exactly it. How much do you feel like the culture of the organization is impacted by those outside-of-work interests of people? Versus, I’ve heard some people talk about culture, and it’s all, well, how do we make the business run better? There’s always a meeting metrics. There’s always — I feel like it’s a self-serving kind of culture, as opposed to something that’s actually genuine and letting people bring in some of that outside stuff.
Andrew: Look, it’s really hard because, to be honest, at the end of the day, every decision you make is to ensure that you have better business.
Andrew: Me saying I actually give a hoot about my staff, about my team, who they are and what they do, is true, I do; but I also know that by doing that, that they will operate in a better manner within my business. There will always be a level of self-serving to the benefit that you’re getting back from that, but how you exhibit that and how you go about explaining that, I think is where it separates from, you’re just trying to make money? Or are you trying to help people and create an environment that allows you to then make money as a consequence of those actions? What’s first? Is the horse or the cart in front here? Where are we going as a result of that?
John: Yeah. No, that’s so true, how you said that. Because I just feel like the works going to happen. The work is going to get done. It’s not like you have to be as intentional with the work because it’s going to happen. That’s why we exist. It has to happen in order for us to exist because, otherwise, we’d all have hobbies that become everything we do because we don’t have a job anymore. On the flip side, that’s why it’s like, being intentional with making time for the sharing of those hobbies and passions or even doing them because I feel like people just put them on the back burner so quickly.
Andrew: It is dangerous though. Like speaking with a few HR experts over here who have a bit of a different approach, they said, the last 2, 3, 4, 5 years or so, business culture has been shifting so much that there’s a lot more reliance on the soft skills stuff, like on being a good person and having hobbies and creating a great environment, having a slide and a bar and all kinds of cool stuff at your workplace. Everyone feels amazing. We’ve forgotten about what they’re actually paid to do. Hey, you actually still need to do XYZ by this day or this time. We still need to generate this revenue because we can’t afford to pay you unless the business is performing that way.
So you have to marry in the metrics of performance and the environment of authenticity or transparency or acceptance or whatever that is, and try to ensure that they’re both there. I think that’s where building KPIs or metrics, you need to have, these are the actions that we want to see out of you, and this is the consequences of said actions that we want. They’re two separate things. We’re going to reward you for doing the right thing, but we’re also going to reward you more for being successful in doing that. As a result of that, we can allow you to find your way through your space without the saying, you have to earn X million dollars, and they just do anything possible to earn it. They destroy the fabric of culture.
John: Yeah, you’re right. Because if it swings too much towards culture only, obviously, then it becomes crazy. If it swings too much towards work only, then it’s, yeah, people are breaking laws and cutthroat and sacrificing their own health and mental wellness. So, either way, swings too much, it’s detrimental to the organization, either way. That’s a very good point.
Cool, man. This has been so much fun and such great takeaways for people listening, in such a short amount of time. It’s only fair that I allow you to turn the tables on me, since I so rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning. This is the first episode of the Andrew Van De Beek whiskey podcast. I don’t even know. Thanks for having me on as your guest.
Andrew: Well, thank you. Thank you, John. Listeners, thank you so much for joining us today. Special Guest John Garrett, he’s an amazing guy. He’s got a fantastic book, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. You’ve probably all heard it before. Anyway, John, I just want to ask you a couple of really quick questions. Would you rather jump on concrete or a trampoline?
John: Oh, okay. I think I’ll go trampoline. I feel like it’s a little softer on the knees. Plus, trampolines are fun, takes me back to childhood, and I can jump much higher each time that I land. Where, on the concrete, I’m probably jumping less every time that I jump after.
Andrew: Depends what you’re trying to achieve whilst you’re jumping, too. Do you want to be more control when you’re coming down? Well, you might want the concrete. Are you doing with others, double bounce? The double bounce on a trampoline gets you right up there. It also depends — so, to go to a tiny, tiny little bit of detail. I’d just written a blog about concrete trampolines, and the whole idea of it doesn’t actually depend what you’re jumping on, but what you’re jumping with and what you’re doing when you’re jumping.
In order for a ball to explode back up when it hits the ground, it has to deform all its kinetic energy becomes internal. Then it reforms and goes back out. I liken it to a bit of a situation a lot of businesses are in right now is, are you having to break things down to re-go? Well, then, we’re talking about a concrete jump right now. Or are you in a position where you’re good and you just need to get some good people around to double bounce you and making sure you’re not sitting on your hands? Because you can’t bounce if you’re sitting. You have to be moving up and down the force.
A second quick question for you, and this is good because you do a podcast. You speak a lot. You are often using your voice. Would you rather have a golden voice or a silver tongue?
John: Oh. So, I can sing well.
Andrew: I guess the golden voice is, they love the sound of you. They want to listen. The silver tongue is the words that you speak, the things that come out of there.
John: Probably the silver tongue in that what I’m saying is more eloquent. Because my voice is going to be what it is, man. Super Dave Osborne fans out there, like, wow, he’s amazing. It’s because I hit puberty every once in a while, out of nowhere, as a grown adult, which is fun, but probably — yeah. Because if it’s my voice, what I got now, that’s the average, we can pass with this, so, maybe a more of a silver tongue.
Andrew: I agree. I’m a bit of that. A positive silver tongue, obviously, I don’t want to use it for negative connotations. I’ve got one last question for you, John. Thanks. We’re going to have to wrap this up. We haven’t got too much time. Our listeners, they were going to get on with the rest of their day. Would you rather be on time and good, or late and perfect? On time and good or late and perfect.
John: So, having just written a book, this is very timely. I would rather be on time and good, but the perfectionist impostor complex, inner demon John is very strong and wants to make sure that it’s — I want to make sure that it’s absolutely perfect so that that critic, that inner demon can’t chop away. The done is better than perfect mantra is something that I’m working on and constantly working on. Eventually you just got to pull the trigger because it’s never actually perfect perfect. That’s probably like the whiskey. Do we keep it in another two weeks? I don’t know. It’s still really freaking good right now. Let’s just pull it.
Andrew: And if you are late, are you actually perfect? It depends on the situation environment you’re in. If someone’s waiting for you and you’re late, well, you’re not perfect. You’re automatically, you’ve potentially dropped a rung or two. If you’re on time and it’s good, well, that was good, but I was expecting more out of you. I was expecting something bigger. So, really, the environment sometimes depends. That question is one of my favorite questions to ask potential employees, is that would you rather be on time and good or late and perfect?
John: Yeah, that’s a very good question for people to ask. It’s been so fun, Andrew, having you on. I just appreciate you being a part of this. Thank you so much for taking time to be a part of What’s Your “And”?
Andrew: Awesome, mate. Thanks so much for having me.
John: Totally, and everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Andrew and some of his whiskey or outside-of-work activities or maybe connect with him on social media and get a link to his blog, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing to the podcast on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.