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A Lesson in Business Ethics or: You Too Can Proudly Sell My Beer!

October 2, 2012

Part of a continuing series I’ve dubbed, “To Be A Young Necromancer In Love,” updating Tuesdays and whenever the hell I feel like it.

In the Northern Crown setting, the game leans itself toward larger-than-life personas as befits a fantastical interpretation of the colonial period in North America. This is a world where Johnny Appleseed is a high level cleric and Paul Bunyan inspired a number of giants with a hatred for nature. Under a similar vein, the characters would sometimes play up the fact that they were wild adventurers on a great quest.

While two of the characters would eventually be forgotten to history (the Agent and the Scout), John Promiter (a Puritan Cleric) would be immortalized with a statue in Harvard Square. He was immortalized for having fought the Devil himself (a loose interpretation of the final confrontation with an infernal sorcerer). Strangely the “Devil,” looked less like an Espanaird sorcerer and more like an Albion nobleman.

The fourth member of the party gained fame in a somewhat more interesting way. Kyle McCloud was fond of boasting of himself when the campaign began, but as he gained levels, his boasts would grow as well. By the time the party had descended back from the North and made their way back to Nieu Amsterdam, Kyle would oft introduce himself thusly, “The name’s Kyle McCloud, greatest bagpipe player from here to Scottland. Everywhere I travel the women swarm to my music and the men flee from my greatsword.” People that didn’t believe him would often find themselves without female companionship and staring down the well-forged steel of a claymore.

He was a kilt wearin’ livin’ legend.

And you, fine sir.

Yes you, the man of clearly fine taste.

You could stock his ale in your public house.

Due to a series of events that I can’t quite remember, the party fought some men in an abandoned warehouse in downtown Nieu Amsterdam. The majority of the party was ready to ignore it, but in this commercial space in the heart of the largest port this side of the Carib Sea, Kyle McCloud saw his dream. Kyle set forth investing a large sum of the money he had gained from adventuring into hiring a fine brewmaster, and brewing equipment. Then, using his bardic contacts and knowledge, he was able to create a wide spread network of people willing to deliver his beer far and wide. He rarely produced enough to need whole carts or holds to himself, just a few barrels here and there, a barrel or two for the ship or cart master would generally serve as payment.

He repped the beer himself while traveling on his various adventures. Whenever the group stopped into a local tavern or inn, Kyle would inevitably begin talking up his brew (always carrying a few casks himself). He would sing songs about how great his beer was, and talk of how it helped him on his long adventures. Kyle McCloud’s Ale was one of the finest products that you could stock within your public house.

By the end of the campaign, Kyle McCloud’s beer was widely available across the states that composed the eastern coast of Northern Crown. The only places it was barred were places where he was labeled an enemy of the state. And even then…

The reason why I bring up this story is because I rarely talk about times when I feel there’s an example of good ethics. Even in times where I felt what the players had done was right, I found it raised interesting questions regarding our own ethical responsibilities. However, in this case, we’re talking about a fairly straightforward example of good business ethics.

Despite being able to slaughter whole taverns in under a minute, Kyle never resorted to violence or threat to sell his beer. Despite having access to sense-affecting magic, and being technically able to brew potions (he never took the feat but it was a possibility that he might have), he never used magic to gain an edge. Even though he sang songs about it, he never used his bardic music special ability (which imbues his voice with magical properties) to win people over to his cause. Nor did he ever hunt down any possible competitors and try to ruin their business.

To Kyle McCloud, he was just trying to create a life for himself after adventuring. All he really wanted was to sell a good product, and that’s why his first step was to hire a fine brewmaster and invest in the best equipment available. His delivery scheme while clever was far from illegal, it was merely an effect of successful networking.

What I’m trying to get at is that Kyle McCloud was a surprisingly ethical businessman. Especially when you consider that he was not “good aligned,” according to D&D alignment system, and had once been infected with lycanthropy, making him a servant of the Devil according to the Puritan church (and an enemy of the state for his actions at Concord). He used his money to invest in something he believed in, and then advocated far and wide. Kyle wrote jingles, worked hard to establish trade routes (and as an adventurer, ensure their safety to some extent since his greatsword wasn’t just for show), and did his best to actually put out a good and interesting product.

Not only is this a prime model for how you should sell a product as a salesman, if you’re familiar with breweries it’s often how they operate. Not to say that every beer or liquor rep you will meet is straightforward or just interested in talking about how good their product is and doesn’t really mind competition. I’m saying that most people you’ll encounter from the brewery themselves, barring that one person just being an asshole, are generally about talking up their product as good and having an air of friendly competition with other brewers.

This combined, especially early on in a brewery’s existence, with the personal connections required to distribute their beer, we begin to see parallels between Kyle McCloud and most breweries’ business models. It’s about the personal touch of the brewer or owner going out and saying to people, “This is what we do, what do you think?” People that strive to make a good product, and establish a reputation on the idea that their product is good, are generally going to do well.

I’m suddenly reminded of a band I listen to called Ceann. They were a small outfit on the road, normally two or three guys, who would travel up and down the east coast and into the midwest playing their own brand of whacky music and Irish standards. While they established themselves across these whacky bar and festival scenes, they would also try to pursue radio airplay in these various regions they worked in. Their dogged determination, and dedication to making a unique and appealing product is what lead them to find some level of success. They were never traveling about in BMW’s or a magical hovercraft (as they might tell you), but they made more than enough for the tax man to actually knock on their doors.

Ultimately, we can all learn a lesson from Kyle McCloud. The best way to get ahead is to make a good product, and try your damnedest to get it out to the public. It’s a truly good ethic to follow not only in business, but in life in general as well.

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