Five minutes with Petra Wetzel

Five minutes with Petra Wetzel

Inspiration can come from the most unexpected places.

For German-born Petra Wetzel, the idea for WEST arrived when her father visited her as a student in Glasgow. He missed one thing more than anything else – German-brewed beer – and Petra was determined to provide the solution.

Petra tells us about how attention to quality, and doing the simple things well has helped her set her beer apart from the rest of those produced in the UK.

“Concentrate on what you do – and do it really well”

Wanting to grow too quickly can often be connected to your ego. I subscribe to the idea that the bottom line talks volumes. Rather than doing five projects a year, maybe just do one and do it really well. The SMEs in Germany are the powerhouses of the economy. I have no global ambition. I get offered things and I think maybe that would be nice. But then I remember about my family commitments and how much I enjoy what I do now. Ego plays a huge role in the way people run businesses. I run a business with longevity and sustainability in mind – those two things are really important to us as a business.

“I balance my personal life with my desire to run a successful business”

I’ve learned this over the years. I’ve made mistakes, and I’m learning from those mistakes and won’t make them again. What’s important in life? Sitting on a plane seven days a week, or doing something that pays well and enjoying the business that you have and the people that you work with? We love growth and we grow at a superb rate but it’s organic growth. I can’t tell others how to run their business. If I were a CEO of a company where shareholders breathed down my neck everyday then I might run a different kind of company. I am the master of my destiny and I love being in charge of what comes next.

“Vibrancy comes from a few people taking risks and supporting others”

It’s about supporting people who have great ideas but maybe don’t have the experience or the access to finance. That’s the only way we can succeed: the people who have made it using some of their spare cash to help new businesses.

“The last few years have been wonderful for the brewing industry”

There has been a real rise in quality product, and people are very much about the provenance of drink and food in general. We’ve slightly been ahead of the market for a while and now the market has caught up with us and it’s great to be operating in this area as the two come together.

“A vibrant economy is one where you take opportunities but not at any cost”

The lovely thing about a vibrant economy is seeing synergies between businesses that are completely unrelated and seeing opportunities in things that you probably wouldn’t have traditionally unearthed. For example, I started a fund recently that invests in female-owned and female-run businesses in the food and drink industry in Scotland.

“We don’t take any money that is difficult to get”

By that I mean that we don’t believe in crowdfunding. For me, if a business grows then you retain profit, take some small investors into the business or you might go to your bank. I don’t subscribe to growing too quickly. Everything we’ve done has been organic growth. We have constantly invested in our system and staff and customers. We have grown at a rate that has been sustainable and I think that has been part of the reason that we’ve been successful, because we have never grown too quickly but at a rate where we’ve been successful and generated cash to do other projects.

“Having a shaky start makes you appreciate success”

I took the business on and brought it back from the brink of receivership in 2008. I am a product of WEST in that I wasn’t supposed to run the business but just be a silent investor… When you’ve never had a really rough ride then you don’t appreciate it when things do go well. I’m a big believer in ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, and as a team I think we have since weathered quite a few storms, which gives you the capability to manage difficult times.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone who had been successful gave back?”

If you’ve made it in your industry and you have a bit of time, and a little bit of spare cash, then you should be mentoring, supporting and investing in a future growth business. It’s a bit like paying it forward because you’re generating more wealth for the economy and for the country. More jobs and the benefits from it are large. In my small way, I do it and it’s been really rewarding. I’ve met some amazing people, it enriches me and assists others – it’s a win-win.