Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Brewdog boss opens up about always feeling a ‘bit socially awkward’, his mistakes and suspected autism

James Watt
James Watt

Brewdog boss James Watt has opened up about his personal struggles both growing up and in his adult life and mistakes he has made with the 15-year-old business.

He has also admitted to “pushing people too far” and being “too demanding” of staff.

Speaking to entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den member Steven Bartlett for his Diary Of A CEO podcast, Mr Watt also revealed he was seeking help from a specialist to see whether he was autistic.

Brewdog has never been a stranger of controversy throughout Mr Watt’s time in charge.

In June last year claims of inappropriate behaviour and fostering an unpleasant work culture were made about him in a BBC documentary focused on the craft beer firm.

And dozens of staff signed a letter accusing bosses at the north-east beer giant of “lies, hypocrisy and deceit”, and of fostering fear in their employees.

“It’s completely fair to say at times in the journey I have been too intense, I have been too demanding, that I have set standards for the team that I would set for myself, and for a lot of the team members that is unattainable… I did push people too far”, Mr Watt said in the interview.

He claimed that his actions were done with “100% good intentions”.

Mr Watt continued: “I just pushed for such high standards, unrealistic deadlines, it’s because I was so focused on ‘let’s build the thing, let’s create more jobs, let’s deliver more value for our customers’.”

Recently the controversial boss of beer-maker BrewDog has pledged to hand over a stake in the Ellon-based firm worth an estimated £100 million to its workers.

‘Inadequacy complex’ growing up

Mr Watt revealed his struggles throughout childhood.

He said: “My relationship with my mum was never that good and I think I struggled a lot when I was a kid.

“I had quite a severe speech impediment when I was growing up and this is something I haven’t spoken about before.

“That kind of always made me a little bit of an outsider, a little bit of a loner and always felt a bit socially awkward.

“As I grew up and became a bit older I had quite severe acne so again outsider, loner, socially awkward and I think it’s a trait a lot of entrepreneurs have in common.

“Also had a bit of an inadequacy complex when I was a kid as well. Mum’s standards were quite high so whatever I did wasn’t good enough.

“Ninety eight per cent in a test, why wasn’t it 100, won a swimming competition but why didn’t I win it with an even better time?

“Any achievement wasn’t quite good enough.”

He added he hadn’t spoken to his mother in 20 years.

‘Unrealistic expectations’ of staff

Further addressing issues with staff Mr Watt added: “I think it’s completely fair to say there’s been points on the high-growth journey of this company where we could’ve done more to look after the people.

“As a first-time CEO leading a company that was expanding super rapidly in the US, Germany and the UK at times we didn’t invest enough in HR and had unrealistic expectations of our team and think a fair amount of feedback in that letter was valid.

“We’ve always wanted to be the best employer we can be.

“The aspiration has always been to be a fantastic place to work and we’ve always believed our long-term destiny is determined by how well we look after the fantastic people in our business and that has been core to our DNA since day one.

“Have we always lived up to that in the high growth period, no we haven’t, and we fully accept that.”

Seeked help for issues

On the podcast chat with Bartlett, Mr Watt revealed he’s having regular therapy after his marriage break-up, and has started seeing a specialist to see if he has autism, after an April newspaper interview about him which called him an “obsessive” and “cold-eyed” person who struggles to “express empathy or read social cues”.

He said: “Off the back I started exploring as to whether I am a little bit autistic and it’s still something I’m exploring a the moment.

“Working with some specialists I think I might have some light-level autism in the mix which would explain some of the social cue things, some of the mindset thing and social awkwardness as well.”

Speaking about his treatment Mr Watt said: “I got therapy, I actually started when I separated from my ex-wife to kind of help us through that transition, help us be the best co-parents we could to our two amazing little daughters, and I’ve continued going because I just think it’s really useful.

“Being CEOs is lonely, in the tendency ‘let’s just bottle all this stuff and let’s keep going with it’.

“I think I can be a better leader if I’ve got someone to talk to about those things.

“I actually did last year five days of intensive therapy in the woods outside of Nashville, so I was living in a little hut for five days and kind of doing an intensive course.”

The craft beer brewer, based in Ellon, has now spent £9m on people and fixing “toxicity” in its culture, including improving salaries and benefits and giving shares for staff.