Iconic Tour

Sam Adams founder says CEO stands for Chief Everything Officer in a start-up

How Jim Koch turned his Sam Adams brewery into a $1 billion company

The Boston Beer Company, the brewhouse behind iconic craft beer Sam Adams, is a $2 billion operation today. But in 1984, founder Jim Koch launched the company out of his kitchen.

Everything Koch (pronounced "Cook") did to get the The Boston Beer Company off the ground he did for the first time, and that's par for the course for a start-up founder.

"It may say on your card that you are the CEO. Well, that's not Chief Executive Officer because there is nobody to execute," said Koch in an interview with CNBC at the Iconic conference in Boston last week. "You're the Chief Everything Officer."

While Koch comes from a family of brewmasters, he didn't set off on a path towards brewing beer. He went to Harvard and started his career with a well-paying consulting gig in a cushy office in downtown Boston.

He left all that behind to chase the dream of starting his own beer company. But he's the first to admit he didn't know what he was doing.

"Pretty much everything you're doing for the first time," said Koch. "You know, the first time you negotiate a lease, the first time you design a package, the first time you try to get P.R., the first time you set up a payroll system, the first time you make a sales call — everything is new." And as the founder and CEO, you are usually doing everything.

Jim Koch
David A. Grogan | CNBC

More than three decades later, Koch's gamble has paid off. The price of The Boston Beer Company's stock even pushed him into the elite cadre of self-made billionaires for a couple years.

But long before the financial rewards, Koch reveled in the role of Chief Everything Officer.

"That to me was what made it so exciting and invigorating," he said. "Every day was terrifying!"