I thought it fitting that this first blog post should be about new beginnings. Not necessarily starting from scratch, but about reinventing yourself in the wine industry.
Whether you are a wine importer, broker, retailer, salesperson, restaurateur or distributor, at some point during the current and ongoing global economic breakdown something you’re doing is likely to be less successful or not working at all. The problem is when you cling to the old ways too long, stick with what you know because you’re afraid of change or keep waiting for demand to come around again. In doing these things, you are in grave danger of sinking into a financial hole you can’t climb out of or missing the boat on new opportunities. These are the times when we need to be ready to leap into the void, after taking a good look at where you’re going of course, through research and planning.
The problem with wine, in this context, is that it is viewed with such rose colored glasses. Wine is spoken of in reverent tones and sought out with the fervor of a Holy Grail quest. Industry wine people are not immune to its seductive qualities and will speak in rapturous terms of their latest find or how only Bordeaux produces reds worth drinking or Austrian whites are the only ideal food partners. It is hard to pry people away from what they have built up as a labor of love in a portfolio or wine shop. They forget it’s a business and that although wine is more glamorous than selling widgets, it’s still a commodity from which we are trying to earn a living.
There are also those importers or restaurant owners who feel they have come to be associated with just one area of expertise and that without this carefully honed image as an exclusive organics expert, Burgundy authority or obscure vineyards champion they will lose identity and perhaps their customer base if they change course. My belief is that if your image is based on relationships, integrity, the willingness to acquire and impart knowledge, accessibility, customer service and QPR (quality price ratio) then your customers will follow you as you reinvent yourself. If what you are currently doing is not working, or being eroded, you won’t have a portfolio, store or customer base anyway. And you will lose your passion for what brought you to the business in the first place.
If difficult times are the catalyst for change it is extremely daunting, but leaping into that void can sometimes be the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. Sit down and have a glass of your favorite wine while you contemplate it. Maybe you’ll end up heading in a completely new direction towards a great adventure. Cheers!
Is what you’re doing now working for you? Have you changed course or holding on for better times? Is innovation your liberator or your nemesis?
i think your perspective on the business of wine is one that can carry over to a lot of other areas in life — congratulations on the new book and I hope to be reading many more posts on your blog!
I think what is happening in the wine business mirrors other business as well. It is so often fear of the unknown and a sense of “who will I be if I’m not who I am now.” Unfortunately, it does sometimes mean a huge shift towards a completely new career to survive, and at other times smaller course corrections will make a difference.
liz michalski said:
Your advice on reinvention is good life advice — most of us go through so many stages and changes during the course of a lifetime that if we can’t be flexible and abandon what’s not working, we wind up being miserable.
Good luck with the book, and I’m excited to read more from you!
Thanks Liz! I hope this will continue to be a life-oriented wine blog that anyone can relate to.
Jan O'Hara (Tartitude) said:
I love your unsentimental perspective. (Love this blog template, too. Very appropriate for your line of work. 😉 )
As you know, I was a family doctor, so the concept of reinvention isn’t new to me. It was my privilege to try and help people re-envision new or better lives after illness. It’s harder to do for oneself, of course, which is where outside perspective in the form of mentors/friends/critiquers/balance sheets can be good prompts.