Tasting Room Newsletter February 2012

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  A newsletter for managers of tasting rooms, wine clubs, and DTC wine sales
  February 2, 2012
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Open Book Management
If you don’t know where you’re going, any vehicle can take you there. If your team doesn’t know where they’re going, how will you move your business forward?

Owners are always looking for great employees – the kind of team players who act like owners. No matter what role they have, these employees walk around with an entrepreneurial eye, constantly on the lookout for ways to improve the business. Rather than walking by that piece of trash on the ground, these are the kind of employees who pick it up. These employees could be right under your nose.
If we want employees to act like entrepreneurs, we need to give them enough information to understand the big picture and feel like they are contributing towards it. We can’t expect someone with limited information and limited authority to participate in the business in a strategic and important way. It starts with a philosophy called Open-Book Management. It involves trust and inclusion. Done properly, it gives everyone a stake in the success of a business.
At WISE, we believe all employees should have access to some financial information. Once everyone sees the big picture, you can start examining departments and activities. Get team members involved in creating metrics that help them connect their individual actions to business results.  Then, communicate regularly. Sure it takes time and effort, but it’s worth it.
We can’t give employees access to a single porthole (revenue) on the organization’s ship and then blame them when the ship runs aground. Do you have all your crew on board and steering in the same direction?

Source: WISE Academy, www.wineindustrysaleseducation.com

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  Tasting Room in the Flesh
To Do 
The idea of food and wine pairing means different things to different people. Usually it is part of a sit-down dinner where the host/chef has decided what wine goes best with the dish, thus enhancing the pleasure of eating. (This is the traditional way of doing things for semi-fancy dinners in France, where you should not bother bringing your favorite bottle of wine to share, because the host/hostess will only open the wines they chose beforehand…bring flowers instead.)
In a tasting room, the food is supposed to promote the wine, so it should be carefully selected, easy to serve, small and yet enough to do the trick. A tasting room that has mastered the art is Williamson Wines in downtown Healdsburg, where every wine is paired with a little something to eat (a slice of cheese, dried fruit, nuts, etc.), usually enhanced with a grain of truffle salt or other spices. The flavors of each wine become so intense that it is impossible not to appreciate them. The staff has been thoroughly trained by Dawn and Bill Williamson, themselves master sales people. Bill Williamson even wrote a book (
www.waybeyondwine.com) about his experience from high-tech to vintner, and in Chapter 9, “Tasting at our Unique Boutique,” describes his philosophy for tasting rooms. The Williamsons also do winemaker dinners monthly, several highly attended events for wine club members and even organize high-end trips to Australia’s wine country. The tasting room has several areas where two to four people can sit around a barrel-table and go through a choice of tastings (the basic one is free.) When I was there last week, I met two Quebecois who were attending a music conference in Los Angles and made the special trip to Healdsburg just to experience the tasting room—now that’s customer retention…
Not To Do 
You are going to say I’m picky, and you’re right, but when you build a bar for tasting, where people stand and probably lean against it, don’t make the countertop flush with the supporting structure. There needs to be an overhang of at least 8 inches to be comfortable. At one winery I visited last week, my feet were always banging into the bottom of the bar, because the “lip” was only 1 inch. I guess they wanted you to be served and then “move away from the car!”


Jacques Brix is Vice-President and Director of Sales, West Coast for Wines & Vines. This column is based on his personal experiences at winery tasting rooms.

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