Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In case your new year's resolution involves finding a new job

It just wouldn't be Christmas around here without my son getting The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. As resolutions are pondered, bringing many of you to the realization that it's time to find a new job, I thought you should know the warning signs of a horrible workplace. As Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht point out, here are some ways to identify a terrible company.
1. Interview at the beginning or end of the day. This way you can see how people really act at work. Are they slow getting to work, or working late into the night?
2. Examine the bathrooms. The overall cleanliness of a company can say a lot about how they treat their employees.
3. Monitor the air quality. I always survey a company's site to see if hazards are kept to a minimum, safety equipment is provided and in use, and that things look safe for the employees. If it doesn't, you won't be safe there. Your job or your life, you decide.
4. Look for signs of a troubled workplace. If you notice everyone is glum at the company, morale is probably pretty low. If you notice the secretary is trying to find a pawnshop for the owner's diamond ring, payroll might be an issue. Keep an eye out for how people act, and how the environment is. Little clues could help you avoid a bad company early on.
5. Evaluate. Does this place look like a good place to work?

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy Holidays from WineTalent

WineTalent wishes you a happy holiday and a prosperous new year.
Thank you to everyone for your support throughout the years. In a spirit of giving this year, I have made charitable donations to Sonoma Paradiso, National Wildlife Federation and UC Davis. Sonoma Paradiso is a Sonoma County based charitable organization that is lending a helping hand to children in need. National Wildlife Federation is a leader in protecting our nation's wildlife through education and conservation efforts. Finally, UC Davis has been in the forefront of providing education and research to the wine industry. Charities have been hard hit during these troubling economic times. I hope my donations can be put to good use.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Performance Reviews: Make them Count

Last week I presented at the Women for Winesense's Winemakers Roundtable on salary negotiations. I hope it was a worthwhile presentation, and felt that it was well received. One topic we discussed was performance reviews. Going into the end of the year, many companies conduct their annual reviews now. I suggest that you make them a positive experience for yourself. Here are some steps to take to do that.

Go over your last review: If you have a performance review from last year, take a look at it. Often companies list areas for improvement. What were your's? What did you do in the last year to address that? Also, advancement opportunities or goals may have been addressed. How have these been implemented, and where have you gotten on these.

Do a self assessment: Objectively look at your work performance. Although it can be hard to see the forest from the trees, take a step back and think about how you did. Were you a major contributor? Was their a personality conflict that caused you to perform below your abilities? There are plenty of other things that you might see if you take the time to look. Now how would you grade yourself.

Know your accomplishments: Now is the time you want to know what you accomplished in the last year. If you don't bring them up, they may never be talked about. If your reviewer is a distant supervisor, she may not know much about your contributions. You want to have this information readily available when you are in your review.

Brag: As I've said before, you need to be able to talk about your accomplishments. Make them known, so you can be adequately rewarded with a salary increase, a promotion, or a new role with the company.

Find out how to excel: Aside from the "report card" aspect of a review, this is also a time when you have the undivided attention of one of your superiors. You can use this time to find out future opportunities with the company, areas that your boss might need help with, and possibly get some good grooming for upper level positions.

Prepare a career wish list: When you are getting ready for your review, think of some areas within the company that you might be interested in working. You also can take some time to reflect on how close of a match your position, and your company are with your own goals and values. By taking the time to dream about your career, you might open your eyes to some great new opportunities.

(a note: Sarah Needleman first ran an article in the Wall Street Journal on November 4, 2008 exploring this topic. Her points were very good, and I have included them in the above article. Please link to her article for the full version)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sing Your Own Praises

I was settling down to work after the morning household rush, and got a call from one of the kid's carpool drivers. My first instinct was to think, "Oh no, what happened?"

I quickly called the dad, a neighborhood big wig who knows all the right people, is president of all the local boards, a lawyer, and the host of great music for the upcoming turkey trot. I of course did not want to look bad in front of such a powerful person. I went on the defensive, "So, what terrible thing did he do today?" The dad laughed and said he was calling to say how nice it is to have my son part of the carpool.

What? Someone calling to say positive things? Unheard of. And it made me think. In the work world, you are rarely told about your accomplishments. And when you are accomplishing things, don't you want people to find out about them?

I'm prepping right now for a talk at Women for Winesense. The roundtable discussion I am presenting at is about salaries. I was going over the topic with the host, and asking about the audience. Women for Winesense is an industry group that meets regularly at various wineries and discusses different topics. My presentation will be for several women winemakers. Topics that I'll be bringing up include salary surveys, salary negotiation, performance reviews, promotions and severence packages. One reason the roundtable was proposed was because several of the women wanted advice on negotiating their salaies and to make sure they were being paid what their male counterparts are.

This was an important piece of information for me in preparing my topic. I deal with salaries all day, every day--and have always been up for negotiating my own salary. But many women aren't comfortable addressing the issue, and many times leave money on the table.

What does this have to do with my carpool call this morning? It reminded me that unless you sing your own praises, most of the time no one else will. Women generally are great communicators, but not braggards. It is not ladylike. Going into salary negotiations or performance reviews women need to be ready to talk highly of themselves. When you are preparing yourself, write down your accomplishments, and be ready to speak to them. Although you may think everyone knows it was your actions that caused a great outcome, make sure you mention it. Having these items in your mind, you should feel more confident, and realize you are a major contributor to the organization. No manager wants to have you leave, or not take the job. They will want to compensate you fairly, so that you are happy and want to stay with the organization. And most likely compensate you better.

Thanks for the call Peter!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Loose Book Review of Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I'm a bit late in reading Anthony Bourdain's best seller "Kitchen Confidential; Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly", but now I feel I'm a bit of a Bourdain groupie. I am sure he has plenty of them now, and must find it funny that even though he didn't become a punk rock star that he has hit the big time. "No Reservations" on the Travel Channel has long been a favorite show of mine, so I'm not new to Anthony's ways. But I loved the book. It only took about 5 days to finish, and I'm a very slow reader. The stories are great, accurate and often hysterical. Having only lasted in the culinary underbelly during high school as a busser, I can appreciate how hard the lifestyle of a chef must be.

And I also realized I have a one track mind. Reading this funny story about Anthony Bourdain's life in the restauraunt biz was entertaining, but led me to see many truths about the work world at large. Throughout the book Anthony talks about what he values in employees and bosses. He also talks about his hiring and firing methods at different types of establishments. And in the final chapter he gives some suggestions to those individuals who might choose to become a chef. These suggestions are applicable to lots of jobs. Here they are:

1. Be fully committed. When you decide on a career, go for it with everything you have. Whether you decide you want to be a chef, or say a wine salesperson. You need to live, eat and breath your job.
2. Learn Spanish! Maybe this isn't so true of all industries, but I think it is very helpful in the wine industry. Knowing how to speak to your vineyard crew is very important, as is being able to communiate with your cellar staff. I have to echo Anthony's sentiment that many of the Spanish speaking workers you will encounter are some of the hardest working individuals you will ever have the honor of working with. So get to know how to say hello at least. Even better, get to know as much about them and their culture as possible.
3. Don't Steal. Words to live by.
4. Always be on time.
5. Never make excuses or blame others.
6. Never call in sick. Anthony's got some great stories about the lengths he went to to always make it in to work, and the reassurance he felt when his staff did the same.
7. Lazy, sloppy and slow are bad. He goes on to say that enterprising, crafty and hyperactive are good. I agree, most of the time.
8. Be prepared to witness every variety of human folly and injustice. Ok, so you might see more of this in some professions, but as time rolls on, you see more and more of this, and not letting the bad get the best of you is very important.
9. Assume the worst. I always do. As my old boss used to say, paranoia is good. But don't let it get to you--just let it keep you on your toes. Being ahead of the game can have its advantages.
10. Try not to lie. Nothing more to say.
11. Avoid restaurants where the owner's name is over the door. This might not be as true in the wine industry where many establishments are named for the owners. Try to work at a place that is well respected and has good street cred. It will help you when you are looking for your next job, or looking for additional staff at your current employer.
12. Think about that resume. This gets to job hopping and moving around in responsibility level. Resume readers can see a lot about you from that resume--so before you make a quick decision, think about what a job change right now might look like a few years down the road.
13. Read! While Anthony is urging aspiring chefs to read cookbooks and trade magazines, I encourage you to read as much job related information as you can. Trade magazines, lifestyle magazines, cookbooks, blogs, websites, newspapers, and of course books. Keeping on top of trends and issues in your industry will keep you well positioned for changes. He also recommends knowing a little bit about the history of your chosen profession as well. Reading books about super salespeople, or the hunt for rare wines, and maybe the history of the winery owner you work for can be very helpful in the long run.
14. Have a sense of humor about things. Something everyone needs.

I encourage you to pick up the book. He has a couple of more recent books, which I'm sure will be just as good, if not better.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How Best to Make an Industry Career Change

Often I'm asked how people can make a move into the wine industry from a myriad of other industries. I've blogged about some possible ways to make the leap--and encourage people to always try to find a job that really interests them--and wine is a hobby of many people out there. I recently read a strategic piece by Chandlee Bryan from the Wall Street Journal. The article, Weighing a New Industry for a New Job Outlook, outlines a few ways to handle the leap realistically.

Key points from the article are:
1. Find an area that interests you, such as wine. Looking at hobbies or personal interests is a great way to explore new career opportunities. Using your current job skills in a related way in the new industry could be an easy transition.
2. Learn the landscape. Do your homework on what types of jobs are out there and which might use your skills. Do internet searches to find information that might shed some light on your potential career path.
3. Examine your experience: Identify your strengths and find out how you can capitalize on them in the new industry. Your previous work experience will allow you to differentiate yourself from many competitors.
4. Develop a communication strategy: After you've learned about your target industry and done your homework, develop a pitch on what makes you a highly desirable candidate for a potential employer. Ms. Bryan suggests using 15secondpitch.com to help you refine your message.
5. Consider a recruitment agency: Okay, that's me.
6. Be prepared for compensation adjustments: This is very good to think about. While you may be at the top of the pay-scale in your current industry, switching to a new one may bring some small paychecks--hopefully only until you've proven yourself. But remember, you might be looking to change industries because your current one is going through some changes or having less opportunities in the future. Switching to a more vibrant industry can have a bigger upside down the road.

How Much Does that Bottle of Wine Cost?

Several months back the SacBee's Jim Downing ran a story on the true costs of producing wine. Take a look at the link for the full article: Full Bouquet on wine costs

The article gives a full run-down of what the true costs are for a bottle of wine from Lodi, Mendocino and Napa. If you've ever wondered why that Napa Cab costs you $80--take a look. Oh, and next time you pick up a bottle of Two Buck Chuck, you might notice that all costs are closely watched, allowing the company to maximize their profit for a seemingly cheap wine.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Salary Ranges

Staying on top of your industry salary ranges is always helpful, both when you are going for a performance review and when you are scouting for a new position. The annual salary survey Wine Business Monthly puts out is a must read in this industry. While the most recent survey is still available only to subscribers, here is a link to the latest press release . Another site to browse is Salary.com. This site usually aggregates data from many industries, but can give you a guideline. Some more specific sites are Glassdoor.com and PayScale.com. When you are thinking of asking for more money--have your information and homework done using any of these helpful sites.

Friday, October 3, 2008

How to get into the biz

Recently a job seeker wrote to me for advice on how to get into the CA wine scene. As this advice seemed helpful to many readers, I got permission to post it here.

To: amy@winetalent.net
Subject: advice?

Hi Amy,
I am very interested in getting into the wine industry but I have a lot of questions about how to do so. I have had experience selling wine in restaurants as a server. I have done many blind tastings and know a little bit about French and Spanish wines but not so much about American wines. So, I guess my first question would be where do I start? How should I frame my experience in a resume in order to maximize my abilities in order to get a job? Should I try to get a job in a tasting room or a wine store? Do I need to take some classes in order to even begin this process? Any advice that you might be able to pass on to me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Dear Job Seeker,
Thanks for the message. Hopefully I can help out a bit. Not knowing your professional background, I can only give thoughts on how to gain exposure to the US wine world. I do think working in a tasting room is helpful. Wineries often offer some education about the wines and region that you would be working in, and learning on the job is very helpful. It also gives you some contacts in the wine industry and fodder for your resume. Working in a wine store is also helpful, especially if you are interested in getting into wine sales. Working in retail gives you exposure to distributors, and also you gain knowledge about wineries, wine styles and customer interest. If you are near a wine growing region, several local colleges give sensory, winemaking, marketing and related courses. Many times they are taught by big wigs in the wine industry, yet more contacts for you. If you would like to send along a resume and keep me posted on your wine experience, I would be happy to consider you for openings.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Are you there recruiter, its me, Perfect Applicant?

Recently I was speaking to a job seeker who had solid experience in both sales and marketing. I was urging her to tailor her resume for specific job openings, and expanding her descriptions related to the job description. By focusing a resume to the job, it allows you to present yourself well to the reader.

When you are applying to a position directly with a company, often all the resumes are sent to a general delivery email address. A Human Resources recruiter then slogs through the inbox to find out who has responded to the ad. As when I post a job, lots of relevant resumes come in, but also a lot of unqualified but interested job applicants apply. The company recruiter is tasked with finding those applicants that come closest to the job description, and making those resumes available either to an HR manager, or to a hiring manager. Within big companies, the recruiters are going through tons of resumes for all sorts of open positions, from winemakers to CFOs, viticulturists to sales managers. It only makes sense that the concise, clear resumes make it out of the inbox, and onto someone's desk.

While tailoring your resume is important, keeping it readable to the recruiter is crucial. Explaining your work experience clearly and thoroughly is important. Also, keep a handle on your use of buzzwords. While everyone in your industry may be able to quickly ascertain your knowledge when looking through a list of acronyms, to a company recruiter it may be all gibberish. A happy medium is to explain your background in plain words, and list technologies, systems, etc at the bottom of each entry. This allows your resume to be understood by anyone who is looking at it, which is exactly who you want looking at it. Now you just want it to get out of the inbox and into the hands of the decision maker. Good Luck.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's the Economy, Stupid. I'll drink to that.

In today's newspaper and Wine Business newsfeeds there were several articles about the economy and its impact on the wine industry. The Sacramento Bee had an informative article, to look at. Last night watching The Colbert Report, Maria Bartiromo was the guest, talking about the stock market. It has been a wild ride, with long reaching effects on our daily lives. From consumers not spending money to eat out, to wine drinkers trading down to a more affordable brand of wine, the wine industry is feeling it just as much. But as the article pointed out, even when people aren't eating out, they are still drinking wine at home. Whenever I talk about the economy and the wine industry, people always quip that drinking is one thing that is recession proof. While I think that is an oversimplification, wine sales continue to be strong. I've decided that I will take Maria's advise and diversify. I'm putting my money in several different assets, and buying a wide range of wines--a few of those cult wines to age in the cellar for healthy returns, some luxury wines to impress guests, and a few cases of $2 Chuck. I guess right now for the proper Return on Investment, I should be drinking the $2 Chuck when I look at my stocks' performance.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cover Letters and Communications

This last week I attended Back to School night, and met my children's teachers. As always it was informative and great to connect with the new stewards of my family's education. Then today I received an email from the teacher that was full of grammatical errors and obviously had not been re-read prior to sending out. While I know all too well how important it is to get communications out, I also know that this teacher is in charge of teaching kids proper writing skills. How can I stand behind my son's report card comments that he had poor grammar and spelling, when the same teacher had similar problems in her communications to me.

So what the heck does this have to do with you, job seeker? Think about your communications and what they say about you. Make sure your emails are concise and free of errors prior to sending them. I always proofread my messages prior to sending--even if it is just a quick note. It makes communication easier, and prevents any misunderstandings.

As a recruiter, a resume is a snapshot of your experience and skills. I don't really pay attention to cover letters. I do however like an email that gives me the nitty gritty on what a candidate is looking for, what their living situation is (are they looking to relocate, anchored to a remote locale, or are completely flexible), and related information. In my resume database I input these notes, along with any notes from conversations and interviews. I do advise you to prepare a cover letter to include with your resume. I am only one recruiter, and convention dictates a cover letter. Make sure it is clear, represents you well, and free of typos and errors. This will show your presentation skills and thoroughness.

This of course is true of any communications you send. Make sure you don't send a email riddled with problems. If you claim in your resume that you have stellar business communication skills, it better be reflected in all your communications.

Okay, so how many grammatical errors did I miss?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Personality Tests: What do they really do?

Yesterday morning I had a very good interview with a Vice President of Sales candidate. My interviewee was intelligent, highly motivated and a problem solver. I picked this up through the interview. I have a couple of potential clients that might be interested in talking to her in the next month or so. As I do with all candidates that are sent along to my clients, I will be doing references when a suitable position comes up. From the reference process, I glean some more details about a candidate's expertise and personality. During the course of my interactions with job seekers I can get a good snapshot of their strengths and weaknesses, and figure out what motivates them.

Several candidates I've worked with have presented me with personality profiles that they have had performed on them during the interview process. Often they bring them to me to explain their strengths. Sometimes they ask me if I want them to complete a personality profile. It's been something that I've debated over the years.

Several years back I was part of the "re-engineering" team at my old employer. During that time I had to do a personality profile. Also, as one of the founding members of the local chapter of the NACCB we had a vendor of personality profiles do a complimentary profile of us. Personally, I love doing these tests. They always show me as high achieving, entreprenurial and action oriented. Wow--now I know!

But I don't give much credence to personality tests. I guess some people think they are the silver bullet, and will make placements so easy. To me they are somewhat ambiguous and can be gamed by the test taker. A good friend of mine always tried to interpret what the test was analyzing, and would answer the way he felt would give him the best score. If a seriously horrendous candidate wanted to foil the test, the final result would give a false reflection of that person's personality.

I have to say I am a fan of the good, old-fashioned in-person interview. I think it shows a commitment on both the interviewer's part and that of the candidate to take the time to sit down and meet. Recruiters interview people constantly, and any recruiter worth her salt knows to trust her gut instinct on people. No personality test ever compares to my impression of a person, and that has been what has provided me with successful placements over the last 14 years.

So while you are in the interview process, know that personality tests may be used by employers. Go into them with an open mind. Most of the time they tell you what you already know. But they are by no means foolproof. They simply are one tool interviewers use to get to know a potential employee.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Salesperson seeking new opportunities

Recently a wine salesperson contacted me for advice on how best to look for a new position. I frequently get this inquiry, so I thought I’d post what my response was. Hope this is helpful for others trying to move within the industry.

“I'm glad you were able to find me on the web. With your education, you have many options in the wine industry, and I'm glad to see that you are already working within the industry.

With your sales experience, I'm sure you have cold called clients. I think there is nothing better than stopping in to the tasting rooms and seeing what you can find out. And since you are in the industry, most wineries offer free tastings to the trade. Not everyone you talk to at a tasting room will know about hiring plans of the winery, but it's a start. Some of the smaller wineries have been bought by bigger wineries, so find out who is who through the web or winery directories (Wines and Vines puts one out, and there are a couple of others). You should also see if the wineries have an HR department, and maybe try contacting the General Manager to find out if there are any openings. Selling yourself is just like selling a product, so act professional yet approachable, and trust your instincts when you are talking to someone. You are currently employed, so keep your inquiries confidential. Take a look through my blog to find out other advice, like places to look for jobs, etc. “

Another question frequently asked by jobseekers is how I get paid. Here is my response: “As a contingent recruiter, I am compensated by my client, a winery, when I find the right employee for a position they have open. I have never charged a job seeker for my services, outside of a gift of a bottle of wine for resume advice.”

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ode to George Carlin

I'm currently on my annual Midwest vacation. I was going thru my "to blog" file while packing up, and came across several articles about Robert Mondavi's recent passing. I put that in my suitcase. I also threw in my recent software upgrades that I planned to work on during my downtime. Finishing up several placements, I have all the notepads with vital information that needs to be input into my database. Wine books, magazines, and some personal reading went into the suitcase. Include my clothes and sundries, I had so much stuff to bring along that I thought about George Carlin. I always loved his rant on stuff; traveling, moving and having stuff all across the globe. As I unpack my stuff I get a chuckle, and miss George Carlin's contribution to my life, as well as Robert Mondavi's impact on the wine industry. More on the latter in a subsequent email.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tips for Success in the Wine Business, from Forbes Magazine

Tips For Success In The Wine Business
Eric Arnold, 07.01.08, 6:00 PM ET, Forbes.com Drink Section.

It's the dream of many entrepreneurs: Get rich, buy a vineyard, kick back on the porch and relax with a glass of your own wine.

Keep dreaming. Wine is a tough, competitive and expensive business that's likely harder than your current day job. Even those who've managed to survive--or thrive--in the wine world are quick to give a warning: Make sure you know what you're getting into. Year-round farm work; complex regulatory paperwork; exhausting, competitive sales legwork--and this is on top of the $1 million-plus investment you'll need to get started and the several years of losses incurred before a single dollar of revenue comes your way.

In Depth: Tips For Success In Starting Your Winery
"[For] people who think they're just going to go sit in the vineyard and live in the house that happened to be on the property, walk through the vineyard, and [have] wine [that] gets made and sold automatically, it is a big surprise," says William Foley, 62, founder and owner of Foley Wine Group. Foley's brands include Foley, Lincourt, Merus, Firestone, Three Rivers and Two Sisters.

Foley is chairman of New York Stock Exchange-listed Fidelity National Information Services, a software supplier and outsourcer for banks, as well as of Fidelity National Financial, a large insurance underwriter and property and casualty insurer. He got into the wine business about 11 years ago when he bought an unplanted 460-acre property in California's Santa Barbara County.

Foley hired teams to rip out the existing vegetation and plant about half the acreage with pinot noir and chardonnay vines. This took roughly a year; it would take a few more years for the vines to grow their first crop.

Foley decided that the next step would be to start construction on a production facility and a tasting room. Neither takes long to build, but winery equipment is expensive, and a tasting room has to look nice and be attractive to visitors. "Before I knew it, I was into it for $15 million," Foley says, laughing. "It was like the blink of an eye. I didn't see it coming at all."

He's not alone. The costs of running a winery are so great--and land prices so high (in Napa, prime producing vineyard land costs about $300,000 per acre)--that many overleveraged, squeezed-by-competition wineries are ripe acquisition targets for the major wine and spirits holding companies, such as Constellation Brands and Brown-Forman Corp..

Foley says he needed seven years to make that Santa Barbara venture profitable. After several recent acquisitions, he now oversees multiple wine brands spanning several regions and price points. Foley's company now makes 250,000 cases a year.

Money Matters
Though not everyone has Foley's ambition, the first major rule of the game--whether you want to make 250 cases or 250,000 cases of wine each year--is the same: You need more money than you think you do. If you start a vineyard from scratch, it can take two to four years before you're producing a commercial crop, and the winemaking process can last a year or two longer. So make sure you've budgeted for a long period of spending without a single dollar of return.

"You tip money into a big hole for a long period of time," says Andrew Harris, the team lead for worldwide commercial development of Viagra at Pfizer.

Your competition is connected. Are you? Join the Forbes.com Small Business Exchange.

He should know. Harris, originally trained as a veterinarian, thought it'd be nice to live and work in New York but also have a foot in his native New Zealand. So in 2002 he bought and developed a 20-acre property in Martinborough, at the southern tip of the North Island. His company, Stonecrop, produces about 1,600 cases a year of sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, and Harris plans to max out at 4,000 cases someday. He's been up and running for six years and says he's on track to be profitable in the next four.

"Ultimately, your costs run to seven figures," says Harris. "It's a long-term proposition."

What makes it such a long haul, primarily, is that growing grapes isn't the same as planting corn or wheat or cabbage, which are replanted and regrow every year. Growing grapes is farming for masochists.

"You buy land, rip and cut it, you plant the vines--that takes a year," explains Foley. Then, depending on the land and the weather, it takes anywhere from two to four years before you grow a quality commercial crop. All the while, you're shelling out for expensive maintenance to the vines.

If you grow pinot noir and chardonnay, like Foley, "you're a year or 18 months in barrel before you bottle [the wine]. So you've got a process of about seven years before you sell any wine after you've started the program."

Selling Out
Once you have the wine, you need to know what to do with it. Small brands need to attract the interest of a wholesale distributor willing to aggressively market and sell the wine to retailers and restaurants. This isn't easy--or akin to normal supply-and-demand enterprises.

If you could quit your job and start over, what would you do? Weigh in. Post your thoughts in the Readers Comment section below.

"[San Francisco restaurant] Boulevard had ordered our wine, and I was tremendously excited," recalls Ken Freeman, an executive with Knight Capital Group who founded Freeman Vineyard and Winery in Sonoma with his wife Akiko. "I went back [to the restaurant] two weeks later, and the wine was off the list."

It wasn't that the wine hadn't sold well, according to Freeman.

"In other businesses, if you have a product that flies off the shelf, they just automatically reorder it. But in the wine business, they like to mix things up a little bit," he says. "That was a shocking moment." Freeman realized he was in for a lot more legwork than he'd originally envisioned.

Beware The Red Tape
Then there's the paperwork. Producing and selling an alcoholic beverage in America is a complicated endeavor wrapped in layers of tangled red tape. There are licenses and permissions to be acquired from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and even a long, complex process through which the label for the bottle must be approved by the TTB. That's all before you have to start tracking sales and computing and paying excise taxes. (To see the TTBs long FAQ on winery regulations, click here.)

"The back-office stuff--the regulatory aspects and all that--are daunting," says art collector and venture capitalist Dennis Scholl, co-founder of the Betts & Scholl wine brand alongside Aspen-based master sommelier Richard Betts. "This is very unsexy stuff, but this is what I deal with every day. The nuts and bolts of actually getting stuff off a vine and into a bottle and on a shelf somewhere are daunting. That's the only way to describe it."

Scholl, however, has one advantage: His company makes wine under contract with several prestigious wineries around the world (such as Jean-Louis Chave in France's Northern Rhone Valley) so he doesn't have the monstrous cost of owning vineyards. The business is still expensive--"We thought my investment would be X ... and it turned out to be 100X"--but he's not overleveraged, and his company, he says, is profitable.

If you really have your heart set on making your own wine, it appears to make sense to follow Scholl's example--but start small.

One place to do that is Crushpad, a custom-crush winery in San Francisco. The company offers private customers the opportunity to make a barrel of wine for their own consumption, or even 100 or more barrels for commercial sale--all without the fuss of owning property, equipment, a winery or a warehouse.

Crushpad even handles the regulatory paperwork and order fulfillment. All you have to do is put up the money, pick the variety and vineyard site, work with an on-staff winemaker to decide on the flavor and style you want (such as oaked or unoaked wine), and do the marketing.

"If you think this is something you want to do … before you commit your life savings and taking your wife and kids to live in Napa and selling the house and quitting the job, try it out for a few years, see if you like it; see if you can be successful with a smaller scale," explains Michael Brill, founder of Crushpad. "We're talking about tens of thousands or $100,000 or $200,000--not millions of dollars."

Crushpad has over 650 accounts involving some 5,400 total customers (some are single customers, some are larger groups making wine together), about 140 of the accounts being commercial wine brands up and running or in development--and accounting for 60% of Crushpad's production. Some of those brands make 50 cases a year; some make about 2,000. At either level, however, the competition is tough.

"Wine doesn't sell itself," says Brill. "You have to be good at marketing. [You] have to get out there and sell the wine, form the relationships and tell [your] story over and over and over again," a sentiment echoed by Harris, Freeman, Scholl and, most of all, Foley.

Even though he's arguably the most successful of the bunch, Foley says the complexities of the business of making and selling wine can still be overwhelming. When asked if he sees himself kicking back and relaxing with a glass of his own wine sometimes soon, he doesn't hesitate in his response:

"Not a chance," he says

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Waterslides and WineTalent

Yesterday I was off the job, handling kid duty at the local water park. Every year for the last four years my kids have been on the local recreational swim team, and there is an annual trip to the waterslides. It is always a blast, and a great time to spend with the kids, other swimmers and their families. But it is also a great indicator of the state of business for WineTalent.

My first year of going to the waterpark was also the fledgling year for WineTalent. I was working on several harvest placements for wineries, and learning the ropes of having my own company. That year I remember having to negotiate a deal in the parking lot of the waterslide--and that person started two weeks later and worked a winery harvest.

It is suprising how productive my waterpark day can be. I've made new client contracts while working remotely (which in this case means at a far corner of the waterpark where the kid noise is less), set up interviews, and conducted references for potential candidates.

Yesterday I was thinking about this early in the morning, and wanted to find out what the day had in store for WineTalent. I was pleasantly surprised to have a very robust day of business. People were interviewing, several references were following up with me, and a few new clients were finalizing details.

So while I did take a day off work, work didn't cease. And it was a great opportunity to survey my business. I wonder where I'll be with WineTalent next year--can't wait to get on that waterslide and find out.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cranky Recruiter: Whoa Texas, Slow Down When Giving Me Your Number

I have my pen poised, my speakerphone on, and listening intently to your message. You are a perfectly skilled, well-liked and hardworking winery professional--all I need to do is call you back and you will be perfect for my client. And then you race through the 10 digits of your phone number. Luckily while you were leaving the message you also had a call coming in so part of it is cut off. Over and over I hit the #1 button to replay the message, only to get 8 of the 10 digits. So, forever I will be ruing the day I missed your call. But if you want me to call back, slow down, and, just for a lark, repeat your number. This is a good rule of thumb for all messages. I always leave my name and number, and then repeat. Kind of like hairwashing instructions, lather, rinse, repeat.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Comedic Tips on Job Hunting

And now for a little humor. I'm a huge fan of Stephen Colbert and "The Colbert Report" Two days ago Colbert did a piece on effective job hunting. Take a look at it, but take it with a grain of salt! The Colbert Report

Sideways: 4 Years Later

In the summertime four years ago I was planning my escape from corporate America. Being a member of the re-engineering team for my old employer, I saw firsthand what direction the company was going in. At a meeting in the summer of 2004 my colleagues and I were given a financial analysis of our business centers, and told that the majority of our business was not desirable going forward. I remember reviewing my data, and feeling nauseous. Much of the business I had built over the last 9 years was deemed unfit. These were clients I had brought in to the company and developed a great relationship with. I just couldn't see how I was going to go to my clients and tell them that I was no longer going to work with them. And in my mind, most of the business was solid and highly desirable.

For years I had dreamt of being a headhunter in the wine industry. My old boss could even see the glimmer in my eye, and told me to wait awhile. So once he left and the company quickly went downhill, I knew the time was right. I started to plan my exit.

I left in the fall of 2004. Right as I was wrapping up my corporate life, the movie "Sideways" made its debut. This independent film stole the show. Not only did it make a great profit for the producers, it also brought attention to a previously underrated winemaking area. If this quirky friendship movie set in the quiet winemaking area of the Central Coast could do so well, the time must surely be perfect to start up my own winery recruitment company. So WineTalent became a reality.

As I started contacting my old friends in the business, I also spoke to a lot of aspiring winemakers who were looking for a new position. Everyone wanted to get a position making Pinot in Paso. My positions in Napa and Sonoma just weren't as attractive as they had been a year earlier. So if people wanted a job in Santa Barbara, I had better get some positions down there. Calling on friends who had moved down there was helpful, but there just wasn't the same infrastructure in place down there as there was up in Northern California. Wineries were mostly small, and there wasn't much staff change going on.

Things have changed over the years. A couple of years ago my Sonoma openings were very easily filled. People didn't want to take positions in Napa due to the high cost of living there. This year I'm getting a lot more Central Coast positions, and have found that people are leaving their geographic preferences fairly open. Could this be a sign of the economy, the cost of housing, or the fickle tastes of the wine world? I am sure it's a bit of all three. So as a good service provider, I will continue to anticipate the needs of my clients and candidates, geographically, varietally and economically.

But I still think that "Sideways" was an omen. Wine has become the drink of choice of America, new winemaking areas are attractive, and business has been very good. What wine movie will come up to make and impact on WineTalent next? Hopefully I'm ready.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Managing Your Job Search

I've been working on several job orders, some that have filled quickly, and others that have been in the works for months now. I have been working with candidates who are experienced in the job search and those who aren't. Thinking about the job search from the candidates perspective, here are some things to do to keep you moving forward in the job search process.

-Get your resume in order
-Get your references picked out, contact them, and have their current contact information at the ready
-Send your resume to open positions and follow up with a phone call
-Contact recruiters and let them know you are looking for a new opening
-Start networking with your colleagues
-If you are in the process of being put up for a position by a recruiter, follow up with them every few days. The people who keep contacting me are more likely to be put up for additional positions
-When you get an offer, keep your recruiter involved. Your recruiter helps navigate the offer process, and can find out information for you so you can make an educated decision. If you have questions, ask--that's what we're here for.
-Of course, as the recruiter, we always want you to take the job--but make a decision that will further your career--not just get you out of a bad situation today
-Once you start your new job--keep in contact with your recruiter. We like to know how you are doing at the new employer--and enjoy keeping the relationship alive
-And of course--do a good job--the best way to get a good job next time too!

Gotta run, lots of phone calls to return from candidates who are checking in on the status of their job search

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Winemaker: Dream Job?

I've decided I have information overload. I was thinking about a survey I read recently, and for my readers I wanted to quote the source. After scouring my usual list of reading, I can't find it anywhere--so here goes a completely unsubstantiated post!

Recently I read that winemaker ranks second to movie producer as a dream job. This surprised me--but not completely. Although I can't talk about life as a movie producer, I know enough winemakers to have insight into their job. I think winemakers have similar joys and hassles that the rest of us have. First of all, winemaking can be a very physical position. At the winery you can be dragging hoses, shoveling out tanks, sanitizing the cellar and moving barrels, often times in very chilly conditions. I always joke that winemakers have a uniform: Fleece pullover, polo shirt, jeans and sturdy work shoes--with rubber boots when needed. Not everyone would like to be hauling heavy stuff around a cold cellar day in and day out.

Then there are the marketing requirements for many winemakers. "Meet the Winemaker" dinners, wine tasting events, winery dinners and tours. Often times winemakers want to make the wine, not go on the road to meet and greet their customers. Every winemaker is different, and some love the marketing side of the job, but there are many who don't, and have to be cajoled into going on the road. Eating wonderful meals at fancy restaurants would seem exciting, but after enough of them, you just want to get home and relax.

Along with these "complaints" there are the usual day to day hassles we all face. Technology upgrades don't go well, suppliers need to be paid, employees have issues, the winery owners are difficult, you have to head out to the vineyard in the rain and mud, and yes, possibly, the wine has gone bad.

The upside for many winemaker positions is getting to do something you really enjoy. Being involved in the transformation of grape juice into wine can be very magical. Carrying out all the steps and being able to put your art into the finished product can be very satisfying. Educating your palate by sampling wines from around the world is very important, and enjoyable. Heading out into the vineyard on a beautiful spring day or early summer morning can be a spiritual experience. These are all huge positives to the job.

So go ahead and dream. It can be fun and give you something to hope for. But although the grass may seem greener on the other side of the fence, or the wine better if you were able to make it, there could be some negatives to that dream job for you to consider.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Call Your References Before Anyone Else Does

When I graduated from college I worked on campus in one of the labs. From all reports I did a good job. When I left the managing professor said I could always use him as a reference. Therefore, for years I listed his name on my reference list.
Years later I saw him speak at an industry conference, and said hello afterwards. He remembered me, and was happy to see me.

I wonder now if he did get calls by my potential employers. I probably listed him as one of my main references for up to six years after I left. During that time I'm sure he had a lot of interns go through his lab.

Now that I call references regularly, I can tell those who were recently contacted to give them a heads-up about a reference call. I can also tell those references who haven't heard anything about the candidate in years.

When you are listing references, always give them a call to let them know they may be getting a call. This allows them to be ready, and also to catch up with you on what you are doing. A prepared reference can think over what they remember, and many times give a more accurate account of your tenure with them. This in turn leads to a better reference for you.

Monday, April 14, 2008

LinkedIn in the Wine Industry

After a quiet weekend I logged into my email this morning to several invitations on LinkedIn. If you are unfamiliar with LinkedIn it is a professional networking site. I have been using LinkedIn for the last year, and previously thought it was mostly for technology based colleagues. In the last few months, more wine contacts have been popping up on it, and I've signed up for the Wine & Spirits group.

LinkedIn is an online business networking site. You can create a free profile of yourself, your work experience, educational background and community involvement. Once you create your profile, you invite business associates to "link" to you. Through these links you can find mutual acquaintances and get introduced to people you might want to network with. You can also put in recommendations for your business partners and colleagues.

There is also a subsciption service they have where you can gain introduction to LinkedIn users and post jobs on the site. So far I haven't done that, but it very well might be a useful addition for my business.

Several job hunting articles have recently mentioned LinkedIn. I do encourage anyone to take a look at it, and create your profile on it. It can be a great calling card for you, and also may allow a hiring manager to get a better picture of you and the network you have.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Blog Watch: How to Get a Job in the Wine Industry

I was just doing some ego-Googling (or is it egoogling) and looked at search queries that people put in to Google to find my blog. I noticed that most of my readers find me from Google searches for wine job advice. So, I put some queries into google as well--and came up with a very informative blog from Tom Wark's Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog. The posting is from 2006, but as relevant as ever. I'll keep finding appropriate links for you.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cranky Recruiter: Formatting Resumes

Yes, looking over lots of resumes again, and again I'm cranky--funny how that works. As my blog implies, here is some career advice in the wine industry--don't format your resume in Adobe Acrobat. Although it is a beautiful resume, it is cumbersome for my database--and when I have 20 resumes filling my inbox every hour, I want resumes that are easy to input into my database. I like MS Word docs--or even text resumes. They are easier to put into my database and search within. When we work together and agree to send off your resume to a position, I work to format it as I do all the others. When I have to fool around with Adobe pdf resumes it is difficult, and time consuming. I advise you to send your resume as a word document so I can easily enter it and I can search within my database. I want to find your resume--and you want me to find your resume--and submit you to a position--and ultimately get a new job.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Never Say Never

Those of you who know me know that the last few months have been extremely hectic. Now I'm settling into my newly remodeled office with some new additions and am getting back in the groove. I was delighted to have one of my mentors stop by yesterday to see the new digs and new additions. He has been the number one reason I started this blog, and as I mentioned to him yesterday, the blog has been very helpful for my business. Being a wine writer, he seems to know a thing or two about this publishing business. So as a good protege I am doing what he said and blogging away.

It is funny for me to write something for the public to read. I was never a great writer in school. I had to take bone-head english in college because I never learned how to write effectively. Luckily I aced my 5 paragraph essay and tested out of a second quarter of it. Upon reflecting on my life, there are several things I thought I wasn't skilled at that proved to be easily mastered, and some things I never thought I'd do that have turned out to be very beneficial to me and my career.

In college I was a botany major. This required me to take lots of different science classes. One of my most challenging classes was biochemistry. I just couldn't understand some of it. I struggled and studied and got a passing grade. Afterwards I applied for an internship in one of the laboratories on campus. It turned out to be one of the top biochemistry groups there, and I was helping a Ph.D. candidate do highly technical protein chemistry work. When I was able to apply what I learned in class the whole year of coursework made sense. Having previously thought I would never "get" biochemistry it was quite satisfying to be a model biochemist in the application of it.

Growing up I was one of the shyest kids in school. I always thought it was so hard to go up to someone and talk to them, let alone have an extended conversation. Pushing myself I started to go up to new people and speak to them. I also took on speaking assignments in class--including a keynote address at 8th grade graduation. I learned that I really enjoyed public speaking, and that conversations were a fun thing--not something to dread. To this day I take on speaking engagements and relish learning new things about people that I've had to break the ice with. It was quite ironic to me that I ended up being a skilled salesperson--not the shy little mouse who didn't speak at all in school.

And my move to Sacramento is one of the most memorable never say never moments. Prior to moving to Sacramento my boss had offered me to open up a new office in Sacramento. I told him I would never move to Sacramento. Well, looking for a new house in 1998 in the Bay Area was a wake-up call. Six months later I asked my boss if I could take him up on the offer of moving to Sacramento. He said yes. Moving my family and opening up a new office was quite daunting--but turned out to be very important for my career and for my family. It gave me an opportunity to buy a house for a song, and start up a very successful business operation. My family has come to love the neighborhood, and we have strong ties to the community. This in turn has allowed me to open up my own business--a dream come true for me.

So, although I've questioned my abilities in the past, sometimes my biggest weaknesses have turned into my biggest strengths. Also, I never say never when a new opportunity comes up--too often opportunity has knocked very loudly and I've had to retract a previous refusal.

So, when you are going about your job search--turn some of your weaknesses to your advantage, and keep your options open. It seems like everything has a way of falling into place, usually for the better.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

When You Receive a Promotion

Years ago I received a highly coveted promotion that required me to oversee a branch that I had left years before. Although I felt a bit like General Douglas MacArthur returning to the Philippines, I wondered what was expected of me in the new post. Recently I read a very insightful article by James E. Challenger of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Inc. Mr. Challenger is President of one of the top executive search firms in the country, and an industry expert. He had some very useful advice.

When you are given a promotion, your company has certain reasons why they chose you over other employees. And when you are put in the position, it is up to you to figure out what needs to be done, and execute quickly. Some questions you should consider are:
Is there a problem to be fixed?
Am I maintaining a department or region?
Do they expect me to completely recreate the operation or start from scratch?
How will success be defined?

When you are given the promotion, people who will be reporting to you will be anxious about what changes will occur. As Mr. Challenger points out, until these people find out what is in store their performance will suffer. So it is advisable to quickly let everyone know what your expectations are. This will allow you to set course quickly, and avoid having to refute rumors that get started. Be quick and clear with your leadership plans to avoid problems.

Once you are working on making your changes, support your staff and get them working on your side. Support risk-taking. If you have staff members who are willing to try something new, even if it doesn't work--you will have staff who are willing to support you. Also give your staff a chance to get to know you through informal gatherings where they are able to ask questions and learn from you. If you nurture an environment of learning and change, your staff will help you realize your goals.

If you have been promoted up through the ranks you face a unique challenge. While your role changed, so did the dynamics of the relationships you had with your colleagues. People you used to work side by side with are now reporting to you. You have to decide if they will be your allies or your adversaries. Although you may not think so, you do not need to be liked by everyone. You want to build trust and respect, and show your employees that you value their contributions. This will give you a hard working staff.

Now the tough part. If anyone on your team can't support your transition, you may have to let them go. It's never fun, but part of the job.

And don't apologize for getting the promotion. Your hard work and talents got you there, now put your experience and commitment to work to bring you more success.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Unified Wine and Grape Symposium: Follow-up

The whirlwind of the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium is over now, and I'm catching up with lots of new contacts and old friends. The State of the Industry meeting was informative. As I mentioned, the economic downturn was reflected in forecasts for 2008. The wine industry has been expanding in the last several years, and things have been very positive for wineries. Sales have increased, price points have risen, new wineries have been opening up, and corporations have continued with their acquisitions.

One of the telling indicators was the data from restaurant sales. One of the best performers in restaurant sales has been Cabernet Sauvignon, often at high price points. The presenter mentioned that one of the reasons is that these wines are bought often by bankers and other executives during business meals on their expense accounts. As the economy, and specifically banking, is hit, those dinners will be curtailed by both the individual and the companies footing the expense check. There was caution expressed about sales going forward--so the wine industry is understanding that consumers may have less money to spend on special occassions, higher prices luxury items and related purchases. But consumers are buying wine in the US like never before, and younger people, namely the "millenials" are buying lots of wine.

Trends in wine drinking are reflecting the health benefit findings from 2007 of compounds in red wine. Red Wine consumptions has continued to increase. Wine drinkers are also becoming more willing to try new varietals, with lighter red wines seeing more sales, as well as different varietals including Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio seeing big increases in restaurant purchases.

Pinot Noir is still the biggest winner in the varietal category. Merlot and blush wines are still the ugly stepchildren of the wine world. Surprisingly, as long as you are a Rose wine and not a blush wine, things look rosy for you. So those of use who like a good pink wine can drink it knowing it's still cool!

The falling dollar has also had an effect on wine sales of imports. Spain and Italy have done very well marketing to US consumers, reflected in their increased sales figures.

Although everyone is screaming recession in the popular media, indicators show continued consumer spending in wine. So smart wineries should be able to take the Unified data and make educated decisions to continue strong wine sales.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Unified Wine and Grape Symposium

Tomorrow I'll be attending the annual wine industry meeting that is held here in Sacramento. The meeting is always very informative about the state of the industry, the status of different winegrowing areas and varietals, forecasts, and the winery of the year. I've been going to Unified for over 10 years now, and it's always a great time to connect with old colleagues and gives me a chance to meet new faces.

This year I am interested to see what the wine industry's take on the economy is. Litening to the news it seems that everyone has jumped on the recession bandwagon. Back in 2000 and 2001 I worked not only in the wine industry but also in IT. All of my IT clients were scaling hiring back and planning on a long slow recovery. Talking to my winery clients they were almost unaware that the tech sector had suffered a setback, and didn't think it would greatly affect them. But soon the auctions weren't bringing in the dot com dollars of years past, and people were spending less of their money on dining out and on wine. So, what will Unified have to say about the economy tomorrow? I'll let you know.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Wine Industry Job Hunting: Timing

Happy New Year Everyone:

It's been a hectic yet exciting holiday season here at WineTalent, and I've been lax at getting postings up for you. For you wine industry job hunters, if you don't know by now, this is the season to be looking for a new position. Production positions including winemaking and enology are typically filled from now until May, with emergency fills being put in at the last minute prior to harvest in the fall.

The hiring season occurs because wineries have finished the harvest push and have taken stock of what positions they need at the winery. Also several wineries have their fiscal year begin in January, so they are aware of the anticipated headcount they need for the year. Additionally, wineries make staff changes after harvest to address any inadequacies they have in their staff.

Take stock of your job situation, and start putting feelers out if you are interested in making a change. Timing is everything.

Questions to Ask in an Interview

Looking over several recruiting websites recently I have noticed several listings of helpful questions to pose your interviewer. It is always good to have some questions for the interviewer. Asking questions shows that you are interested in the opportunity and thinking about how you can help the prospective employer. I have culled the following list of questions from the web:
What type of growth and advancement opportunities does this position offer?
What would my first project be?
Does the company offer educational assistance and/or continuing education/training?
Who will I be reporting to?
What are the job responsibilities?
What is the timeline for hiring this position?
Can I contact any other employees about the position?
Should I follow up with you about this position?
These are just a few. Plan on having some thought up before you show up for your interview. It will show that you are serious.