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.