Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: The Barefoot Spirit


 How does walking barefoot on the beach relate to being successful in the wine industry?  You need look no further than The Barefoot Spirit written by the founders of Barefoot Wine: Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan.  Along with writer Rick Kushman, the entrepreneurs who started Barefoot Wine just published a book.  It is about how Bonnie and Michael started out in the wine industry completely naive and ended up building a very successful business.   They took a new approach to creating a wine brand and steadily built their business.  They used new marketing approaches, injected a lot of fun into their brand and worked tirelessly to build customer loyalty. 
Over the years I have had the pleasure of meeting Michael Houlihan at many wine industry events, and he has always been a gracious and engaging man.  I have also known Rick Kushman for a few years now--running into him at local charity events and wine related functions.  I also read his articles in the Sacramento Bee regularly.  Together Bonnie, Michael and Rick have put together a story that is a quick and fun read that subtly gives you great business insight.  

The Beginning:  Bonnie and Michael started up Barefoot Cellars in the late '80's somewhat accidentally.  With a good amount of bulk wine needing a home, they went about building a new wine brand from the ground up.  While that bulk wine sat, they quickly learned everything they could--talking to winery owners, store owners and anyone they could find who would explain how things operated in the wine biz.  Maybe that is what allowed them be so successful--being comfortable asking questions and then figuring out how to use that information to build their company.

I know a little about a lot of things in the wine business, and this book gave me some helpful insight and interesting color regarding how wine is marketed and sold.   Why does that bottle end up costing the consumer $20 versus $5?  Why can you find some wines in almost every store you stop in, but you stumble upon a new brand when you shop at a locally-owned store?  How do wines go "on sale"?  What does it take to make wine that so many people end up liking?  The Barefoot Spirit explains it using fun anecdotes.

College Dinner Party Wine:  I do have a soft spot for Barefoot Wines.  One of the first wines I really experienced was Barefoot's Cabernet Sauvignon in the 1.5 L bottle in college.  My friend Susi, who was practically raised in her family's Italian restaurant, brought it to one of our rare dorm homemade dinners.   If an all knowing Italian restauranteur was offering it, I knew it had to be good.  That wine remained with us through 4 years of college--and through many deep philosophical wine powered nights.  When I first met Michael I told him this--and he said that so many people tell him similar stories.  

Treat Your Customers Right:  The wines have a lot of fans to this day, and a fan base is what Barefoot worked very hard to build.  The fun wine world we are in today is much different than the wine world Michael and Bonnie found themselves in at first.  To just name their wines Barefoot and have a fun looking footprint stamped on the label was unheard of.  They really went after building a marketing program that reveled in individuality and a commitment to their consumer.  Putting a 800 number on their corks allowed customers to contact them--and contact them they did.  Often it was to tell Michael and Bonnie they couldn't find the wine at their local stores, or to talk about a problem--but often it was to sing the wines' praises.  Barefoot didn't just listen to these calls, they responded to the calls and worked to turn them into consumer loyalty opportunities.

So with my fondness of the brand it was kind of fun to read this book right before hitting the beach where I could walk barefoot in the sand and unwind.  I wrapped up the book on the final approach to the Belize airport where my husband and I were headed for a week of much needed relaxation.  My husband was reading parts of the e-book over my shoulder.  He said to me, "Anyone thinking about going into the wine business should read this book first."  Might be a good plan.

Treat Your Employees Right:  As a recruiter, I appreciated the comments on how to humanely manage people and how important your staff is to your success.  They were constantly learning how to build and manage their business, and they clearly state that they were successful because of the hard work and dedication of their employees.  I know the two owners were also very hard workers dedicated to their business and their employees.  The advice they offer to other business owners is valuable. 

Management Book In a Memoir:  I enjoyed Rick Kushman's writing style,  keeping it light and conversational while making strong connections between Michael and Bonnie's experiences with business strategy--while never hitting you over the head with business jargon.

Being Barefoot:  Appropriately, Barefoot's logo was created to celebrate being footloose and enjoying yourself.  Having just escaped a bad winter storm and enjoying myself in Belize I reflected on the book while walking barefoot in the white sandy beaches.   I can appreciate the Barefoot Spirit and am happy it is living on with both the brand and with the brand's creators.  The last comment from Michael in the book is very touching.  "When you see a footprint on the beach, you don't know if it was made by a man or a woman, or someone who is gay or straight or black or white.  You can't tell religion.  It doesn't matter.  It's just the impression a human makes when they walk on the earth.  That's what matters.  We're all on the beach together."

I'm glad we're on this beach together.  Cheers!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Book Review: Daily Decadence by Sherri Dobay

Daily Decadence The Art of Sensual Living
Towards the end of summer this year I had the pleasure of meeting Sherri Dobay at Envy Wines in Calistoga.  Sherri Dobay is a multifaceted woman, being an accomplished artist, a graphic designer, a marketer, a businesswoman, and a true equestrian.  Along with all of that she also has her own wine label, Ruby Kurant.  This year she wrote and published her book Daily Decadence: The Art of Sensual Living.  Having met Sherri briefly at a wine industry event, it was nice to sit down with her and find out about her and get a copy of the book.

Who wouldn't love a book about decadent, sensual living.  She had me at the title!  Sherri's book is a mix of personal reflections, recipes, wine/food pairing ideas and funny advice on life.  I do enjoy her advice on entertaining--from the types of people to invite to the type of ambiance to create.  She also gives advice on how to look at life by relating how she has done things--in life, in love and in the home.

The book was a fun romp through Sherri's life--her love affairs--her adventures--and her dreams.  I do really enjoy the recipes.  They are made for real cooks--the kind that cook for their friends, their families and themselves.  Most of the recipes are unfussy and allow you to start something early and come back to it when you are ready to eat.  Reading the recipes is often a kick--start the cooking at lunch time, let it simmer and come back when you can.  Add a few finishing touches, put some music on and open a nice bottle of wine.  Perfect--that kind of cooking will work out just fine on most of my days. 

I also enjoyed Sherri's wine pairing advice and her tasting notes.  From the short ribs that I made yesterday which she likes to cook with Syrah she had tasting notes for her own red wine, Ruby Kurant's The Archer,  "butter cookies, blackberry jam, rich and spicy layered on top of earth and crispy salmon skin, cacao nibs, yes, that is dark chocolate!"  A lot of different descriptors come into her tasting notes--and it is fun to think of what triggers certain notes she writes.

So far I've tried the roast chicken (delicious and well received by the entire family--3 times so far--and great the next day), the short ribs (last night--made some adjustments due to supplies on hand--food was gobbled down by the family), Nutella (already a huge fan--do buy it in bulk), slow beef stew (very hearty--yummy), beef barley soup (like my mom makes),  and savory scones (very nice and light--a bit too chic for my teenage boys).  I've got a few of those recipes dog-eared because they were so good--and also I am looking forward to making the lobster very soon.  One thing that would help me with the book would be an index--but I can handle looking through the table of contents for the information--reading it again also reminds me of Sherri's reason for including the recipe.

Sherri's advice to live everyday with a bit of decadence is great to hear.  Want real butter on that fresh bread--do it.  Want to sample some champagne midday--go ahead.  Feeling unproductive and want to get away from work--walk the dog, call a friend or take a long soak in the tub.  We are all going a million miles an hour--including our highly talented wine maven/artist/website developer/horseback rider/marketer.  It is nice to allow ourselves little pleasures during the day.  Stop and read a quick entry in her book and you can get a peek into what Sherri enjoys doing--and maybe incorporate some of that into your own life.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Can You Sue A Wine Writer?

Rob McMillan of Silicon Valley Bank put this post up on his blog recently:  SVB on Wine: Can You Sue A Wine Writer?
There are some great points about managing your social media presence and managing your brand as well.  Some of these items I've talked about on this WineTalent post.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What are Employers Looking for These Days?

Recently Nick Schulz wrote "Hard Unemployment Truths About 'Soft' Skills" in the WSJ.  While I know many people have been hard hit by the recession, I do also know that sometimes the littlest things make the biggest differences.

Non-Technies Need Not Apply? Nick Schulz reported on the struggle manufacturing companies face to find qualified applicants for open jobs.  With manufacturing becoming more high-tech, it is easy to believe that the work force needs to be more computer savvy and technically competent.  It may come as a surprise to many that the biggest challenge many employers have is finding applicants with the "soft" skills you may take for granted.  These skills include being polite, motivated, enthusiastic, and able to answer a phone professionally.  The hiring managers also noted that sometimes it is hard enough to even find applicants that can pass the drug test.

What New Skills Employers Are Looking For?  Earlier this week I was meeting with a sales executive who has worked for many prestigious wineries in California.  He asked me what skills people are looking for in their sales staff.  I paused, and thought about it for a moment and said, "Someone who does their job."  I felt a little flat-footed, but really most often the hardest thing to find is someone who actually does their job and takes pride in their work.  And when you find someone who does, you don't want to let her go.

New Skills Versus Effectiveness:  Yes, it is true that we have lots of new technology and skills that we want our employees to have.  Knowing how to update a Facebook page is important if you are doing social media and having advanced point of sale system experience will make you a hot commodity--but if you waste your time lost in social media sites or don't actually work to make a single sale using the POS system--you aren't worth anything.

A Peek Into the Entry-level Job Scene

What it is Like Out There:  Recently my college-aged son has been looking for a part-time job.  He went to an informational session at a large logistics company and felt very out of place.  As his mother instructed, he wore his nice khakis, an ironed dress shirt, a tie and his best (read only) dress shoes.  He took his resume and reference list along in a folder.  Reporting back afterwards, he said he was the only guy there that wasn't "sagging" and the only white guy who wasn't sporting dreadlocks. (Please, reader, I love dreadlocks as much as the next guy--but thought it was a very interesting remark)

Set Yourself Apart, Nicely:  Today he is going back for a real interview.  Going over his game plan yesterday, I asked if he was going to wear a tie again.  He said, "Of course, I have to set myself far apart from the mirror-foggers."  Now this is a part-time job during college loading boxes into freight trucks.  He's hoping to get a grave shift and work in a 30 degree warehouse during the holiday season.  This isn't the highlight career for most people--but my son is really looking forward to working hard, getting paid and getting lots of extra hours during the holiday shipping season. 

Learning the Ropes:  Two years ago my son went for his first interview with the parks department to help clean up garbage and pull weeds around the city during the summer.  Getting to the interview, he said he again was the only guy not "sagging" and noted that most of the girls there were wearing short shorts and were baring their midriffs.  When he sat down at the interview table, he asked the interviewer if she would like to see his resume.  While she was shocked that he brought one, she took it and conducted the interview.  He got the job and got to spend many 100+ degree days picking up garbage and fixing playgrounds around Sacramento. 

Getting the reference:  Yeah, so maybe these jobs aren't going to find my son living in a mansion and partying on a yacht--but he's a step ahead of a lot of unemployed people out there.  In his summer job he learned how to work as part of a team, a little about money management and how to do the job his supervisor wanted done.  Never missing a day of work--and only forgetting his steel-toed boots once which caused him to be 5 minutes late to work--made his supervisor happy, and she has been a great reference.  He also has a good job to put on his resume, helping him get the next job.

What Can You do to Improve Your Hireability?

Make Sure you Polish your Soft Skills:    Be polite and approachable when interacting with a potential employer.  Make sure you use good grammar in communications with them and follow-up as requested.  Be consistent in your information, especially when it comes to job history and responsibilities.  Dress appropriately for a job interview.  Don't Sag!  Act professional.  Be enthusiastic about the opportunity to meet with anyone at the company and sincere about your interest in working for them.

Know What's Relevant:  Yes, most likely you have more experience than needed to load freight trucks--so make sure you brush up on your specific experience and know what talents you bring to the role.  If you are applying for a job that requires knowledge of sales tracking software--make sure you study up on it so you can talk intelligently about your expertise on it and discover where you might need additional study.  Be honest about areas that you don't have the required experience, but if you can show how you can acquire that knowledge, you are showing you know a lot about the job.

Act Like You Want to be Hired:  It may sound funny, but I can often tell when someone isn't really into the job hunt.  Statements such as, "Well, maybe it would be better if I continued to work for a friend instead of taking a full time role" or "If I take a job I will lose my unemployment benefits"  are interview killers for me. Why are we talking here?  Didn't you apply for the job?  When you are talking to a hiring manager they are listening for little clues about how likely you are to take the job, and also to keep the job.  When you put up little red flags it may give the hirer pause.  Mulling it over they may decide to keep looking, or bring in that other person who seemed to really want the job.  Don't shoot yourself in the foot--if you are interviewing you should be prepared to take the job.  Or at least seriously consider the offer. 

Crossing My Fingers:  Right now my son is in that interview.  I do hope he's been listening to his mother all these years.  And that he wore a belt!  He'd better pass that drug test.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Interview over Lunch: What to Do?

This morning I was reading the job section of the newspaper, and this study caught my eye: The Imbibing Idiot Bias:  Consuming Alcohol Can be Hazardous to Your (Perceived) Intelligence.  This study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania looked at how people's perceptions of another changed when the person ordered an alcoholic drink during their meeting.  The researchers found that when a person ordered or drank an alcoholic beverage, the other person thought they had lower intelligence.  As they stated,  "We find that the bias may be costly in professional settings. Job candidates who ordered wine during an interview held over dinner were viewed as less intelligent and less hireable than candidates who ordered soda. However, prospective candidates believe that ordering wine rather than soda will help them appear more intelligent."  Hmm, sounds like something I should explore!

Often, I conduct interviews over lunch or dinner at a nice restaurant.  Being in the wine business, these lunches regularly occur in wine country and at places with very nice wine lists.  It is natural to order a drink, right?  No, it is never a given that any alcohol will be consumed during these meetings--but the very notion of having a drink is full of speculation--on my part yes, but I am sure on my guest's part too.

Case History One:  Several months ago I was asked by a friend to do a mock interview of their son who wanted to make his way in the wine business world.  Having almost finished his degree in business and with prior work experience in wine sales and restaurants, it was interesting to me to find out how he would do in this mock interview.  He handled himself very professionally in the contrived setting, and came across well in the interview.  After the interview I debriefed him on how he did and also gave him my take on possible options for him in the wine industry.  Since he and I had met at a restaurant and only consumed water during the interview, I wanted to make sure the restaurant made a little money off of my table that afternoon, so I encouraged him to order something to eat and drink.  I ordered a light appetizer, and a glass of wine.  Did he?  No.  Smart man.

When I put together my notes from this meeting for his parents, I mentioned his abstaining from drinking during our meeting, and gave him big kudos for that.  I think drinking alcohol can be fraught with meaning in a business setting, and for a young graduate, something to stay away from at all costs.  Oh, I know I'm a wine industry recruiter, but an interview is an interview, and the same rules apply.

Case Histories Two and Three:  On the flip side of this, this weekend I had several meetings with both job seekers and clients who were discussing projects.  At one of the interviews I ordered a beer but my interviewee did not--although we were dining at a brewery.  I thought this showed a lot of restraint on her part, and of course caused me to start to worry about how I was being perceived!  At one of my project meetings my client brought along one of their wines to try--so of course I had a glass of this wine.  But I did not have a second glass, nor did he.   

What to Do:  When meeting with a prospective employer, keep your demeanor completely professional.  Now, we do want to find out a little about you when we meet, so don't worry about talking a bit about your personal life.  And when meeting at a restaurant for an interview, try to brush up on your basic etiquette so you don't embarrass yourself by drinking out of the ice bucket.  And try to match your dining companion's pace and conversation style.

Pace Yourself: Yes, pace yourself my friend!  This can be the hardest thing to do at a business lunch--but I'm not talking about pacing your drinking.  Try to see what kind of meal this is going to be.  When you first arrive you'll get the menu and maybe hear about the dining specials.  I think this is a great opportunity to gauge how much food the other person may be eating.  If they mention that the salad at this place is a meal in itself, they may be planning to just have a salad for lunch--so stay away from ordering an appetizer, a salad, a soup, an entree and a dessert.  You'll have plate after plate coming at you, and your guest and others waiting for you to eat.  The meeting is a time to show off you talents for the job, not how much you can eat.  I also try to let my companion order first, so I can see if they will be having a few courses or sticking with only an entree.  If they order a first course, I try to too.  I don't want them to be desperately trying to finish their soup before the next course comes, while carrying on a conversation about what we are really there to explore.  So, try to keep your order in sync with theirs.

Order Wisely:  Ok, now that you've thought about the amount of food you should order, try to take into account how the food you want to eat will interfere with your meeting.  A few weeks ago I ordered a wonderful summer stew at a meeting, and was very worried when it had shell-on crustaceans and whole cobs of corn to wrestle with.  It was even better when my corn cob sailed through the air after I was trying to get the kernels off using a knife and fork.  While I don't like to get too picky with what I am ordering, it may have been better to make sure this seafood stew would be meeting friendly.  Years ago I worked at a company that forbid us employees from ordering anything that required eating it with our hands.  I have followed this policy loosely in all my ordering--staying away from big juicy burgers and shying away from french fries.  But I do slip occasionally and order something that requires manual manipulation.

And Now the Big Decision:  "And what would you like to drink today?" the waiter asks you eagerly.  If your answer is "hair of the dog that bit me" or "double scotch on the rocks" you may find that your meeting quickly devolves from a meeting highlighting your stellar qualifications into something much less spectacular.  If they say they would like to try one of the beers on tap, or ask the waiter what wine would be good with their fish--be hesitant in ordering a drink too.  You can't go wrong with water--sparkling or still.  Another safe option often is iced tea.  And good old lemonade can keep you focused and hydrated. Isn't that why you would want something to drink anyways?

Why You are There:  Alright, so now that you got all the ordering taken care of, keep your focus on the meeting--not the food.  You want to enjoy your meal--but if you have something that is so-so--keep your opinion to yourself and carry on with the conversation.  If there is truly something wrong with your meal, decide what you need to do--if you must send it back--do it, nicely.  But if it was a little underwhelming, eat a little and be happy you won't get caught with your mouth full of food very often.  You want to be talking a lot, so don't worry if you don't eat much.  Just have your plates cleared when your companion's are, and be thrilled to get the time to highlight your qualifications.  

Coffee Anyone?:  And if the meeting is going well and your host wants a cup of coffee, by all means have one too.  This time can sometimes be a nice chance to talk without plates of food between you, and often is a time to see what the next steps are in the interview process and learn how you are being perceived by the--hopefully future--employer. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Where's WineTalent: Farewell Europe 2012

Right before heading out of town we had to stop for a good Pilsner and bratwurst and of course some pomme frites.  As with all great hosts here, we couldn't say goodbye to Walter without a schnapps-homemade even.  20 years since I first went here, but it felt just like old times.  Prost!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Where's WineTalent: Europe 2012

Trains, buses and foot to get back up north.  Now stopping in a great city that was the bishop's residence and where Napolean visited with a coach of 8 horses.  Although quite the impressive sight, the bigger,wider coach was not able to turn around in front of the residence--always a bummer!  Luckily I was able to easily manuever the streets and find Ratskeller to enjoy some nice white wine.  The roads getting here and back are quite romantic, with beautiful views of vineyards and stops at wineries. 
Having been here 20 years ago, I still remember the great pretzels they make here.  Unfortunately for me and my son, it was Sunday and this bakery was closed.  We had to settle on pretzels from the corner cafe.  Or should I say brezels! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Where's WineTalent: Europe 2012

Although I'm home and have left Europe weeks ago now, just posting photos from the tail-end of the trip make me sad to leave!  So, from my last spot in Vatican City (a country and a city all rolled up into one) I headed north by train to a spicy city known for it's excellent condiment.  This was my first time using the trains in years, and I loved it.  Once I got to my destination I ate boeuf bourguignon and drank a lovely red wine in the restaurant by les halles.  Spent a cozy night at Hotel Victor Hugo that had a nice courtyard and cool night breezes punctuated by the hoots of an owl.  Where was I?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Where's WineTalent: Europe 2012

Made it to a new country to visit the basilica, the museum and strolled by some wonderful sculptures (my favorite medium).  The Greek god of wine and Festivity was flamboyant in all of his incarnations. 

After hours on the grounds, I stopped at a great casual restaurant in this country's only city, Hosteria Pizzeria Da Vito E Dina.  (There's Dina and Vito with me!)  Loved the food and hospitality here I had to come back the next day.  The mussels marinara have me begging to fly back now.  Where was I?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Where's WineTalent: Europe 2012

Ok intrepid wine travelers, where was WineTalent here?  I do have to say I love wine from here.  Had a wonderful picnic and toured some wonderful wineries. Très magnifique!  And stopped by the Auchon hypermarche for some supplies.  Where's WineTalent?

Monday, July 30, 2012

How to Write a Résumé: Advice for Older Job Seekers - WSJ.com

How to Write a Résumé: Advice for Older Job Seekers - WSJ.com

This is a great, short piece focusing on how to write a resume when you are more "seasoned" but I think many of the points are applicable to all job seekers.  And my main take away on this--put all the important stuff front and center on your resume--which is a marketing piece to get you in front of a future employer.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Where's WineTalent: Europa Europa 2012

Okay, maybe I should start up a branch called BeerTalent after having such great beer on my travels.  Having been here many times I have sampled the beers--but this trip brought home to me just how good the beer is in this country.  Hey, they even have clocks that tell time with beer-drinking figurines.  I am a big fan of the dark beer brewed at the local monastery--but the lighter beers were all very good.  And I should finish this with a nice shot of ?  A great tradition!  Who can tell me what city I am in--hopefully you can tell what country I am in by the pictures.

Where's WineTalent: Europa Europa 2012

Happy to be home after a great trip to Europe.  Thought I'd get your help figuring out where some of these photos were taken.  Help me please!

First up, I had a layover in a wonderful city.  I was jubilant to arrive in June, and went back through in Olympic time in July.  The weather was wonderful--something they are hoping will return soon.  My hotel was right next to the future beach volleyball site--and a very verdant park.  Where was I?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Insights on People through Travel

Suitcase : Brown leather travel suitcase with colorful labels isolated on white background  Stock Photo
I'm getting my bag packed for a summer vacation.  I use the word vacation very loosely.  I will be traveling with the family to Europe and will be visiting some clients when I am in Germany, France and Italy.  So you might say it is part work, part pleasure.

For the last few weeks I've been getting my itinerary planned; checking with family, friends and contacts around the globe to see if our schedules can sync up.  Over the last few years WineTalent's client list has become more international, and with that comes more places to visit.  But it isn't about places, but the people who are there.  When I started to think about it, it struck me that what I like the most about traveling isn't the sightseeing but the people who live there.   I like learning about how people in different locals and cultures go about their daily lives.  Getting to meet a local always trumps any tourist destination for me.

Several years ago I went with my husband to visit my nephew in Cairo.  He was teaching at a school outside of Cairo, and welcomed us to his place.  He also joined us on our tour of Egypt.  When we first arrived at the school, we met many of the staff and a few students.  Our accommodations were a private apartment--with air conditioning--that was inside the school compound.  Waking up the next morning we were in a completely different place--new country, new sounds, new smells, new language, new time zone.  Our early morning wake-up call was the morning call to prayer, in Arabic of course.  Knowing that we were doomed to get no more sleep until jet-lag exhaustion hit us again later in the day, we went for a walk around the compound.  Oh, what fun it is to get followed by a pack of jackal-looking dogs!  Luckily the dogs were friendly. 

That trip was a lot of fun.  We met many new people and on our tour we saw some excellent sights.  The snorkeling in the Red Sea was fantastic--the best I had ever seen.  Before my trip I had mentioned it to one of my recruiting friends, Heidi, and she mentioned that a good friend of her's also lived in Cairo.  Heidi introduced the two of us and we exchanged some emails and planned to meet up when I was in the area.  When we were there I contacted her to see about getting together in Cairo when we returned from visiting the Red Sea.  "Oh no, unfortunately we will be vacationing down in El Quseir this weekend," she said.   I told her we were there now, staying at the Flamenco Hotel.  It turned out her family was staying at the hotel right next door--the Movenpick.  Looking at our map--we decided we would swim over.

 Scuba : scuba diving Stock PhotoThis has got to be one of the funniest meet-ups I've ever had.  I had just read Helen Fielding's novel "Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination".  Actually Heidi had given the book to me.  In that book Joules has some funny adventures, a la James Bond.  In one part she has to scuba out of the evil villain's lair.  When I was snorkeling a mile away to the Movenpick I felt very secret-agentish.  While I did not have a tuxedo under my wetsuit--or a wetsuit for that matter--it was fun to step out of the water, onto the beach and settle down for a Mojito with new-found friends.  Talking with ex-pats overlooking the Red Sea has a certain out-of-body feel to it.  But talking with them was very interesting.  If I hadn't of tried to make the connection, I wouldn't have learned about their experiences in Egypt, or have tapped my secret agent snorkeling skills.

I think I have a habit of making connections when traveling.  About a decade ago my husband and I were traveling to France and visited an old family friend of his. Traveling through the back roads of the Champagne region, trying to find a small town was tres romantic, but as with all navigation-intensive trips, a bit nerve-racking. Upon our arrival, we had a very enjoyable visit with someone my husband hadn't seen in over 20 years.  The couple was very friendly, and I think they were happy to have some Americans in the picture for a few days.  They treated us to wonderful food and drink--probably causing me to acquire a fondness for Ricard, but luckily not for Gauloise cigarettes.  We spent Easter Sunday with them, eating a wonderful leg of lamb and toasting with Pommery Champagne.  That has become the standard by which all Easter feasts are now measured by me.

When I was last in Europe, I got to meet up with my long-lost friend Laila in Madrid.  Back in 1990 My soon-to-be husband and I went on a five-month trip of Europe.  Being one-quarter Finn, I had to make my way up to Finland.  But being a college student, I also had no money, and had to camp in Scandinavia.  In Finland my fiance and I camped at a campground in Tampere.  We made friends with the campground hostess.  She was very nice and taught us a lot about Finland and the local customs.  My fiance and I went away for a few days, returning to the campground soaking wet and miserable after spending the night in a ditch--literally.  When she saw us show up, she took us under her wing.  She brought us back to her family's apartment, and then to the family cabin in the country.  As a young romantic, I felt like I had died and gone to heaven.  Running through the fields of Finland brought back all the stories my grandmother had told me nightly growing up.  Wild blueberry picking and Summer Solstice parties were all being realized first-hand by me, there. 

After Finland Laila and I stayed in touch, meeting up in Manhattan in 1993 for a week, and then again in Madrid in  2009.  Having not seen each other in 16 years could have caused us to be strangers again--but not at all.  Upon arriving in Madrid, I called Laila from our hotel room--and she said we were about 6 blocks from her place.  Sheer coincidence.  After unpacking and cleaning up, we headed over to her new restaurant.  Opening the door and seeing her was like seeing a sister.  We quickly got through catching up, and settled into friendly conversations.  She took us on tours of the city, showed us how people lived in Madrid, and taught us how the locals do things. 

While I thoroughly enjoy seeing the sights and sounds of new places, it is the people that really make a tour memorable.  Getting insights into how people go about their daily lives is so interesting to me.  I think that has to be the best part of any trip.  Getting to learn about other people.  And maybe that's why I'm in the recruiting business--learning about people and what type of culture a company and candidate have.  I'll have to do some intensive culture study for the next few weeks to hone my craft!  Bon Voyage Everyone.

Thoughts on recent winejobs.com job postings

Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog: A Profile of Wine Jobs By the Numbers

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Where's WineTalent

Had a wonderful evening last Wednesday in Napa trying some excellent wines, sampling great food and dancing.  Saw some dear friends, and made some new ones.  Where was I?  Note, the bottles may appear larger than normal!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cranky Recruiter: Must Love Wine. But Not Too Much!

I like to think I'm a passionate person, and I love it when people say they are passionate about wine.  I have read countless interviews where someone in the wine industry describes their passion for wine, and how it drives them to create phenomenal things.  Good, keep the passion flowing.  Makes the world go round.  But beware of loving wine too much.

I read emails daily from people who want to follow their dreams of working in wine.  Good, makes sense why you are emailing me.  Glad to hear you dream.  Cranky Recruiter has dreams too.  The jaded reader that I am always wonders, hmm, what does it mean to be passionate about wine, and to dream about wine.  Sounds vaguely similar to an addiction.  And that's where I worry.

Yes, it is fun to sit with friends and dream big, and often the dreams are bigger over a couple glasses of wine.  After a few they can get really big, really fantastic, and perhaps occasionally nightmarish.  If I get your resume on a Tuesday morning and call you to discuss your background during working hours, are you a different person after-hours.  If I put you in front of a client for an interview and the client offers you a glass of wine, are you going to down the glass, then the bottle and then leap on the table proclaiming your love of wine and this interviewer!  Oh, I daydream too.  But really, you need to temper your adoration of wine with evidence of your work ethic, your smarts and your stick-to-it-ness.

This Cranky Recruiter once was sitting in a cubicle, working through a database, and had aspirations of bigger things.  While I often wanted to take over the world, (another allusion to my love of Pinky and the Brain) I sometimes had to rein my dreams in a little.  When I started interacting with winery clients, a kernel of a dream to work exclusively in the wine industry took root.  I slogged through plenty of database updates, direct mail campaigns, cold calls and dicey offer negotiations afterwards, and that seedling started to sprout some leaves, the trunk started to thicken up, and I had grown my abilities to make my dream a reality.  Eight years ago I left a thriving technical services company to dive exclusively into the wine world.

People often ask me why I did this.  And it isn't because I love wine.  Yes, I do like wine.  Yes, I drink wine, and yes I enjoy knowing everything I can about wine.  But that isn't why I'm in it.  I'm in it for the people.  I place people at companies that are run by other people.  I talk to people about how they have worked with other people, what types of people they work with best, and how they manage people.  I don't usually talk to them about their favorite wine.  I don't ask them how much they drink (I don't think I can legally ask that anyways!)  And I don't ask them how passionate they are about wine.  Yes, be passionate, but think about what it is about wine that is stirring this passion.   Then take that information and use it to help you figure out what you want to do in the wine world.

Wine is an ancient beverage, something that has been written about for centuries.  There are ancient ruins of wine vessels, murals depicting winemaking, and works of art depicting people enjoying wine.  Yes, it has a lot of allure, but remember that I am looking for a capable person who can do the job I am recruiting for.  Not an accomplished drinker.  I have written before about what I want to see on a resume.  Check it out.  You may notice on there that I don't mention "passion for wine" once.  It is all about how you handle yourself, and what you can bring to the table. 

And one last morsel of advice here folks.  Make sure you enjoy yourself responsibly.  We can all have our a nights of bacchanalian revelry with friends and live to love another day.  Make sure you realize how to do this as hedonistically as you wish, but safely.  What do I mean?  Don't drink and drive.  Drink and drive, and you could lose your license.  Drink and drive and you could lose your wine job.  If you have a DUI on your driving record, some companies won't even consider you for employment.  Get a DUI while on the job, and you'll possibly lose your job and your license.  So be careful if you follow your passion for wine and commit your career to the wine industry.  If you happen to get a DUI, you may just have a lot fewer prospects for your next job.  And of course, we all want our roadways free of reckless drivers.  Don't Hesitate, Designate.  And there are plenty of very friendly and competent chauffeurs happy to help.  That pricey limo or taxi ride could be a very wise career decision. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Where's WineTalent: The Apple Trees are Blooming

Had a great time in wine country last week.  Also got to look at different pruning techniques for apple trees.  The orchards were in bloom, and the vineyards were all starting bud break.  The skies were full of wonderful clouds, with rays of sunshine all over the valley floor.  Attended a business school mixer and had great visits with winery friends.  Also had some fresh brewed beer!  Where's WineTalent?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog: The Status of Women and Wine

Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog: The Status of Women and Wine

Yesterday Tom Wark had a great post about women in the wine industry, and a comment about Augusta National's stand on women members; IBM's CEO in particular.  While you may not have been following the situation, it has been an interesting scenario.  Augusta National holds the Masters tournament every year, and IBM has been a major supporter for several years.  The new IBM CEO is a woman, and a golfer.  In the past, Augusta National has extended a membership to the IBM CEO.  But so far, not this time.  Augusta National does not allow women to be members.  I was obliquely following this during the Masters, and really just in regards to what the outcome would be for Virginia Rometty, IBM's current CEO.  As far as I know, no membership has been given to her.  (For a brief overview of the issue, take a look at this WSJ article)

In Tom Wark's post, he profiles some of the major women in wine.  First and foremost is Michaela Rodeno, who is the former CEO of St. Supery Winery.  Tom also talked to several other notable women, giving their thoughts about gender's impact in their wine career.  There was a lively discussion after, with many people weighing in.  Women for Winesense is also discussed, as it should have been.

I think Tom's post is very interesting, and brings up a lot of the issues women and men have shared with me over the years.  I do consider myself a proud member of this gender and industry specific group, and hope the wine industry is welcoming to women.  As Tom mentioned, the population of the wine industry is not as diverse as many of our communities.  Michaela also mentioned the finding that more diverse workplaces have been more adept at navigating through the recent economic recession.

I'm not getting on my soapbox today.  Too much to do right here in the trenches.  But I did enjoy the post, and hope it is interesting for you.  And for some thoughts from some of these women and some men in the wine industry, take a look at my profiles of some of its success stories.  Michaela, Margrit Mondavi and Harvey Posert so far, plenty more to come.   

Viva la Difference!

Friday, April 13, 2012

An Interview with Margrit Mondavi

(The third installment in a series of interviews with notable figures in the wine industry)

I interviewed Margrit Mondavi on March 15, 2012 in the beautiful Vineyard Room at the Robert Mondavi Winery.  I was joined by her old friend and colleague, Harvey Posert.  It was a pleasure to share an excellent lunch with the two of them.  In true Mondavi fashion the lunch was artfully paired with signature Robert Mondavi wines.  Overlooking the beautiful spring vineyards, I learned a lot about Margrit, with the most important things being that she is a charming hostess and an engaging person.  During lunch Margrit reminisced about her past, and brought me up to speed on how she ended up where she is today.  There are plenty of things published about Margrit Mondavi and the Mondavi family, but here are her thoughts on how she found herself in the wine industry and what she learned along the way.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  Growing up in Switzerland when I did [before and during World War II] there were few options for a woman outside of getting married or being a teacher.  I thought about becoming a doctor and went to a clinic with a family friend who was a woman doctor but realized it wasn’t really what I wanted.  I knew I wasn’t interested in the prospect of being a secretary or a nurse, so I was planning to be a teacher.  I also took lots of art classes because it was something I was interested in.

What encouragement did you get from family, teachers, or others?  I think my family knew we all had dreams; mine involved drawing and painting.  I immersed myself in art, but there was always the reality that you had to make a life and find a way to support yourself.  When my soon-to-be first husband expressed his wishes to marry me, my family encouraged it.  As he was an American, my mother had visions of Hollywood.  My father had more worrisome visions, but allowed me to be married. 

Margrit married an army officer, and after their wedding they moved several times for his assignments.  After World War II they moved to the US.  Their first assignment was in South Dakota, quite a shock for Margrit.  Every couple of years the couple, and soon their young family, would move to a new destination.  They lived all over the globe, including several spots in the US and in Okinawa.  Margrit was busy raising her children but was always very involved in cultural and community projects wherever she found herself.

What drew you to the wine industry and your role?  When my children were teenagers, they wanted to stay in the US, and asked us to find a place and stay there.  We had friends from South Dakota who had moved to Napa, so on a spring weekend we visited them.  It was such a beautiful place and having friends there was so nice.  Our friends found us a house to rent and we moved to Napa in 1960.  Living in Napa Valley, I got involved with a young music group through the children’s school and started getting active in the community.  With the wineries all around, I started learning about wine and just got so passionate about it, learning all I could about it. 

Margrit started working at the Charles Krug winery, and then later went to work at the new Robert Mondavi Winery.  At the new site she took on the marketing and public relations position.  In 1980 she and Robert Mondavi married, and she continued to be a major contributor to the winery, to its art and culture programs and to the wine industry.

What helped you accomplish what you did?  My forte was really that I spoke 6 languages.  Bob’s mom only talked Italian, and when I worked at Charles Krug she always came out to talk to me.  It was so nice for her and for me to be able to talk.  I also got to meet some interesting people because of my language skills since I was the only person around the winery who could lead them on a tour and understand their questions and answer them. 

What mentors did you have in your life?
Robert MondaviMy biggest mentor was Bob.  He supported me completely.  He was also the big love of my life.  He was such a believer in ideas, and when he would hear of an idea would often say “Don’t talk about it, do it!”  Bob supported me 100%.  Bob was also very focused--to make the best wine.  He was on a mission.  When he met me he realized he was missing out on some things by being so single-minded.  I took him to his first opera, schlepped him to museums.  We found each other at the right time in life.
Mr Griswold:  Mr. Griswold was also a huge supporter; helping me figure out what I needed to do and helping me accomplish it. 
Harvey Posert:  Harvey was also a great friend and supporter, helping get so many ideas off the ground and supporting Bob’s vision for the winery. 
Did you have any protégés?  I learned from all the people that I worked with and maybe they learned a little bit from me too.

Is there any advice you would like to have given yourself years ago:  That is very hard to say.  When I grew up everything was so restricted due to the war.  Women had been able to move around before the borders [of Switzerland] closed, but after they closed, women could not leave.  Women were completely isolated until the borders opened.  I took the path of least resistance by marrying a young US Army officer whom I happened to like. 

What changes in the wine industry have you experienced?   Women are so much better represented in the wine industry than before.  I was the first female to give wine tours at Charles Krug.  Early on, women were in administration and in the lab.  Now women are in positions throughout the wine industry, including some women winemakers and winery owners, whom I am so proud of. 
A change that I am sorry to see is that Robert Mondavi Winery sold, but the organization became too big.  We had joint ventures in Italy, France, Chile, Australia, etc. and we had to sell.  I would have liked the family to retain ownership of Robert Mondavi Winery.

What was it like to be a woman in the role?  In the wine industry?  In Napa?  It was hard.  I was the only woman in situations often, and I had to be smarter, better, funnier, nicer than everyone else.  I read everything I could get my hands on and tried to learn everything.  When I took on the PR role I had to overcome a lot of people’s doubts.  I worked hard to prove I could do it.

Are there any mistakes you made or lessons learned that you would like to share?  I wish I had gotten a formal education in public relations.  I worked at Robert Mondavi Winery in a marketing and PR role, but it was something I learned as I went along.  It would have been a good idea to get some education in that area to be more effective.  Bob Mondavi was a great supporter, and when I expressed my doubts in taking on the role at the winery he said “Who is really qualified?” 

How could you have been more successful?  (Laughing) I don’t want to be successful.  I don’t feel successful.  I am humble about everything that has happened to me and very thankful.

What advice do you give your children, grandchildren, and other family members about their careers? I think you give your children and family members advice during their development.  Some kids have ideas and some flop around for a while.  I want them to know I will support them in anything they want to do, and that they are also wise enough not to make irreparable mistakes. 

During her legendary life Margrit has been a hostess and a guest at some wonderful and memorable events.  I posed the following question to her: What event stands out in your memory the most? I think the partnership with Baron Philippe de Rothschild was a great collaboration.  During the end of the Baron’s life we were involved in Opus One, and put on so many big events.  Here were two people, Bob and Philippe, who came from completely different worlds and shared a great passion for wine.  They were truly joint partners in the project, and got along very well.  Toward the end of the Baron’s life he would mostly only speak in French, and with my French I was his translator, and sometimes, confidante. 

After our interview Margrit was off to host a charity event in her home.  Still going strong and always supporting the wine industry and good causes, Margrit was a pleasure to interview.  In the Vineyard Room a new art exhibit was being hung and Margrit took time to discuss the installation and art with the staff.  As I was leaving, Margrit asked me what kind of wine I liked.  I had to say I really enjoyed the frozen Moscato d’Oro that we had just had with our gingerbread cake.  “Stop by the tasting room and I’ll have some set aside for you.”  What a treat.  This was the wine Robert and Margrit had first tasted frozen with Baron Rothschild decades earlier, and is still a spectacular present.  Thank you for your time, Margrit, your candid thoughts, and the true hospitality.  Merci beaucoup, danke vielmals, arigato gozaimasu, grazie mille, muchas gracias, thank you very much.