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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, February 8, 2010, 2:47 am

Most Influential Leaders: Rob McMillan

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    Most Influential Leaders

    Rob McMillan on a trip to China in spring 2007

    Rob McMillan on a trip to China in spring 2007

    Executive Vice President and Wine Division Founder, Silicon Valley Bank

    Company address: 899 Adams St. #G2, St. Helena 94574

    Phone: 707-967-1367

    Website: www.svb.com

    Staff: 35

    Residence: St. Helena

    Professional background: Founder of Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division; 30 years in banking and finance; increasing responsibilities in SVB, up to the managing committee of Silicon Valley Bankshares; noted speaker and writer, authoring numerous Wine Business research reports including the bank’s well-regarded Annual State of the Wine Industry publication; served on varied planning and steering committees for symposia in the wine industry and in several board capacities

    Education: Bachelor’s in finance/economics, California State University, Sacramento; MBA, Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business

    What do you see as the essential role of a leader in the current environment? Leaders come in many forms and are largely defined by those who find their example or their ability to provide clarity and ideas important to their own success and happiness.

    What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your industry? Greater segregation between the hobbyist winery and a serious commercial venture

    What advice would you give to young emerging leaders? Define your own strengths, surround yourself with people who know your weaknesses and never stop asking questions.

    What’s the best advice for weathering today’s economic environment? In a period of uncertainty, reduce initiatives that can put your model in peril. When markets are more certain, take action starting with market research to understand the changes your customers are experiencing and determine if their values are still aligned and consistent with their desire for your product as it’s presented and produced.

    How do you think your business will change in the next five years? The role and impact of state and local government will see significant evolution.

    What is your most memorable business experience? Drawing a line in the sand as an employee in an organization that wanted to renege on a lending commitment made to fund a brand-new, one-person small business. The owner made decisions based on the commitment and would have lost everything. Though placed in professional peril myself by fighting the decision, it was the right thing to insist that my former employer honor their word. That action forced a compromise that worked for the client. Today the company is an almost $100MM revenue business, employs over 200 people and is run by the second generation.

    What is your greatest business success? Defining and executing on the business opportunity that today defines Silicon Valley Bank in the wine business and watching the difference that effort made to countless employees and clients.

    What would your friends be surprised to find out about you? I am pretty open so my friends wouldn’t be surprised by anything.

    First job: I was a burger cook at 50 Ways to Eat a Hamburger

    Most admired businessperson outside the company: Anyone who can figure out how to win in business, balance their life and make the lot of others surrounding them better at the same time. There are countless heroes just like that everywhere.

    Current reading: “The Tipping Point,” by Malcom Gladwell

    Most want to meet: Bill Clinton (smart, creative, gives back, fallible and human)

    Stress relievers: Watching hockey, working out (when I can stick to a schedule)

    Favorite activities outside work: Currently working on a feature-length movie, hunting, golf and the outdoors

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