CEO, Global Wine Partners
899 Adams St., Ste. F, St. Helena 94574, 707-967-5303, www.globalwinebank.com
Residence: St. Helena
Professional background: Investment banker, management consultant with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), CPA business consultant with MKF
Education: B.S., MBA, Registered Securities Principal, CPA
What do you see as the essential role of a leader in the current environment? To provide perspective, experience and leadership during turmoil and uncertainty and to encourage positive, productive responses to adversity
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your industry? The ongoing transformation of American wine from an agricultural commodity to a highly marketed, widely recognized premium product that is part of a better life and, in the process, creation of a more economically viable growth industry full of opportunity. We’re fortunate to have this growing industry that adds to our quality of life as well as to our local and national economies. The related ongoing changes in the wine industry are profound, but generally for the better.
What advice would you give to young emerging leaders? Be known for something, and go for quality over quantity and profit growth over volume growth. These fundamentals work in good times and bad – in the wine industry and others.
What’s the best advice for weathering today’s economic environment? Stick with your core business, focus on improving fundamentals, refine your processes and capabilities (get even better at what you do rather than adding to it) and build even stronger customer relationships. Help others. Get lean and get ready for the next growth cycle coming soon.
How do you think your business will change in the next five years? In wine industry M&A, everything is quickly changing, including new buyers, different sellers, evolving capital sources and business models, deal structures and valuations. It’s a brave new world, driven by the transformation, maturation and growing fragmentation of the wine industry – not by the recession. There will be more deals and smaller, more challenging deals. Real estate brokers will play a larger role in asset deals and investment banks in business deals. More sources of capital will evolve. All of this will lead to more complex arrangements and, unfortunately, more blown deals.
There will be excellent opportunities for discriminating buyers, but they will need to carefully sift through more offerings and be more selective to find the right ones. There will be more multi-brand mid-sized premium wine companies, some of which will be very successful. Most of these will be created or expanded through M&A, including joint ventures and strategic alliances.
What is a decision you wish you hadn’t made? What did you learn from it? In the past, we branched out into too many new services, geographies and ventures. There are so many opportunities. But, we then realized that we can’t do everything as well as we want, and that it’s substantially better and much more profitable to do one (or few) thing(s) well. Doing one thing is ideal. This is a very important lesson for us that has helped us to refine and improve our business.
What is your most memorable business experience? Preparing with and then interviewing Robert Mondavi in the Thomas Jefferson Rotunda in Virginia for a PBS documentary in 2003, then visiting Monticello together and discussing the history and future of the American wine industry. No one had a greater impact on where we are today as an industry. His importance to and impact on the American wine industry will last forever.
What is your greatest business success? Deciding to change careers, then founding and successfully establishing a business I love in an industry and community that I love, and having the opportunity to be part of the transformation of the wine industry over the past 40 years – and continuing. As Ernest Gallo said, “Fortune has a way of favoring those in the right place at the right time.”
What was your toughest business decision? To leave a highly paid job to become self-employed, and starting a new business in a young industry without knowing the possible outcomes. But, if you believe it, and you can – then do it. It may not be the easiest way, but a labor of love beats any other kind.
What would your friends be surprised to find out about you? That I was a high school drop-out who worked as a musician for several years before going back to school at age 32 for a complete makeover. It’s never too late.
First job: Musician – guitar
Most admired businessperson outside the company: Robert Mondavi for leadership and Ernest Gallo for superior execution and a highly effective succession
Current reading: “Smart World: Breakthrough Creativity and the New Science of Ideas,” by Richard Ogle
Most want to meet: Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat
Stress relievers: Playing guitar, reading or driving Italian cars
Favorite activities outside work: More “stress relievers:” traveling, cooking and concerts
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