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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, August 13, 2012, 6:30 am

CFO Recognition Awards 2012: John Gilmer, Winery Exchange

Finance — Wine

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    Senior vice president for finance, technology, human resources and TradePulse

    John Gilmer

     

    Winery Exchange

    500 Redwood Blvd., Ste. 200, Novato 94947, 877-946-3793, WineryExchange.com

    Employees: approximately 100

    Professional background: Formally a member of the senior management team of Instill Corporation. Served eight years as the chief information officer of Sybase, Inc. Was a manager with Andersen Consulting.

    Education: B.A. Business Economics, Golden Gate University, San Francisco

    Age: 59

    Comment about John Glimer: “He not only has the ability to do a great job managing the finance organization, he also is successfully managing the TradePulse operations and technology team as well as the human resource aspects of the company. He clearly has a diverse set of management, technology and finance skills.” –Peter Byck, president and chief executive officer, Winery Exchange

    Questions for Mr. Glimer:

    What do you see as the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?

    At the most basic level, a company’s financial leader must be a steward of its financial resources. In doing so, that person needs to ensure that the company’s financial reporting and controls are solid and adhered to.

    Beyond that, it is important to partner with the company’s CEO in setting and executing the company’s strategy. In doing this, it is imperative that while keeping an eye on long-term goals, financial leaders are nimble and help direct necessary course corrections as internal and external factors change and challenges present themselves.

    What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your industry?

    Our company, Winery Exchange, is leading change in the beverage alcohol industry. Our core business is building private-label brands for large retailers. While private-label products are common in Europe, with the U.K. claiming 43 percent store-brand value share, store-brand unit sales only reached an average of 22 percent share across all departments in North America, according to Nielsen.

    We are driving adoption of private-label products in the beverage alcohol industry in the United States, as well as developing private-label brands for our international partners.

    In addition, our industry has tended to lag behind other industries in the adoption of technology. Our company leverages technology to identify opportunities, manage our supply chain and drive efficiencies in our business model.

    Tell us about the particular challenges and opportunities your organization has met in the recent past?

    We recognize that a success factor for our company will be to scale through operational efficiency. It’s an easy thing to say, but not so easy to do. As with any fast-paced company, we face day-to-day challenges that stretch our organizational capacity. We constantly drive efficiency gains through process improvement and its associated organization and technology implications.

    Recently, we began a speed-to-market initiative that focuses on reducing cycle times through all of our corporate processes. We anticipate that resulting gains will not only address our challenging business environment but also better serve our customers.

    What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?

    Remember that a big part of being a great business partner to your company’s CEO and executive team is not just to find ways to make initiatives happen, because success is not always that an initiative is completed. Sometimes, that means an initiative is stopped. A good financial partner helps the company to constantly and accurately evaluate its current situation.

    What’s the best advice for weathering today’s economic environment?

    Stay focused on your customers, and plan for the future.

    How do you think your business will change in the next five years?

    I’m expecting that we will continue to face a challenging business environment but that Winery Exchange will expand the types of products it offers within beverage alcohol.

    I’m also expecting that we will expand our business through acquisition. As opportunities present themselves, we may also look to add to our brand portfolio through acquisition, as we did in 2011 when we purchased a nationally distributed wine brand. [See "Winery Exchange picks up Echelon,"  Feb. 28, 2011.]

    What is a decision you wish you hadn’t made? What did you learn from it?

    Several years ago, I lead the implementation of a system where it was clear that application response time was an issue. The associated initiative was important to our company, so our project team and steering committee made the decision to go live with the system.

    System performance ended up being a significant hindrance and resulted in a lack of confidence in the technology. We spent considerable effort tuning the system and eventually achieved acceptable response times. In hindsight, I regret that I did not step in and stop the implementation, because all of the signs were there and had come to light through testing. I believe we would have saved resources had we not gone live on schedule and instead had resolved performance issues.

    What is your greatest business success?

    I was a senior manager in a company that grew from $24 million to $1 billion over an eight-year period.

    What was your toughest business decision?

    Participating in a 10 percent reduction in force in the same company that had grown to $1 billion.

    Most admired businessperson outside the company: Steve Jobs

    Current reading: Willpower by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney

    Most want to meet: Nelson Mandela

    Stress reliever and favorite activity outside work: Bicycling

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