North Bay Business Journal

Monday, August 13, 2012, 6:30 am

CFO Recognition Awards 2012: Keith Casale, The Other Guys Wines



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    Chief financial officer

    Keith Casale


    The Other Guys, Inc.

    35 Maple St., Sonoma 95476, 707-996-8463, togwines.com

    Employees: 15

    Professional background: 22 years in various financial positions working for family-owned wine businesses in Napa and Sonoma valleys: Trinchero, Rombauer and Sebastiani families

    Education: B.S. Managerial Economics with an emphasis in Marketing and Finance, University of California, Davis

    Age: 46

    Comment about Keith Casale: ”Keith is not what I had stereotyped into the role of a CFO. We lovingly call him ‘the CF Bro.’ He has a personalized license plate that says as much. One thing about Keith is he really sees all aspects of an issue. He appreciates the family nature of the business, his position in the family and family politics. He’s not afraid to say, ‘August, it’s a stupid idea.’ I find it very refreshing and helpful in guiding this business. He’s the CFO of The Other Guys and manages finances for most of the family members. He likes to be on Berryessa on a boat and being dragged around on a wake board by boat.” –August Sebastiani, president, The Other Guys Wines

    Questions for Mr. Casale:

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

    Aside from providing strategic and financial direction to senior management a financial leader needs to be engaged in all levels of your business to ensure continuity and consistency throughout the organization to achieve success.

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

    Distributor consolidation has increased pricing and promotional pressures. The industry has experienced significant growth in the last 10 years with the proliferation of brands. The consumer now has so many wines and spirits to choose from there is little brand loyalty. Given these factors it has become very difficult to get both consumer and distributor mindshare. This has required our industry to get aggressive with pricing and develop creative promotions.

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

    As a wine negociant there are constant pricing pressures from wine suppliers and growers. In the past few years the industry has experienced a shortage in supply. This shortage has exacerbated these pricing pressure and affected our margins negatively. Our organization has been able to offset these pressures by focusing on operational efficiencies and focused promotional opportunities to ensure we are getting both distributor and consumer mindshare.

    What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?

    First, find a mentor. Second, fully understand your industry and pay attention to your competitors. Third, have fun! If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be doing it.

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

    Be careful of trends and remain focused on the operational strategies and financial goals your organization has put in place to achieve success. I also believe that regular exercise and daily glass of red wine helps too!

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

    Given the industry’s continuing consumer growth and constant pressures on our negociant wine business model we will most likely move toward developing our own production facility and securing long-term contracts with growers and wine suppliers.

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

    Hard question! You learn from all your experiences whether they are good or bad decisions.

    What is your most memorable business experience?

    As a financial leader in an organization I like to ensure that I understand everyone’s roles and contributions to the organization. I like to get out into the field with our sales people and meet the retailers and consumers of our productions. Last year I spent a week with colleagues in New York. We covered the entire state of New York in four days. It was a great experience from me to understand the competitive environment that our sales people are challenged with.

    What is your greatest business success?

    Successfully spinning off two new Sebastiani family entities in the last three years: The Other Guys, Inc. and Mia’s Kitchen, Inc.

    What was your toughest business decision?

    Having to lay off employees to achieve operation efficiencies is always difficult.

    What would your friends be surprised to find out about you?

    As a child I was a military brat and went to 10 different schools before high school!

    Most admired businessperson outside the company: Robert Mondavi

    Current reading: Scuba Diving Magazine

    Most want to meet: Sandra Bullock

    Stress relievers: Walking

    Favorite activities outside work: Wakeboarding with family and friends on Lake Berryessa.

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