WineFinding the perfect balance of finance, art, values at J Kathryn Lindstrom
General manager and chief financial officer
J Vineyards & Winery
11447 Old Redwood Highway
HEALDSBURG -- Passion and pragmatism drew Kathryn Lindstrom to apply her lifelong love of mathematics to navigating a number of luxury-tier wineries through their turbulent organizational and economic times over the past two decades.
At the helm since 2006 as general manager and chief financial officer, Ms. Lindstrom has been carrying out founder and Chief Executive Officer Judy Jordan's goal starting in 1999 to create separate sparkling and varietal wine operations under one roof.
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"I wanted a balance of strong fiscal responsibility with a drive for quality production and service here at J Vineyards & Winery," Ms. Jordan said about selecting Ms. Lindstrom from other candidates.
At the same time, Ms. Lindstrom has been putting to use accounting, finance, operations and management skills developed over the years to keep the ventures moving during a challenging market for fine wines in the past two years.
"Now, for every dollar you need to get a significant return on assets and get the investment back at a higher rate," she said.
Yet adjusting the momentum of a winemaking business, in which it can take four to six years from vine planting to bottle filling, is tricky, particularly when the economic currents shifted as quickly as they did in 2009, according to Ms. Lindstrom.
"It caught most of us in the industry by surprise," she said.
Yet as challenging as financial forecasting is these days, J's continuing transformation plus an increasing array of winemaking and sales metrics is helping the company stay on a more even keel, Ms. Lindstrom said.
For example, winemaking software now supplies even small wineries with information helpful in tracking costs and make precise adjustments. Also helping are computerized point-of-sale systems in tasting rooms as well as customer transactions and commercial banking both over the Internet. Decreasing costs for depletion data give operable information on a timely basis even to the small winery.
"Kathryn has risen to the occasion working toward finding new and innovative ways that we as a winery can continue our path of quality wine production and excellent service while driving fiscal responsibility and accountability through our winemaking operations," Ms. Jordan said.
One necessary part of cost containment in challenging times is contract negotiation.
"You're not always in a position of power, but you still need to go through with it and maintain relationships," Ms. Lindstrom said. "Right now, there are short-term needs, and I need to balance them with long-term relationships."
Key long-term bonds with growers of grapes are integral to the brand's reputation. While working with Dick Arrowood at Arrowood Vineyards & Winery in Glen Ellen, she learned from him the importance of those relationships. Sometimes the winery needs flexibility from growers on contract terms to meet bottle sales, and sometimes the growers need similar help from the winery.