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Jim Bielenberg

Chief financial officer, Truett-Hurst, Inc., 5610 Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg 95448; 707-431-4423; truetthurst.com; vmlwinery.com

Employees: Less than 50

Education: BS accounting, Golden Gate University, 1979

Age: 55

Professional background: CPA, principally focused in the wine industry since 1986. Previous wine industry employment C-level positions with Accolade Wines North America, Ascentia Wine Estates, Jackson Wine Estates, Francis Ford Coppola Presents, Klein Foods (Rodney Strong and Windsor Vineyards) and Guinness America (San Martin Winery and Concannon Vineyards).

In the past four years, Mr. Bielenberg helped four wine companies and a medical-technology startup through pivotal periods. He joined HDD -- started by wine industry veterans Phil Hurst, Paul Dolan, Heath Dolan, Bill Hambrecht, Dan Carroll and Virginia Lambrix -- in mid-2012.

Just before HDD, he spent seven months guiding the recapitalization of Ascentia Wine Estates up to the May 2012 sale of California brands to Accolade Wines North America, Washington brands to E&J Gallo and and Idaho brands to Precept Wines. He then stayed on for two months with Accolade for the transition.

Another seven-month assignment before Ascentia was consulting on filmmaker, vintner and hotelier Francis Ford Coppola's ventures.

After six years at Jackson Wine Estates and its brief Millennial consumer--oriented venture White Rocket Wine Co., Mr. Bielenberg guided Santa Rosa-based medical device startup Osseon Therapeutics in manging funding rounds.

For 12 years before Jackson, he guided finances at Rodney Strong Wine Estates owner Klein Foods.

[caption id="attachment_78025" align="alignleft" width="200"] Jim Bielenberg[/caption]

 What's the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?: Managing risk and cash flow. Possessing a vision to create systems that adapt and grow as the business evolves. One must stretch beyond finance and be an egoless partner with other leaders and business units in the organization and develop trust, so all work cohesively to execute the business plan.

What are the biggest changes in your industry?: Wine becoming an element of everyday life, increased consumption per capita, early adoption by Millennials, proliferation of brands and SKUs, retailer and distributor consolidation, and growth and importance of the direct-to-consumer sales channel.

What challenges and opportunities have you and your organization met recently?: We executed an IPO, which will provide the capital necessary to take the company to the next level. It was a grueling but worthwhile process.

How would you advise young emerging financial leaders?: Be passionate and committed in everything you do. Think strategically and beyond the numbers of finance. Give back to people.

What's the best advice for weathering today's economic environment?: Manage cash ruthlessly.

How do you think your business will change in the next five years?: At the risk of making a prohibited "forward-looking statement," we expect to continue to innovate and strengthen our strategic alliances with key retailers.

What is a decision you wish you hadn't made?: I strive to learn from every experience, maintain a positive attitude and perspective, and have no regrets.

What is your most memorable business experience?: Our IPO road show and then going back to New York solo for one last day of presentations to investors, which closed the deal.

What is your greatest business success?: Taking the company public and establishing systems and processes that allow us to operate as such. The demands of a public company are amplified multiple degrees from a private company.

What was your toughest business decision?: Managing the supply chain -- grape procurement and contract strategies, bulk-wine contracts, spot-market purchases, owned and leased vineyards and yields -- and production cycles in the wine industry is critical. The potential loss of brand equity and financial consequence is significant, if not managed properly.

Pricing and programming (margin maintenance), points of distribution and capital expenditures are the next critical elements. Sales, production and finance must work very closely together to execute.

What would your friends be surprised to find out about you?: I enjoy history and one day will commit to learning to play the piano.

Most admired businessperson outside the company: Guy Kawasaki

Current reading: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Most want to meet: Jack Welch

Stress relievers: Cardio workouts, taking our dogs for walks, steam / sauna

Favorite activities outside work: Golf ... sometimes.