Chief financial and operating officer2700 Napa Valley Corporate Dr., Ste. B, Napa 94558; 800-486-0503; crimsonwinegroup.com
Employees: About 150 full time
Professional background: Chief financial officer and chief operating officer, Crimson Wine Group, Ltd.; senior vice president and CFO, Icon Estates/Constellation Brands; senior vice president for planning and finance, Robert Mondavi Corporation; manager for port operations, Holland America Line; supervisor, Deloitte & Touche, San Francisco.
[caption id="attachment_96396" align="alignright" width="320"] Patrick DeLong[/caption]
I served on the board of directors for the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Alumni Association and in 2011 was named 2011 Alumni of the Year for the Orfalea College of Business. Additionally, I currently serve as an advisory board member for multiple wine companies and have been a frequent speaker on various wine industry business panels, including events organized by the Wine Industry Symposium Group.
Education: B.S., business, finance and accounting, California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo; master's degree in applied economics, Seattle University; graduate studies in strategic planning, University of Michigan
What do you see as the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?: True finance leaders are the stewards of the owner's or shareholders' capital and understand how to assess opportunities and risk then optimize capital allocation. The ability of financial leaders to act more like investors and less like administrators while balancing the need to "mind the till" is key.
Grounding you in the baseline are understanding true economics, what your organization does well and how to measure what success looks like -- how to use the right data -- as well as taking a view towards the long term. The ability to make strategic decisions to keep the direction of the company on track over time with changes in the business environment ensures the organization stays in balance.
What are the biggest changes you've seen in your industry?: From a macro perspective, wine has been around for thousands of years. Optimization of quality and value has always existed economically for producers and consumers. Globally, the category has grown significantly, which has brought more capital and more sophistication.
From a production standpoint, there is more data and understanding of growing regions and what performs best -- both qualitatively and quantitatively -- as well as winemaking knowledge, data, tools and equipment to make great wine. Great wine is now a baseline. From a go-to-market perspective, there is now more consumer transparency than ever.
The wine industry has always suffered from a significant lag in sophistication, resources and talent vs. other consumer-products categories. While there is still a significant gap, consumer transparency gets everyone closer to the true economics and forces everyone to make choices about the business model.
In the U.S., some small players understand that direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales, done well, can be a good choice. Those that work in distribution channels need to understand how and why they fit, how the economics work, what direction this could go over time and how that fits into their long-range strategy.
Tell us about the particular challenges and opportunities your organization has met in the recent past?: We have grown our top-line financial results by more than three times in the last seven years and turned the company from losses to profits.
However, we are still a very small company. Navigating the 2008 economic crisis while keeping an eye toward long-term growth was challenging. Aligning the right resources at the right time as we grow is a constant challenge.