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Rik de Lange

Chief financial officer

Wagner Family of Wine

8700 Conn Creek Rd., Rutherford, CA 94573

707-963-4204

www.wagnerfamilyofwine.com

Brands: Caymus, Conundrum, Mer Soleil, Emmolo and Red Schooner

Age: 46

Professional background: For the first 11 years, he worked for Enkco, a meat company in the Netherlands. He started as a production planner and eventually became vice president of finance. In 2005 he entered the wine industry at Treasury Wine Estates, first in Australia and since 2009 in Napa Valley. He been with Wagner Family of Wine since 2014.

Education: Master’s degree in business economics

Get to know Wagner Family of Wine’s Rik de Lange, winner of a North Bay Business Journal CFO award.

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE ESSENTIAL ROLE OF A FINANCIAL LEADER IN THE CURRENT ENVIRONMENT?

It may not always look like it from the outside, but the wine business is actually very fast and dynamic. The financial leader needs to be in tune with this fast pace of change and be ready for quick decision making and responding to opportunities. He or she needs to keep removing complexities and run an engaged team that provides information quickly, clearly and, very importantly, with confidence.

To me, this means that you have to build a team and processes where 90% of the needed information is available before it is requested. Answering this 90 percent should be the result of a tailored processing and reporting rhythm that takes very little time to complete.

The finance team and its processes should take care of most of the operational and tactical information needs without much or any help. This efficiency then allows the financial leader to focus on leadership, strategic needs and anticipating change.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHANGES YOU’VE SEEN IN YOUR INDUSTRY?

I’ve been working in the wine industry for about 12 years and have seen competition intensify in that time. There’s also been a growing understanding that the business has three distinct segments in which you have to compete, starting with value brands and then moving up to the middle tier and finally luxury wines. The heightened competition and awareness of what it takes to succeed in these segments means that you have to act even faster, with greater agility and responsiveness. You have to keep making improvements to what you do so that you get everything right, from your sourcing of grapes to your marketing to your profit margins.

My role as CFO in this complex set of dynamics is first of all to remove as much noise as possible from all the information that is coming through at such a high pace, so that we can focus on the things that really matter. I support the Wagner family by providing them with analysis and forecasts that clearly highlight the impact of key strategic choices and external factors to which business performance is most sensitive. Good examples are profitability by market and balancing our fruit supply between owned land, leased land and purchased grapes. One thing worth noting is that having your ducks in a row from a finance perspective enables you to act with the speed you need. Once you recognize and understand the business model, it is not as complex as people might think – it can be simplified quite a bit.

TELL US ABOUT THE PARTICULAR CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES YOUR ORGANIZATION HAS MET IN THE RECENT PAST.

The constraints of the Napa Valley form the most obvious challenges, with their impact on permit-ting, grape supply and cost. There are only so many grapes in the Valley, and the cost of land continues to go up. It’s my role to help us manage our risks and costs in an appropriate way. In Napa Valley, the threats can outweigh the opportunities. That is why we have looked elsewhere to produce much of our wine and even source our grapes.

Rik de Lange

Chief financial officer

Wagner Family of Wine

8700 Conn Creek Rd., Rutherford, CA 94573

707-963-4204

www.wagnerfamilyofwine.com

Brands: Caymus, Conundrum, Mer Soleil, Emmolo and Red Schooner

Age: 46

Professional background: For the first 11 years, he worked for Enkco, a meat company in the Netherlands. He started as a production planner and eventually became vice president of finance. In 2005 he entered the wine industry at Treasury Wine Estates, first in Australia and since 2009 in Napa Valley. He been with Wagner Family of Wine since 2014.

Education: Master’s degree in business economics

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG EMERGING FINANCIAL LEADERS?

Three things. Firstly, without strong relationships you won’t get anywhere. Without these you will never understand well enough what people really need.

Secondly, and related, if you don’t ensure you have an engaged team, you will eventually come to a grinding halt. A specific part of that is recognizing that delegating is actually much easier than it looks and it really pays off - in engagement, productivity, and also creativity.

Lastly, never forget that your audience is usually not wired like accountants are and is just looking for your help, usually in the form of information or analysis. We tend to pay insufficient attention to how they look at things, get too excited about accuracy, reconciliations, etc. and then put the actual information need in second place. Keep it simple and remember that not everyone is the same.

I guess the summary of these three is that it is easy and tempting to be too focused on the “just doing it” and the fast processing (which is where the comfort zone typically is). Make sure you under-stand the others’ perspective and approach first and then bridge it with yours.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE FOR WEATHERING TODAY’S ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT?

Be agile and proactive. Never stop chasing efficiencies and creating more capacity with your team, the processes and yourself in order to anticipate and react quickly to changes and needs.

HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR BUSINESS WILL CHANGE IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

We are making some significant changes in how we produce our wine and run our operations. In 2017 we plan to move the bulk of our production out of Napa Valley, a change resulting from an agreement we forged with Napa County to address issues with our use permit. We are currently building a new production facility in Solano County; in addition to shifting our production, we are also moving much of our workforce to this new location. From a financial perspective, this change offers some great opportunities, including the prospect of greater efficiency and cost savings.

WHAT IS A DECISION YOU WISH YOU HADN’T MADE? WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?

When I came to work for Treasury Wine Estates here in the US in 2009, it was at the start of another large restructuring with many changes ahead and a lot of work to do. It was my first director role with the company and I spent too much time getting the work done for the corporate stakeholders. I underestimated that I had also taken over a team and had landed in a group of peers that both needed more of my time than I allowed. You pay for that big time later on. It taught me that relationships are always the foundation; they need to be built first.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE BUSINESS EXPERIENCE?

When I had just started my first job out of university, I built a cost price tool in Excel. The CFO of the company very often asked me for cost price calculations and each one always took me a long time, so I wanted to streamline and automate this. I built a model which was very comprehensive and I was very proud that I got it to work.

So when the next request for a cost price came, I excitedly ran it through the model and within five minutes I proudly gave the CFO a beautiful printout of the outcome. Within two seconds he gave it back to me and said “can’t be right, go and check it”. I was perplexed, how could that be? I had such a good comprehensive model!

But of course he was right, there we faults in the model. He then said this to me: “Never forget to check your common sense for the important things. When you solve a complex problem, start by having an expectation that your common sense gives you. Then when you’ve done the detail, the outcome should be close. And if it’s not, you either need to work on your model or rethink the logic of your common sense”.

It taught me to always simplify, keep developing business instincts, and be able to logically reason towards a solution without relying too much on technology or reports.

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST BUSINESS SUCCESS?

When I took my position with Wagner Family of Wine 2.5 years ago, the finance team was working extremely hard trying to catch up on month-ends and yearend reviews. There was little or no time for anything else. The nature of their work was essentially transactional.

A year later, we were not only caught up, but had also improved our processes so that month end takes no more than four or five days without anyone having to work crazy hours. More importantly, it has allowed us to develop a management reporting process and mindset that take care of this “90%” that I mentioned before. We achieved these improvements not by setting hard goals with tough dead-lines, but simply by teaming up and communicating in an encouraging way.

If you create a team with a mindset that is genuinely cooperative and are not afraid to challenge current practice, the results will follow naturally. With these reports and increased capacity, we now produce insights that help us support the Wagner family and other key leaders of the business in a much easier, faster and better way. And it’s fun!

WHAT WAS YOUR TOUGHEST BUSINESS DECISION?

The hardest decision is when you have to let somebody go. It becomes easier over time but it will still always be the hardest.

WHAT WOULD YOUR FRIENDS BE SURPRISED TO FIND OUT ABOUT YOU?

That my personal administration at home is in unorganized piles of envelopes in shoe boxes! (but I know exactly what’s in there)

QUICK TAKES

Most admired businessperson outside the company: Seino Lohuis. He was my first CFO when I worked for Enkco in the Netherlands. A very humble, smart and generous man who helped many other people become successful. He taught me a lot and really set me on my course.

Current reading: I’m not a big reader, but if I read it’s news and sports articles and sometimes an easy novel with a thriller/suspense theme

Most want to meet: Nick Vujicic. He is a motivational speaker and evangelist with no arms or legs. He travels all over the world inspiring people. A very positive man

Stress-relievers: Praying, exercise, watching SF Giants, playing word games

Favorite activities outside work: Family, eating out, gardening, exercise (cycling or spinning in particular).

ANYTHING TO ADD?

I consider myself very lucky to work or have worked with some great people in the wine industry that took their time and really taught me a lot and that I’m still learning from; people like Sam Glaetzer, whom I worked with at Treasury Wine Estates and who now is senior vice-president of global winemaking and production for Constellation; Michael Kluczko, whom I worked with at Treasury Wine Estates and is now vice-president of operations at Caymus Vineyards, and of course Chuck Wagner, owner and winemaker at Caymus. All have had tremendous influence on my career and the choices that I’ve made.