Ten Management Lessons from the Vineyard

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Recently, I was a guest lecturer at a prestigious MBA program to discuss adventures in the wine business. I did a quick survey about the group’s interest in wine. When asked how many liked wine, nearly 100% of the audience raised their hands. However, when asked who wanted to start a career in the wine industry, not a single hand was raised. I then asked how many would someday like to own a vineyard and winery. The answer was the same as the first. Almost all said yes! In short, they all said, “Someday when I have baskets of money that I could afford to lose, I want to own a winery.”

A winery is a business and much of traditional business rules apply. It just happens to be a business that makes an enticing and interesting product. Conversely, there is much that traditional businesses can learn from the wine industry.

  1. Pruning is required each year. Like grapes, your organization will do better if you get rid of deadwood.
  2. Some work is more enjoyable than other work but you still have to do it.
  3. Sometimes you have to wade in and deal with bugs and mud and get your hands really dirty.
  4. Romance can be distracting. It is easy to get caught up in the romance of the wine country life but it is still farming and production. You can’t fall in love with grapes and you shouldn’t fall in love with how you have always done things.
  5. Get the experts in. We don’t ask our friends to pick grapes and you shouldn’t ask your friends for free advice.
  6. Once you pick the grapes and and bottles arrive, you still have to sell it.
  7. Sometimes you have to work on weekends.
  8. Shortcuts are difficult to find and are usually not shortcuts.
  9. Early on, it is difficult to tell what the final product will be like. Keep the faith and know that it will be the best you can make.
  10. Some things take time. Wine is in barrels and bottles for years, so take the time up front so that things get done right and the final product is worth rejoicing over.

Who knew there were so many lessons in a wine bottle?

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