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Wine Industry

The Austin Wine Market

Wine Industry

The Austin wine market has been traveling through an identity crisis for the past few years. 

The city's RISK retail game is played by Twin Liquors, Spec's, Costco, Central Market / HEB, World Market, and Whole Foods Market. The game of "big producers", "big scores", and/or "control brands" has pushed our previously wine-willing city to not think for itself, appearing much more like Dallas or Houston than Austin's remote past willingness to try  wines that didn't all taste the same (ie: bland, uniform, over-priced bulk/plonk) wines. I hear Kraftwerk in the background, "We are Zee Robots"...Even Wall-E wanted something different.

Don’t get me wrong. I love being able to find wine-jewels at Costco at a fraction of what I would pay somewhere else. My issue is that the fine-wine market has become a market of nothing. More and more, the treats that you can find in other metropolitan cities are not found here. And, as a wine community, we don’t even see this happening! I realize this is a trend everywhere, but it is hitting hard in Austin. I enjoy shopping online, but I miss being able to shop my local shop and discover epiphanies with my specialty wineguy…The wine knowledge and passion levels seem to be less and less at your average retailer. All you need is a buyer at the top who strictly finds high margin /over-priced bulk wine for unsuspecting customers or reads scores textbooks. Then, you only hire staff that will work for little to no money and won't "pollute" the work environment with opinions or passion.Why don't we fire those people and install vending machines? Red, white, or pink? Reading Craig Camp's (Wine Camp Blog) reference to "sedated bystander" hits home. Let's just eat at McDonald's and eat the same thing every day. We can all wear gorilla suits with melted man masks.

Read more: The Austin Wine Market


The Clairvoyant Talent Train

Wine Industry

Talent Reads Customers

Whether you have two and a half employees at the cool and clever wine shop or 2,000 at the corporate restaurant chain, leadership is everything. Hiring is everything.

The element of the soft skill shows up at the initial interview or it doesn’t. The atom spark, the fever, the sixth sense, humility, graciousness, and most of all empathy. The employee had to show up at your door with these traits. It’s too late to train for these. You can give details or teach the material/product, but you generally can’t teach the soft fire and genuine approach.

Is leadership able to recognize and capitalize on these traits? Talent recognizes talent. If you have lame staff, you have lame leadership. If lame leadership arrives to lead rockstar talent, the talent will run for the plank. You attract your own kind.

Your staff is the primary source of competitiveness and profitability. Your staff keeps you from drowning, hopefully. If you’ve done a good job in hiring, then you must contemplate retention. The costs involved when a good employee walks out the door can be overwhelming. The direct expenses of recruiting, interviewing, training a replacement, not to mention that the replacement may require higher pay/signing bonus and they might not be as talented? The indirect costs of the affect on the workload, morale, and customer satisfaction… Will other staff consider quitting? Will customers follow the employee who left? What about opportunity costs, including the potential knowledge (or special soft-skill touch) that is lost and the work that doesn’t get done while managers and other employees focus on filling the slot and bringing a replacement up to speed, assuming they can get up to speed?

It’s all about the manager. If talent leaves, something had to happen to make the employee consider leaving. Seems to generally be a direct relationship with the immediate manager that determines how long the employee will stay. I know that at my last job I stayed much longer than I probably should have because of my immediate manager and the talent that our team had. Loyalty to companies may be disappearing, but loyalty to colleagues is not. You must create a great environment and train, mentor, motivate, and support your team. Companies that perform the best with their customers are always nurturing their associates. Make your staff want to be there. Give courtesy, respect, and stretch ability to your folks. Talent loss tends to dull a brand’s competitive edge and leads to a decline in quality and customer service. When an environment is good, folks will work for less pay. What your staff wants is recognition and a place they are proud to work. You sense when walking into a wine retailer or restaurant that the team truly works. Customers sense the spirit. Is it alive with a spark or dragging? Nobody wants to work in a toxic environment or with a collection of prostitutes. Killing that atom spark tends to kill the brand. People with choices typically will not work for a nincompoop. People don’t leave companies, they leave bad bosses.

Great wine managers select their people for their talent and specifically soft skills, not strictly the technical side. Most of that can be taught. A person has empathy walking into the first interview or doesn’t. Talented wine folks manage each customer relationship in the most effective manner. The key is to determine how to take greater advantage of what people already do well. It’s not enough to merely hang on to your talented staff; you also need to seize advantage of the unique knowledge, ideas, soft and hard skills they bring to the table. Maximize their strengths as a wine guy or server and take care not to dilute the atom spark that caught attention in the first place.

Then, you’ve gotta train, mentor, motivate, and reinforce. You want team players. Cross-training drives home the fact that you are supported. You are only as strong as your weakest link. The staff knowing the insides and outs of every corner only makes the retailer or restaurant brand stronger. Recall the Truman quote, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Want everyone to do well. Win-Win.

If all your staff is confident and good at what they do, leadership doesn’t have to be there for direction at every move. A good manager sets in motion and the ball rolls on its own. A bad manager has to do it all by himself or “it’s not done right”. Once again, train, mentor, motivate, and support your people. Be right there with them while letting them do their thing…

Get It On With Dr. Wine Guy

Blog - Wine Industry

A wine guy is like a wine doctor

When you walk into the doctor’s office, hopefully the doctor will ask you many questions. Do you have insurance? :) How can I help? Where does it hurt? How long have you had this problem? Are you allergic to anything? What kind of shape are you in? But what happens when the “wine doctor” doesn’t understand your language? With wine advice, this happens the majority of time because we all grew up eating different things, experiencing different things, and many of us in different cultures. Are you a hamburger, mayo-only, with a Coke dieter? Did you grow up on Saag Paneer? Are you a Tofurkey lover? Our habits and experience make our definitions and our definitions are all different. Obviously, the doctor will have no idea where you are coming from or your version of the wine descriptors you use.

Read more: Get It On With Dr. Wine Guy


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