Published on Thrive Global
By Adam Mendler, Lessons in Leadership
Adam: What would surprise people about the wine business? Can you provide some insights readers would find interesting?
Amy: Something that I often hear is how surprised people are at the camaraderie and support wineries have for each other. The wine business is the most diversified consumer product category and competition is fierce to gain space on the shelf and in a restaurant or bar. But it is also agriculture at its core. While sales teams are competitive, the farmers and owners behind the business work alongside one another to support the success of the overall industry.
Adam: What have you learned from taking a leadership role in a family-owned business about family-owned businesses? What advice can you share?
Amy: I’ve really valued working for family-run companies – and have had the pleasure of working for two leading family-run businesses in this industry. The culture of the family which owns the business really sets the tone for the culture of the company. It is refreshing to see the consistency in strong values passed down from generation to generation in a cohesive family operation. This is complemented by the diversity of thought that each generation has and the energy they bring to making their mark on the business. As the President of Wente Vineyards, I am working with three active generations of family leadership and benefitting from the deep commitment, creativity and vision which each generation brings to the operation. Ultimately, it’s important to stay focused on the business, while navigating personal relationships. It never hurts to remind everyone in a family business that is it just that, business, so you can’t take any decision too personally.
Adam: How did you get here? What experiences, failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Amy: I was recruited directly out of college to the wine industry by the E&J Gallo Winery. I was fortunate to graduate in a great market and have several options for starting my career. The job just seemed to really fit. I liked the people I had met along the recruiting process, the fact that it was a family-run company with a strong ethos and everyone seemed to genuinely enjoyed their work. I started out at the bottom as a sales rep. It was a humbling experience, selling wine to buyers – some who were not even old enough to drink, and others who had given up alcohol altogether. I had a college degree and was dusting bottles, cutting boxes and building displays. It was character building and humbling all at the same time. As my career progressed, I continued to work hard, raise my hand often for new and interesting opportunities, and ultimately learned by doing. As I grew and worked my way up, one of the most important lessons learned was to look for and value the support and guidance of great leaders and mentors around me.