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March 31, 2007 | Wine Industry Trends | WineDirect Admin

Lessons from the Woodstove - By Jennie Haug - Titus Vineyards

Lessons From The Woodstove

Titus Vineyards’ office is a small, 90 year old farmhouse with sloping floors, funky wiring, stunning views and no central heat. Our woodstove isn’t just charming; it’s a vital part of day to day operations in the winter months.

Using a woodstove at my office has taught me a great deal about selling great wines in a competitive market. Successfully operating the woodstove takes patience and several layers of clothes. It’s rare that good, warm, fast burning fire happens quickly. It takes a combination of strategy, a good blend of the right materials, gradual additions of bigger pieces, and oxygen. Wet green wood can only make smoky fires that wouldn’t warm a field mouse or worse, send off sparks that set your new sweater on fire. Keeping a good fire burning requires regular additions of dry wood. Numerous times I’ve gotten distracted with email, phone calls, paperwork and projects, only to let the fire nearly die. Consequently, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in rekindling smoldering embers.

I don’t mind starting the fire, but please don’t ask me to bring in the wood. It’s not my talent. I’m not very strong, I’m a bit afraid of the critters that hide in woodpiles, I don’t like getting dirty and it sucks away time that could have been spent selling more wine. So, I have to get help. It took me a few years of asking to realize that Frank, our vineyard foreman, is the best, most responsive guy for the job. He’s strong, oblivious to woodpile dwellers, ambivalent about getting dirt on his jeans and has a wheelbarrow. Most importantly, he enjoys bringing in the firewood for us.

It’s important to clean out the ashes every day or two, to make room for fresh fires. But cleaning out the woodstove can only happen when the ashes are completely cool. Otherwise you’ll end up with a melted trash can that might set the whole place on fire. And not in a good way.

Every Direct to Consumer Sales Program (D.T.C.S.P.) has its own metaphorical woodstove, that quirky thing that makes them a bit different. Experience has taught me two things. The first is that consistent, strong performing D.T.C.S.P.’s rarely just happen. The second is that there isn’t a silver bullet for a successful D.T.C.S.P. They involve a combination of strategy, a good blend of the right materials, gradual additions of new elements and room to breathe and grow. You need the appropriate tools, whether that’s a pile of sticky pads, a calculator and a laptop or the right CRM and fulfillment partner. Just like wood that’s wet or green, the wrong tools can prevent consistent profit, productive growth and create havoc. You have to make regular, well-timed additions of fresh fuel like new customers, the latest releases, innovative ideas. When those once hot programs and strategies fade to nearly forgotten embers, you need to quickly choose the right tools and develop the best strategy for fast revival.

It is equally important to know what you do well and what you’re lousy at. Once you know those two things, you can begin to recognize the right people to help you in the areas that just aren’t in your arena of talent. It could be compliance, web design, customer follow up, writing, event planning, fulfillment or glass washing. Then you have to ask for help. You may have to go to several people before you find the right person to help, but keep asking. Find those people and partners that can complement your talents.

Regularly take time to clean out and make room for your D.T.C.S.P. to succeed. You may simply need to clean out your inbox, your customer list or your files. It could be time to get rid of old vendors and take on new partners to make room for growth. Maybe your website needs updated navigation or the wine club needs a revamp. Get rid of outdated approaches without burning down the entire D.T.C.S.P.

Treat your D.T.C.S.P. with the respect and consistency you would give a roaring woodstove and it will keep you warm on those cold wet days. Now if you will excuse me, it’s time to go throw another log in the Titus Vineyards woodstove.

Jennie Haug
Titus Vineyards - www.titusvineyards.com
jhaug@titusvineyards.com

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