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“Learn-it-all” will always do better than “Know-it-all” … and a few tips on dealing with the tragedy of the NorCal fires

I know our friends, colleagues and clients in the wine country of Sonoma and Napa are reeling today from the tragedy and devastation brought about by the raging fires in Northern California, which at this moment, are still not under control.

FEMA offers a valuable article, After the Fire! Returning to Normal which may be helpful for those who are experiencing property loss. I also hope an article offering self-care strategies to cope with the emotional distress created by such tragedies, will bring comfort and solace to those afflicted.

A Few Ideas ….

This week, I’ve discovered some articles I want to share with you that touch upon some of the most fundamental challenges facing business leaders …

  • How to make sure you’re staying on top of what’s best for your organization,
  • Why strategy execution almost never happens,
  • Why people can’t get anything done in the office, and
  • Why the least likely suspect is spending more on employee benefits than product.

“Learn-It-All” Will Always Do Better Than “Know-It-All”


Business Finance | Are You Ready for an Injection of Financial Adrenaline?

If you’ve ever exercised by lifting weights, you know that the amount of the weight on the bar is only one variable that needs to be considered for a particular exercise

If you’re doing a bench press, you can add more weight because your chest and shoulder muscles help your arms to lift the weight

But if you put 50% of that total weight on each of two dumbbells, you can’t lift either one

You’ve probably also learned that you can’t use the same weight for curls as you do for bench presses

How much weight can you really lift?

“Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler

” ~ Albert Einstein

Likewise, if you’re going to do only one repetition, you can handle more weight than if you’re going to lift it ten times

If you are lying flat, (more…)


Action Planning Podcast Series | What’s Going On in the World?

Strategy-A Plan of ActionWhat are we going to be covering in this 5th podcast in our Action Planning Course?

We’ve all been here, haven’t we? We’ve got a great idea to expand our business, we dive in head first so certain that it will work … only to find that we’ve squandered valuable resources that we wish we had to apply to an even better idea we didn’t think of the first time.

This happens to virtually every growing business because there are always more opportunities available than resources to support them.

That’s why even a little planning can go a long way … why we need to kill all the strategy myths … and simply focus on prioritizing the opportunities that make the most sense to build our business.

How do we do this? By applying consistent criteria to each of the opportunities before us.

What about external factors … industry trends, markets, technological change …?

In our previous podcasts, we discussed the first two criteria that you need to evaluate: your company’s core competencies and the competitive landscape.

The 3rd factor needs to be the broader external forces that affect our businesses …  industry trends, markets, demographics, technology changes and other external factors.

What do those cards look like?

How do we select the right opportunities and build our strategy to deploy our limited resources in the best possible way?

Are you spending quality time to understand industry trends? Do you know what’s happening in your markets?

If not, why not?


Vol. 77: Grab the sword and become a Cash Flow Knight

“I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, ‘Where’s the self-help section?’ She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.” — George Carlin

Too busy to clean the barn because all the horses are running loose? Our recent series featuring the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was a grim reminder that regardless of how many people are lined up outside our door, how many calls we have to return, whether we’re in the top ten for inbox clutter – we’re not absolved of our duty to master our most precious resource: cash flow. That’s why Warren Buffett calls it the “lifeblood of business.” Whether you’re unable to make payroll, can’t finance growth, can’t raise money or find that your business value is a black hole, mastering this process is the centerpiece of excellence.

So, what do we do about it? Although I didn’t start out to create a long series about business finance, so many of you have asked about how to make these improvements that I’ve decided to create a path to help you get there.

You CAN learn the principles of business finance

The first step on every knight’s journey is to slay any dragons in his path … so we’re going to kill off a few misconceptions about business finance. The most important is that you can learn these basic principles. As I’ve said before, you don’t have to be an MBA, CFO or accounting major to understand these essential concepts. If you focus on the core principles, you can direct your team and be sure that everyone’s paying attention to the right things.

Avoid EBITDA (except for bank covenants)

Another dragon in our path is EBITDA. (more…)


Ignore the Wine Supply/Demand Cycle at your peril

My friend and colleague, Steve Fredricks, President of Turrentine Brokerage, Trusted and Strategic Advisors to Growers, Wineries, and Financiers in the wine industry, did a terrific job at this year’s Wine Industry Financial Symposium, Competing in a Rapidly Changing Global Wine Market.

The Turrentine Wine Business Wheel of Fortune is the gold standard for supply/demand patterns in the wine industry.

His presentation, The Supply/Demand Balance in the Global Market and California Bulk Market, thoughtfully described these challenges, using the demonstrated insights of the Wine Business Wheel of Fortune pioneered by Turrentine to describe cyclical and long-germ patterns in the wine business.

Steve covered the California and global bulk market, tonnage and acreage forecasts and outlooks for the global supply of key varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio. 

Way to go, Steve. Great job!


Warning: Sell Wine? Ignore Cash? Adios!

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Why is this so hard? We find ourselves entrenched in the quagmire of a lingering and painful recession … more companies than ever need stronger financial management … and yet so many of them remain painfully slow to recognize it. Sure, many have trimmed costs and are paying closer attention to nickels and dimes, but few of them have a comprehensive financial strategy.

Business Finance? Meet the Wine Industry!

So, in some misguided way, I guess it feels good to have some company … because the need for financial discipline was a common refrain among wine industry cognoscenti at this year’s Symposium, Competing in a Rapidly Changing Global Wine Market. The economic shock waves of the last 24 months have rocked the wine industry, dragging many of its members, in some cases kicking and screaming … into an era where professional management and greater financial discipline are demanding front row seats alongside the entrepreneurs and artisans that have reigned over the California wine industry

Stronger financial management is overdue in the California wine industry.

Building a bridge between the financial community and the wine industry is one of the founding precepts of the Wine Industry Financial Symposium formed in 1992. Last Monday, I was privileged to lead a 90 minute workshop devoted to Practical Strategies to Improve Cash Flow, in which I shared a few “diamonds in the rough” about how to get more juice into your bank account … and how the California wine businesses can integrate Strategic Finance into their everyday business decision making.

Wine, Wisdom and Stronger Finance. Drink up!

During the preceding From Survival to Prosperity – Strategies for Transition session, (more…)

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Business Finance workshop at the Wine Industry Financial Symposium

For at least 18 years, the Wine Industry Symposium Group, an organization of California wine industry professionals, has held the Wine Industry Financial Symposium to “develop a communications bridge to the financial community.”

This year, I will be conducting a 90 minute workshop to help companies in the wine industry revitalize their free cash flow. Here’s the exact title of the workshop scheduled for Monday, September 20, 2010 at 3:30 p.m. You can find the program and registration details here.


Cash Flow has never been more critical as we face a clouded andunpredictable business landscape. Learn about the power of Strategic Finance and how you can extract cash from your operations and pour the juice into your bank account.

For the wine industry, this event is the kickoff for our Financial Adrenaline series, (more…)

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Congratulations to Benziger Winery

Benziger Winery has been named Business of the Year by the Sonoma Chamber of Commerce. They won the award for outstanding industry contributions and their commitment to the community, something that many of its fans … like me … know well.

Benziger Winery opened its doors in 1980 and is an industry leader in many areas like organic farming and biodynamics, recently receiving the exclusive Growing Green Award from National Resource Defense Council. I have had the pleasure of working with Tim Wallace, the CEO of Benziger, who is a thoughtful leader committed to family and community, and have served with him on several panels addressing issues in the wine industry.

Congratulations to Benziger Winery for the well-deserved accolade. It’s not often that companies committed to family and community also make great products and create raving fans but Benziger continues to delight its customers with wonderful varietals and warm hospitality.


Pricing and Promotion in the Wine Industry

One of my colleagues, Dr. Steven S. Cuellar, Ph. D. and Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at Sonoma State University, has recently published an article entitled “Price, Promotion and Profits” in Wine Business Monthly. It’s an insightful look at the intersection of price, promotion and profit that illustrates the challenges, as well as the the benefits, of understanding the interaction of these variables.