Hiring Consultants: Just Like a Visit from Your Mother-in-Law

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Hiring Consultants: Just Like a Visit from Your Mother-in-Law

A challenge that every business faces is that over the years you can become complacent and accustomed to bad habits that have slowly become the norm. In winery jargon we call this becoming “cellar blind.” To stay competitive and up-to-date on what is new and trendy, hiring a consultant is one of the easiest ways to improve a business.

Slowly, flaws that normally should be avoided in a good wine go undetected. One starts to justify and defend bad practices and even finds good reasons not to spend money on new machinery or barrels. And the very worst is when you fool yourself into thinking – the wine you make is the best wine in the world.

To protect ourselves from this over the last 21 years, we at Wölffer have hired a couple of consultants, and for the last two years, Merliance (a non-profit trade association of Long Island who are producers of quality merlot and merlot-based blends) has hired two brilliant consultants of their own from Bordeaux.

A visit by a consultant can be compared to a visit by a bad mother in law. She will detect every dirty corner in your house, will happily point out your shortcomings, will tell you that she has the better recipe and will let you know the things you have not changedsince her last visit!

All joking aside, there are two types of consultants. The high-flying, celebrity consultants who are great for marketing and PR, and who will be very experienced, but also dominant, fast-paced, and opinionated. They do great justice to the word consultant. Imagine that the “sultan” in consultant stems from the Arabic language - meaning strength, authority, and rulership. This consultant type comes with a high price tag and they want to make their style of wine. 

The other consultant type (and the one I prefer) is also very experienced but more sensitive to the clients’ ideas and to the style of the region. They are not as flamboyant. Still waters (or, should I say, still wines) run deep! These consultants are very sharp and quickly establish vast insider knowledge of what you are and are not doing.

The key is to never get complacent and to always consider looking at your operations (whether they be in the wine industry or anywhere else) with a critical mindset and through another person’s knowledgeable eye. For us vintners, there are so many decisions that affect the taste and style of a wine and each one is an opportunity to make a better wine.

So what’s the moral of the story? Listen to your mother in law, she is usually right!

BONUS: Google University: The End of College As You Know It

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