Saturday, December 9, 2006

Is a business quest in the wine business pure folly?

A few months ago I wrote a post about the business quest of a couple of friends in Germany in the  incredibly challenging industry of wine. I was lucky to be a witness and sometimes a bit of a facilitator of the process they followed to set-up their business. More than a year after we had our first informal chat about their "wine project", Markus and Claudia already have some nice accomplishments under their belt.
I think the program they launched to offer bonds (whose capital and interests are paid in the form of a share of future wine production) was one of the most fun and original ways to get (limited) finance for investing in a filtering machine (picture posted here). Since my company is the proud owner of a few of those shares, I had the privilege of receiving a nice message telling me what the money had been used for and what use a filtering machine was in their production process.
Last September their second harvest and grape pressing took place and I can tell from their messages they enjoyed every bit of the tough work they did to achieve that.
To them, this business was not a choice considered in front of a BCG strategic matrix after an MBA class, nor was it something they decided to do to become millionaires. They decided to go into wine simply because they love the product, they love their region and they love to share with other people the good products that come out of the land of the beautiful Mosel region. So I guess their recipe for launching this project is the following:

project launch = (love)³

In fact, Markus and Claudia are applying something Steve Jobs suggested to the graduates of Stanford as you will see by watching the video in the previous post: do something you love, live your life, not someone else's life.
Over the past year, they both did an awful lot of work to train and become certified wine producers, to get adequate land, make decisions about density of plants, organise harvesting and production... And there are two areas in which they placed particular focus:

  1. the design of a product that would meet their heartfelt aspiration for allying a fine tradition dating back several generations in their family and meaningful innovation

  2. marketing and communication for their business and for their products.

I did some work with them to help clarify the concept and the key messages. My input was really minimal and the execution is their accomplishment (IMHO execution is worth 80% of the endeavor). To do that in an efficient way, I used a great tool that makes it possible to create concept maps and it's quite powerful. I am attaching an example of a concept map we drafted for the Jostock-Buelhoff winery's communication. Concept maps and mind maps (Freemind is my tool) are actually the two tings that keep my work relatively clean and help me communicate a lot of information to customers in as few pages as possible.


  1. why would a companie choose to work through intermediaries when selling products to another country?

  2. Thank you for your comment Dylene.
    It's very difficult if not outright impossible for me to state so generally whether a company should or should not use intermediaries when doing business abroad. I guess it all depends on the nature of the products and services being offered and on the practical constraints of the local market... Actually, this topic has been very hot in academic research over the past decade or so as the advent of the Internet was seen as a threat to intermediaries in many sectors of the economy and there's an interesting paper at this URL:

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