An evening with Mark

A great wine!
A great wine!

My recent visit to Oregon became even more interesting when Mark and his wife Jackie introduced me to their wine cellar and the local Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is one of the oldest grape varieties used for making wine. Ancient Romans knew this grape as Helvenacia Minor and vinified it as early as the first century AD. It is recognized worldwide as a great wine grape.

We visited several vineyards whilst in Oregon, in particular the Abecela vineyard which is renowned for winning gold awards for its wine. It was clear that Pinot Noir is also one of the more difficult wines to ferment. Partly due to the presence of 18 amino acids, which are naturally balanced in this variety, Pinot Noir ferments violently, often “boiling” up and out of its container, speeding the process out of control.

Colour retention is a major problem for the thin-skinned berries. Pinot is very prone to acetification and often loses the sometimes promising aromas and flavours it seems to display through fermentation and aging, as soon as it is bottled.

There is one part in which Pinot Noir seems naturally quite rich, three to four times higher compared to other varieties, especially when it is grown in cooler and more humid climates: resveratrol. While this may not affect the aspects of sensory enjoyment, it may draw the attention of health-conscious consumers.

Great wine, great company!
Great wine, great company!

Apart from enjoying Mark’s and Jackie’s amazing company in the beauty of Oregon, I could not help but think about the wine process which lead me on to the process of ideas, preparation, design and development, implementation and execution of a strategic plan.

The very nature of adverse variables in a the execution and delivery of a good wine is very similar to that of a new product or business. There is an entrepreneurial quote by Eric Ries that states “I would say, as an entrepreneur everything you do – every action you take in product development, in marketing, every conversation you have, everything you do – is an experiment. If you can conceptualize your work not as building features, not as launching campaigns, but as running experiments, you can get radically more done with less effort.”

Which lead me on to a more meaningful discussion around strategic planning and why you need a strategic plan.

Developing strategy takes time and resources. It requires the time and commitment of some of the most highly paid and highly experienced people in your organisation. So, if your team is not willing to invest what is needed, I recommend that you do not do it. Poor planning is often worse than no planning at all.

So, why do you need a strategy?

Why take time for planning?

Just like a great wine, strategic planning takes time, energy, and a focused effort to coordinate the actions of people and groups whether their number is 5, 50, 500, or 1,500. The ultimate goal for a strategic plan is to enable your team to focus on a small set of desirable, clearly articulated outcomes to produce desired results. After all, if the team doesn’t know the vision or direction, how can they stay engaged?

Entrepreneurs don’t usually start out with strategic plans because their internal drive for success is so powerful, so compelling, and so motivating. It’s usually everyone else who needs the plan. But make no mistake, leaders benefits from having a carefully crafted plan as well. Strategic planning with the major decision makers and managers in your company allows an entrepreneur – even one who has never needed a strategic plan before – to gain the following benefits:

  • New insights from other peoples’ perspectives
  • Identification of the challenges as your best thinkers see them
  • New ways of thinking about old problems
  • Alternatives beyond the resources the entrepreneur has traditionally brought to bear
  • Training benefits. In fact, strategic planning is one of the absolute best training tools for getting next generation family business leaders up to speed
  • Buy-in from others on the team
  • A sharpened focus on critical success factors for pushing the company forward
  • Analysis from others’ perspectives on the feasibilities of new goals and objectives
  • Identification of challenges and barriers

The biggest benefit of strategic planning comes from the actual process itself. It is executing the process which drives everything else; even the final planning document itself is less important than the “all for one, one for all” process of thinking through the strategies.

So just like an excellently fermented Pinot Noir wine, without the plan, engagement, the process and the capital resources, and performance improvement, the chances are it could fail.

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