Guest-blog: Roger Phare – The Jekyll, Hyde and The Executive Director

Roger Phare

As an executive director, how do you powerfully lead your organisation through complex challenges? How do you align your organisation, staff, and board around impact and achieve financial sustainability? As daunting as these questions can seem, they are fundamental executive leadership responsibilities.

In spite of its institutional power, the position of an Executive Director remains an immensely demanding one, and not one that any qualified and capable man or woman will agree to lightly.

We welcome back Roger Phare as our guest blogger who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 37 years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’. Roger have been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organisations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and with integrity.

Roger is going to talk to us about ‘Jekyll, Hyde Associates and the Executive Director’

Thank you Geoff, today I would like to discuss the role of the Executive Director, which can arguably be the most individually challenging and changeable of all Board roles. Not that the responsibilities are any greater or less than Non- Executive counterparts, yet the concept of disassociating the “day job” with the Board role can be tricky and take some fortitude. The Executive director must possess or develop the ability to perform separate roles with separate mindsets; a veritable Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde (and maybe other) set of personas.

The majority of companies start from small beginnings. Friends, family or work colleagues decide to set up in business and likely form a limited liability company. Almost invariably they become shareholders, directors and employees overnight. Generally there will be a leader; a chief executive who, more often than not, will also be elected chairman of the board. The other board members are often generalists, providing input based upon their work role experience.

Confusion can set in as the company grows and more employees are taken on board. This is where the understanding of role demarcation is vital. I recall being an executive director on the board of a growing company some years ago when one of my colleagues, who was head of the technical department as well as an executive director/shareholder, threatened to fire the receptionist for an indiscretion.
The receptionist did not report to this individual but his view was that as a major shareholder and director he had the over-riding power and right to make such decisions. He clearly had confused the roles, effectively merging all three responsibilities into one.

In the board room the need to disassociate the individual roles becomes even more apparent. Recalling that a director’s duty is to represent the medium and long-term interests of the shareholders, the double or triple role can be a major challenge. Let’s say that within a growing goods and services company the head of development, one of the founders and a minority shareholder, also sits on the board as an executive director. As a manager doing his day-to-day job, he has put up a business case to employ a number of new staff members within the development team.

At a board meeting, the annual item regarding profit distribution by way of dividends is discussed. The head of development sees this as an ideal forum to lobby for the approval of the business case. This is not say the overall decision will necessarily be wrong; it is that he has unwittingly brought his managerial role into the boardroom.

Once a company goes public, then the appetite for executive director’s wanes considerably. Most Commonwealth countries operate a unitary system, indicating a balanced mix of executive and non-executive directors. Yet over the past twenty years there has been a push for greater board member independence, with a move towards more non-executive directors. The executive directors are often consigned to the roles of chief executive and possibly head of finance.

Yet are we about to see the return of the executive director on public boards? There is no doubt that the need for up to date subject matter knowledge of industry trends is as much a requirement as expertise around governance and compliance. The need for this has started show itself in the rise of the advisory board; yet this can never replace true in-house expertise.

Perhaps we are about to witness the return of our Henry’s and Edward’s; but this time around improved peer mentoring and coaching maybe the answer.

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn. Roger Phare on LinkedIn or by email: roger phare @ gmail .com (remove all spaces)

Guest-blog: David Priseman – The future of technology in home-care for the elderly

David Priseman

Technology is currently critical to home health care. Future advances in home health care technologies have the potential not only to facilitate the role of home health care within the overall health care system but also to help foster community-based independence for individuals.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, David Priseman, who is an accomplished Executive Director. David had a career in consultancy and banking, including spells abroad with two major European banks and has worked for several years in the field of private equity and alternative finance as well as an advisor to SMEs. He has considerable board experience and currently chairs a mid-sized care home group and is a non-executive director of a small but ambitious technology company. He has a particular interest in how technology can address the challenges of the care sector, which is often slow to adopt innovation.

David is going to discuss with us today the future of technology in home-care for the elderly.

Both councils and families strive to keep the elderly living in their own home for as long as possible. Councils see a simple cost advantage in doing so, whilst families also like the idea that mum (statistically, it is usually mum) can still live at home.

However the reality of a single elderly person living at home on her own can be far from the rosy ideal. There is an alternative image of a harassed care worker rushing into an elderly person’s home, quickly heating up a tin of baked beans then 15 minutes later rushing out of the door. Yet this might be the only contact the person has with anyone until the same or a different care worker rushes by the next day.

Domiciliary care, like residential care, is difficult to provide effectively and profitably. Companies are handing back council care contracts as they cannot operate at the fee levels on offer (1). Staff recruitment and retention is a permanent challenge.

Councils are reluctant or unable to pay more than £15/hour, which is not financially viable for home-care providers, who now have to pay employees a higher minimum wage as well as their travel costs. However it can be viable at £20/hour. With care home costs around the £1,000/week level, half this amount would buy 25 hours of home-care per week. As the number of residential care beds is in slight decline whilst the number of elderly people is projected to rise steeply, this implies that the number of elderly people living at home will also rise. With this could come a significant growth in the self-payer home-care market.

People living at home are exposed to the risk of physical vulnerability, slow and inappropriate care delivery and social isolation. However the recent development of new technologies may in combination significantly improve the social and care experience for such people.

The unpredictability of the number of hours worked together with the short term notice of rotas and sudden changes in rotas are a major cause of high home-care worker turnover (2) and a headache for domiciliary care providers. However a range of competing software and apps have now been developed to mitigate (though not remove) this challenge. This can improve the efficiency of staff scheduling from a provider’s view point, addressing one of the main sources of dissatisfaction of employees whilst also introducing flexibility for the elderly resident.

Many elderly people have traditionally had a regular, perhaps weekly, phone call with their children. Some now conduct this through Sype. In addition, some families have installed a videocam or webcam in their parent’s home, usually in the kitchen or lounge/dining room, so they can see mum. This helps to maintain social contact and give reassurances about mum’s safety and wellbeing.

The development of ‘wearable technology’ should become more widespread. Currently the dominant application is for fitness monitoring during exercise, however it will increasingly move over to healthcare monitoring. This can be a watch or a monitor which is worn as an arm panel or in the future may be embedded in clothing; in all cases it measures certain of the wearer’s vital signs.
At present, these are mostly used in hospitals to reduce the requirement of nurses, of whom there is a well-documented shortage, to conduct routine patient checks. Instead, the data are transmitted to a cloud-based server and if a vital sign reading crosses a warning threshold this immediately signals an alert. In time, these devices will migrate to the residential setting.
This will speed up the awareness and treatment of a wearer’s condition. Major medical devices companies such as Medtronics and GE are active in this area, which has also seen technology start ups enter the market, such as EarlySense and Snap40. (3)

The internet of things (IoT) is rapidly increasing the number of internet-connected devices in the home. This can be used in a number of ways to improve the safety of elderly people living at home. For example, many people get up, go to the toilet, have a cup of tea and open the curtains. Sensors can detect whether or not the toilet has been flushed, the kettle boiled and the curtains opened, and if any of these things has not happened by say 9am then an alert would be triggered. (4)

One of the main problems facing the elderly living alone is loneliness and the lack of contact with others. Here, a combination of technologies is emerging to provide at least a partial solution. Awareness has recently increased of Amazon’s Alexa voice-controlled system which can search the internet, answer questions and respond to simple commands. Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are similar and rival devices.
Owing to improvements in voice recognition and AI, it will increasingly be possible to have an interactive ‘conversation’ with such devices. At some point, it may be possible to combine this with the face of a person on a screen or even a hologram of a person in the room to create the impression that a human is having a conversation with and maybe even developing a relationship with an intelligent machine-based ‘person’.
This idea has been explored in television and film, for example the science-fiction drama Her when a man develops a romantic relationship with his computer’s feminised operating system (5). Soon, it may become reality and even commonplace.

Finally, more than one of these technologies may combine in a way that provides care monitoring, practical assistance and companionship. Developed countries all have aging populations so the need to find solutions is urgent and many companies and universities are conducting research into this area, such as robotics with AI (6). New market opportunities are emerging to integrate and package appropriate technology solutions.

The vulnerable elderly living on their own at home have often been poorly served to date. Yet the number of such people is poised to continue to rise steeply. However a number of technologies are now being developed in parallel to tackle the problems they face. The result may be an improved care environment for the elderly at home: safer, reliable, better supported and less isolated. Such a future could be with us sooner than we think.

You can contact David Priseman on LinkedIn or by email: davidpriseman @ btconnect.com (remove spaces).

References

1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39321579
2. http://timewise.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/1957-Timewise-Caring-by-Design-report-Under-200MB.pdf
3. http://www.earlysense.com/ and http://www.snap40.com/
4. https://www.ibm.com/blogs/internet-of-things/internet-caring/ and https://www.ibm.com/blogs/internet-of-things/elderly-independent-smart-home/
5. http://www.herthemovie.com/#/about
6. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39255244

Guest-blog: Roger Phare – The qualities and experience needed to getting the right advise on the Board

Roger Phare

In the small business world, there is a lot of talk about whether a company should have a Board of Advisors (Advisory Board), and if yes, what the composition of such a group should be. In my time in the small and medium enterprise (SME) world, I have been exposed to and worked with hundreds of companies, a small percentage of which have had a Board of Advisors. Whether having such an advisory group makes sense depends a lot on the business and more importantly, the CEO and senior management team of the business.

In my opinion and I state this with wisdom, one of the smartest growth initiatives a business owner can implement is an advisory board: a hand-selected group of advisors that believe in your leadership, are aligned with your culture and mission, and are committed to your success.

The vast majority of business owners who implement an advisory board fail to see a strong return on investment because they have not followed guidelines to recruiting the right advisors, and have not set them up for success.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Roger Phare, who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 37 years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’. Roger have been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organisations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and with integrity.

Roger is going to talk to us about the qualities and experience needed to getting the right advise on the Board.

Over recent years we have seen the rise of the Advisory Board concept, a trend that reflects the changing nature of modern organisational leadership and governance. Thinking further on this, the obvious question is why? What has changed in public and private Boardrooms to see such a demand for specialist knowledge and expertise?

The answer perhaps dates back some twenty or even thirty plus years. Up until the late eighties board members generally came with experience related to the company’s market or industry, together with all round leadership and business skills. This had largely been the post war formula, in other words Executive or Non-Executive Directors in 1958 had much the same attributes of those in 1988 – then everything changed.

We had Wall Street, Enron and the Sub-Prime less than twenty years apart. Not co-incidentally, this timeframe was paralleled with the rapid rise of business computing and the internet. Ironically, while technology was an enabler for business growth it became an inhibitor for effective all-round board performance. Directors became much more focussed on financial and legal due diligence as the regulators took control. Boards became largely the keepers of compliance and governance, with their members skilled and qualified in these disciplines. So what happened to the much needed advice in areas such organisational structure and market direction?

Enter the Advisory Board, bringing relevant expertise and experience in key strategic areas.

There is perhaps another reason for the rise of the advisor(s) in the boardroom. Casting the mind back to our pre-1988 Director, past industry experience was a key attribute for the senior board member. Being five to ten years away from a hands-on roles was not a major issue – as business and market fundamentals remained consistent. Today key industries are in rapid growth mode that did not even exist five to ten years ago, with “here and now” expertise required.

So Advisory Boards are most likely here to stay and ideally should complement our incumbent NEDs or Exec Directors; the key is find the right balance and consistency.

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn. Roger Phare on LinkedIn or by email: roger phare @ gmail .com (remove all spaces)

Guest blogger Frank Lewis discusses the qualities and experience needed to be a good executive chairman

corp_gov_710x210

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Frank Lewis, who is an accomplished Non-Executive, Executive Director and Chairman, equipped with a commanding track record over the past ten years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to the full business lifecycle from start-ups to success, from flotation to delisting, and in a few cases, to exit. Developed great versatility from dealing with diverse businesses and cultures, nationally and internationally, and acquired significant experience working with rapidly expanding AIM-quoted SMEs. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and integrity.

Frank is going to talk to us about the qualities and experience needed to be a good chairman.

The role of the chairman has become much higher in profile and the expectations have increased as, quite rightly, stakeholders now expect an engaged, energetic and involved chairman who does more than simply manage the corporate governance process.
The success of a chairmanship undoubtedly hinges on the relationship the chairman has with the chief executive, a relationship which should be centred on honesty, trust and transparency. The success of this relationship is based on mutual understanding by both parties of the distinction between their two roles.

Effective chairmen must have an extremely good knowledge of the business they are chairing, they must know enough to ask the right questions, and must provide a constructive level of challenge to the chief executive. One of the main faults of chairmen deemed to be ineffective is their failure to comprehend that they are not there to run the business, and that their role is instead to support and guide. In simple terms, the job of the chairman is to ensure that the business is well run and not to run the business.

There is, however, a fine line to walk between being too involved and being too remote. This means chairmen should devote the appropriate level of time to their roles, which means visiting operations, talking with staff and customers, as well as investors. The best chairmen are able to develop an empathy with the business and engage with its people and issues. But there is no “one-size-fits-all” prescription for an effective chairman. The right level of engagement will vary depending on the company’s stage in the business cycle, competitive environment and the experience of the chief executive.

What ultimately defines a good chairman is the ability to run an effective board and to manage relationships with both shareholders and stakeholders.

The qualities of an outstanding chairman are:
• Charismatic personality.
• Good communicator and listener.
• Clear sense of direction.
• Strategic view – The Big Picture.
• Allow chief executives to get on with their job.
• Good at governance.
• Broad experience.
• Business acumen.
• Able to gain shareholders’ confidence.
• Able to get to the key issues quickly.

The Role of the Chairman in an initial public offering

The appointment of the right chairman is key for a business wishing to IPO. The chairman would greatly enhance the prospects of a successful IPO, by building an effective board and calling on their years of experience to ensure the story a company sells to the market is both compelling and real.

Further, it is the task for the chairman to set the tone at the top and to say what they want the organisation to be, establishing good governance and making sure the business has the right corporate reputation in its community.

In conclusion, a chairman has done their job when the “vision for the business”, as set out and presented in the strategic plan to shareholders and stakeholders, has been achieved.

fl_profile

You can contact Frank Lewis via his website: www.franklewis.co.uk and at: LinkedIn .

Guest blogger, international wine expert Aitor Trabado talks about Port

vino-oporto-2a

Aitor Trabado now concludes his 4th and final wine blog on Port Wine:

Today we will talk about Port wine. I love sweet wines. They come in different ways. We have sweet wines produced leaving the fruit in the plant for a longer time, allowing the water to evaporate thus making the sugar levels higher. Many producers elaborate this kind of wines either with white and red varietals. It comes with the expression “Late Harvest” in the label.

A step further is leaving the fruit in the plant even longer waiting for a fungus to attack the grapes: the botrytis cinerea. The most popular of these wines are the French Sauternes, where we can find Château D’Yquem, whose wines are really sought after and very expensive. In Hungary they produce the Tokaj following the same principle.

Then we have wines made by adding alcohol to stop the fermentation. This provokes the yeast to die due to the action of the alcohol. The remaining sugar that has not been turned into alcohol will give its particular sweet taste. Portugal’s Porto is the best place in the world for this kind of wine. The first notice we have of this wine goes back to the XVII century, when the wine had to be added alcohol to survive its transportation to England by sea due to the wine shortage they had in the island.

Red Port wines use mostly the following grapes: Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional and Tinto Cão.

We can divide the red Port wines into two big groups: those which are aged in oak barrels and those which are aged in bottle.

port-wine-porto

Aged in oak are full bodied, fruity wines with a deep red tonality and dark fruit flavors. We have Port Ruby, aged for two or three years, Port Reserva, a more quality wine, and Port Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) with four to six years in oak.
Then we have Port Tawny, which can be 10, 20, 30 and 40 years old.

The other group is the one aged in bottle. We have here the Port Vintage, the best wine produced in a single vintage. These wines spend two years in the barrels, then more in the bottle. Their longevity due to its quality is the longest one of Port wines. These are the most full bodied, structured Port wines. Not done using grapes of a single vintage is the Port Crusted. They can also age well in bottle.

Finally we have white Port, produced using Malvasía Dourada, Malvasía Fina, Gouveio and Rabigato. They age for two or three years in big oak barrels and we can find them in dry and sweet styles.

Port wineries have traditionally bought grapes to other producers. Still, some of them have their own plots where they cultivate their own grapes. These are called Quintas and when the Port is done with the grapes of one single quinta the name of it appears in the label. Some of the most popular are Quinta de Vargellas of Taylor’s; Quinta da Roêda, of Croft and Quinta do Panascal, de Fonseca.

Some other important producers of Port wines are Niepoort, Graham’s, Cockburns, Sandeman, Dow’s, Ferreira, Quinta do Infantado and Quinta do Noval.

Port is one of the places where the grapes are still pressed by stepping into them, not using press machines.

If you want to enjoy a nice glass of Port wine, serve it with cheese or chocolate, and make sure you sit, relax and share it with a friend. This will be the best way to discover Port.

Aitor Trabado

Twitter: @atrabado
Mi Amigo El Vino – www.miamigoelvino.com

My other posts:
Guest blogger, international wine expert Aitor Trabado
Aitor Trabado talks about Cabernet Sauvignon
Aitor Trabado talks about white wine

Guest blogger, international wine expert Aitor Trabado talks about white wine

Aitor Trabado today talks about white varietals

Last week we talked about the red varietals I like most. This week we will talk about white ones. In any case, I normally prefer a red wine over a white one. I certainly believe in matching wines and food, and I’ve tasted pairings in which flavors of meals and wines are really enhanced by the matching but I also believe that when the company is good, the wine is good and the food is good, there is no way any of it will be spoiled by the, let’s say, mismatch.

For white varietals, I will go with these three: Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Viogner. Both in Mosel, Germany and in Alsace, France you will find great wines made with the first two. Weingut Barzen in Mosel and Domaine Schlumberger in Alsace produce great wines. I love Riesling. It comes in four different levels of sugar, from the dry Trocken to the so sweet Beerenauslese. Barzen makes all of them with great quality.

One Gewürztraminer I love is the one Domaine Schlumberger makes and also a superb sweet one produced in Spain by Gramona, a cava specialist making this Vi De Gel or Ice Wine with this varietal. Incredibly well balanced wine. Also in Northern Spain’s El Bierzo Luna Beberide makes a great Gewürztraminer.

In France you can find great Viogner wines, as it is a French varietal, but one that I really love is produced in Spain. Vallegarcía Viogner, Montes de Toledo-Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla La Mancha. I’ve tasted several vintages of this wine and it is always great.

Lately I’m getting fond of Chenin Blanc, especially that of the Loire Valley. Domaine de Bellivière makes a great one in Les Rosiers. I also have in my tasting queue two Chenin from South Africa.

Northwest Spain is widely recognized by its white wines. It is true that Albariño, the varietal found in Rías Baixas, produces a great wine. For my taste, it’s a bit too acid, though from time to time I enjoy a bottle of Albariño. Terras Gauda, Pazo de Señorans or Mar de Frades are good Albariños.

white

Near the border with Portugal there is a small area within Rías Baixas named O Rosal. A great wine with Loureiro varietal is produced here; Dávila L-100 by small winery Valmiñor is a superb white wine.

Near Rías Baixas we find two more Dos: Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei. Another two varietals here, Treixadura and especially Godello, are really great. Vega de Lucia de Bodegas Gerardo Méndez and Guitián produce fruity Godellos. Bodegas Gerardo Méndez is one of those small wineries that you can enjoy discovering for the quality of its wines.

I also love Cava and Champagne. Cava is produced by the millions in the Penedès region of Catalonia. They traditionally use a coupage of three different varietals: Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Perallada. Lately we can find cavas produced with Pinot Noir such as Juvè & Camps Pinot Noir Brut Rosé or Gramona Brut Pinot Noir. Gramona also produces Mas Escorpi, a cava using Chardonnay 100%.

Our French neighbors and their Champagne. I really love Champagne. I’ve tasted lots of them, from the mainstream ones to small producers ones. My favorites are Pol Roger Reserve and Bollinger Special Cuvée. Pol Roger is also known because of its relationship with Sir Winston Churchill. Back in his days he was so fond of this winery that he used to store cases of it and he built a strong connection with them. Therefore, they have a special cuvee since then called Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill Cuvée for an average of 200 euro.

The varietals most used for Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier.

Aitor Trabado

Twitter: @atrabado
Mi Amigo El Vino – www.miamigoelvino.com

My other posts:
Guest blogger, international wine expert Aitor Trabado
Aitor Trabado talks about Cabernet Sauvignon
Aitor Trabado talks about Port

Guest blogger, international wine expert Aitor Trabado talks about Cabernet Sauvignon

red-cabernet-sauvignon-food-520x245

This week we will talk a bit about my favourite grape varietals. There are hundreds of different varietals around the world. As you can imagine, the same grape works in different ways according to where it grows. We can love the Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa and it will be different from a Cab planted in Lebanon. Of course, each varietal has a soul that reflects its own nature but the soil will give the grape its particular character.

Isn’t it good that each varietal has a particular wine region where it gives the best of it? Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux and Napa Valley, Merlot in Bordeaux, Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley, Tempranillo in Rioja, Tinta Fina in Ribera de Duero, Pinot Noir in Bourgogne and Oregon/Washington, Carmenere in Chile, Cabernet Franc in Argentina, Nebbiolo in Barolo, Sangiovese in Toscana, Sauvignon Blanc in Australia, Riesling in Mosel and Alsace, Chardonnay in Champagne, Syrah in Rhone just to name a few. Does this mean we cannot find a good Tempranillo somewhere else? Absolutely not. But one great thing about wine is that producers find the best varietal for their soil and they explore all its characteristics to make superb wines.

As you go tasting and discovering new wines, you will adjust your palate to it. You will discover which wines you appreciate more and which ones best adapt to your taste. In an ideal world you would be able to find your favorite wines in the same shop at a similar price, but unfortunately this place doesn’t exist. I know there are many websites for you to get those wines, but shipping costs and custom taxes make a bit hard to buy wine in distant countries.

In this ideal world, I would buy my Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. In the Left Bank of the Garonne River in Bordeaux they make some of the best and most expensive Cabs in the world. Still, I love the Californian ones. The truth is I’ve tasted more from Napa rather than from Bordeaux, and I love the body the Americans give to their wines. One of my favorites comes from Beringer Vineyards. The 1997 was an extremely delicious wine. I still treasure one bottle of that vintage. Some other ones that I love are the Ridge Monte Bello, the Caymus Special Selection and Mayacamas.

Napa also offers a great Zinfandel. And with this varietal there is one king and one king only for me: Turley Vineyards. They produce different Zinfandels across California, but the Dusi Zinfandel is perfection in a bottle for me.

If we talk about Merlot, we can talk about the Right Bank of Bordeaux. The small village of St. Emilion has almost more wineries around than population. Merlot here is found in single varietals or assembled with Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. I recently discovered a good one at an affordable rate, Château Carteau. If you want to invest your long working hours on wineries in the surroundings, you will find Château Le Pin, Château Cheval Blanc or Château Petrus to name a few. But there are more wineries with great wines without needing to assault our bank account.

cab

Outside France I love one Spanish Merlot. Jean Leon Merlot, in Penedès. This is probably the wine I have tasted more different vintages and it is always great. I still remember 2001 as a perfect year. 2004 was also an incredibly great wine.

Being Spanish, I cannot neglect some of the best Spanish wines. We have here 65 different Denominations (DOs). We have so many excellent wines in every one of them. Still, for the wines that I love, I will talk about two of them: Ribera De Duero and Priorat. In both DOs you can find great wines ranging from 6 euro to 1000 euro. But you can enjoy superb wines at affordable prices. In Ribera, I love Pago de los Capellanes, Emilio Moro and Viña Sastre, every wine they produce. There are so many wineries producing highly rated wines that I can recite here, such as Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Hacienda Monasterio or Pago de Carraovejas, and lesser known winemakers such as Teófilo Reyes or Ascension Repiso to mention a few, but the ones I mentioned first offer incredibly sublime wines ranging 15-40 euro. Any of those wines make me look in awe at my glass while I drink them.

In Priorat we can find high-end wines like L’Ermita by Álvaro Palacios, ranging around 800-1000 euro, but also great affordable wines such Finca La Planeta by Pasanau Germans and Les Terrases also by Álvaro Palacios, for less than 30 euro. Clos Martinet or Clos Dominic’s Vinyes Vielles for around 40 or Clos Mogador around 60 euro. Great wines produced with coupages using Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.

In France, besides the ever popular Bordeaux wines assembling Cabernet Sauvignon in the Left Bank and Merlot in the Right Bank with some Cabernet Franc, I’ve become in love with Pinot Noir from Burgundy. I am still beginning exploring the region, but the smoothness of their wines is absolutely great. Again, we can find bottles of wine more expensive than a sports car like the Domaine de la Romanèe Conti, but also great wines for less than 50 euro that will delight our palates. Paul Jaboulet, M. Chapoutier, Bouchard Père e Fills or Louis Jadot produce many different wines from the ample array of Denominations we can find in Bourgogne.

Finally, what to say about Italy? This country deserves many entries in this blog and we will discuss Italian wines in the future. But for now we will mention Nebbiolo from Northern Barolos and Barbarescos, and Sangiovese from Central Tuscan DOs as Brunello Di Montalcino, Super Toscanos and Chianti. I love Italian wines and there are so many of them we can enjoy along with our meals or on their own.

Next week we will talk about white varietals.

Aitor Trabado

Twitter: @atrabado
Mi Amigo El Vino – www.miamigoelvino.com

My other posts:
Guest blogger, international wine expert Aitor Trabado
Aitor Trabado talks about white wine
Aitor Trabado talks about Port

Guest blogger, international wine expert Aitor Trabado

vintagewine2

Most of you know that I have travelled to vineyards across the world: South Africa, United States of America, France, Germany, South America, Portugal, Italy, Greece and as the famous quote states by Naomi Watts:

“I always love being in the company of friends. It’s all about good conversation and great wine.”

I thought it appropriate for all you wine-lovers to have some coverage on the subject of wine.
It is my delight to introduce a guest blogger, Aitor Trabado. Aitor is a wine connoisseur, wine spectator expert, and writer. He lives in Bilbao – Spain amongst some of the most impressive Rioja wines of the world. They use the impressive Tempranillo, Viura, Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, Mazuelo, Macabeo and Garnacha grapes, which is also used around the world. I will be visiting Aitor in August and September for a full tour of the region, tasting some of the world’s finest wine.

So that you understand Rioja [ˈrjoxa] is a wine region in Spain, with Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.C – a. Qualified designation of origin). Rioja is made from grapes grown in the Autonomous Community of La Rioja, Navarre and the Basque province of Álava. Rioja is further subdivided into three zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. Many wines have traditionally blended fruit from all three regions though there is a slow growth in single-zone wines.

Without further ado, here is Aitor!

Aitor Trabado

Good morning. My name is Aitor Trabado and I’ve been honored by Geoff’s asking me to post a weekly wine blog. I’m a wine enthusiast from Spain and I will try to share some thoughts with you about what I like about wine, wineries and wine tourism. I will write for the layman, not using those terms you can see in some specialized magazine that sound too pompous for the profane.

In my first entry I would like to talk about some of the wine denominations I most like. For that I will tell you first how I like my wines. Few years ago I liked a lot when wines were full bodied and strong. Now my taste has evolved towards more structured and less powerful wine. I still like strong wines, but they need to be very special for that. We will talk about those wines in upcoming entries.

I like to taste different wines. Obviously I have my favorite ones and though in the past I used to buy wine by cases, nowadays I prefer to buy two bottles tops, and keep on tasting more wines. I like to buy wines that may surprise me, wines that talk to me rather than wines that always taste the same no matter the harvest was done in a rainy year or a dry year. Recently I heard one joke about that. A group of winemakers were deciding who the best winemaker of Spain was. And one said the winemaker of this particular winery. When asked for the reason, which was partly joke, he said that this winemaker was able to put together one million bottles every year, and no matter rain, sun or snow, the wine always tasted the same. Well, these are the wines I run away from, those mainstream wines that never vary.

I like wines that are different year in and year out. Wines that show the personality of the winemaker and the character of the terroir. I’m not able to discern whether a year was dry or rainy, or the sea was close to the winery or not, but hey, that’s why the wine courses are and I’m enrolled in one to be done later in the year.

I like vertical tastings, when you taste different vintages of the same wine. There you truly appreciate the differences and the hard work the winemaker and everyone else in the winery do every year. It is amazing that one year the wine can be full bodied and well-structured and with lots of fruit, and the next year the same wine, the same terroir, the same grapevine can offer a completely different wine. I’ve been able to do vertical tastings several times and it gives a good insight of how live a wine is and how difficult is the job in a winery.

If you are a wino like me, or you would like to get into the wine world, my advice is that you taste as many wines as you can. This is the best way to identify which wines you like and which wine you don’t. And then you will educate your tasting buds to identify flavors in your wine glass.

Your taste will evolve for sure with the passing of years. Or maybe not, and you stick to the same wine once and again. I hope not, as there are so many great wines everywhere in the world just to always drink the same one. In any case, try to taste wines from different countries, from different areas, different grape varietals. You will find great wines for a few euro or dollars or pounds, there is no need to always to hot top end wines in the shop shelves. There is also a pleasure on finding this particularly good wine from a small winery at a great price. Of course sometimes it is safe to bet on the 25 euro wine, but many times you will find really good wines where you less expect it.

Aitor Trabado

Twitter: @atrabado
Mi Amigo El Vino – www.miamigoelvino.com

My other posts:
Aitor Trabado talks about Cabernet Sauvignon
Aitor Trabado talks about white wine
Aitor Trabado talks about Port

Guest blogger Mark Herbert discusses Building Relationships

handshake isolated on business background
This weeks blog is a guest blog:

I would like to introduce my business partner in the US, Mark Herbert (LinkedIn). Mark has over 30 years of combined corporate management and consulting experience in industries, ranging from high technology and financial services to healthcare and eco-tourism. His most recent corporate role was as Chief Operating/Relationship Officer for one of Oregon’s largest credit unions.

Mark is a Principal for New Paradigms LLC (www.newparadigmsllc.com), a management consultancy specializing in helping organisations effectively and successfully embrace change and engages their workforces.

Mark and I often discuss many subjects around leadership, trust and this week, Mark discusses building relationships.

I don’t know about you, but I have found that one of the longest journeys I have ever taken is that journey of introspection when I have faced significant milestones in my career and life and had to determine which path to take as I approached the crossroad.
As a child who was often ill I got the opportunity to spend a lot of time in my own company, much of it in hospitals and a good deal of the time away from pediatric wards. For much of my adolescence the effects of my health conditions followed me. I didn’t get the opportunity to enjoy some of the normal activities that kids do like little league, pee wee football, etc until much later. Even then I wasn’t terribly athletically gifted or inclined.
I did become very good at observing people. When you are a child late at night in a hospital you become part of the surrounding infrastructure. People carry on conversations and interactions as if you weren’t there. They aren’t being rude; they just kind of forget you are there.
I loved the Mary Stewart trilogy about Merlin and Arthur as child as well. I could especially relate to Merlin. As the bastard son of an unknown father Merlin became an observer. He was not destined to be a warrior like his cousins and though later it was determined that he had a legitimate claim on the throne he recognized that it was his destiny to advise kings rather than occupy the throne personally.
That is a persona that I have co-opted for myself. I advise kings and princes, but I have little interest in occupying the throne myself.

Mark Herbert - Paradigm LLC

The dark side of that observational ability is you see people hurt and flinch where others miss it.
This week I got to see that play out several times. I don’t manage to see it purely as an observer; unfortunately for me I feel their hurt as well.
In one case it played in my own family. We are an interesting group. To a large extent my father had an enormous gift of self confidence. He never seemed to doubt himself or his opinions. In an interesting paradox he was very sensitive to his own feelings, but almost oblivious to the feelings of others. He wasn’t intentionally cold or unkind, he just didn’t relate to being wounded by a word or action.
That kind of set the tone in my family. In many ways we are quite gifted. We have all enjoyed great success professionally. We also find ourselves enormously competitive and to an extent guarded. In my family you rarely if ever reveal your feelings, especially if you feel slighted or hurt – that reveals weakness.
My choice of profession and how I practice it still remains an enigma to my immediate family. To create space for myself, I moved away for several decades, so to my nieces and nephews I think I represent a bit of a stranger. My family is proud of my professional accomplishments; they just don’t entirely get me.
Even though I am kind of an outsider when one of them hurts the other, I feel it vicariously, as if I was the recipient.

In another situation I have a colleague who is a true philanthropist, not by profession, but by vocation. He works in an organization where his role as chief philanthropical officer is taking on increased importance to the sponsoring organization. He and I have spent the last many months trying to create a new philanthropic vision for the organization, defining philanthropy not as a transaction or simply a charitable contribution, but rather an investment in critical societal infrastructure.
It is a bold vision and creating a model where there is room for the grateful donor, the philanthropist, and the philanthropical investor is an interesting challenge.
As a gifted development professional he also lives in the world of relationships rather than transactions. This can be difficult when the sponsoring organization feels the tyranny of the urgent. They want dollars, cash dollars and optimally the sooner the better. Building the bridge between donor and recipient can be a time consuming process. Sometimes your initiatives don’t resonate with the donor base. Sometimes the focus of the donor doesn’t fit into the strategy of the organization. Trying to bring the parties together is not easy or simple.

In the third situation I have a dear friend who is on her own journey. She is a wife and a mother, but she also has goals and dreams about creating her own business that she has put on hold for a number of years. She is at the point now where she would like to be able to balance the investment of her passion and energy into her goals as well as her commitments.

Like in most relationships this changes the status quo. The other parties in our lives often don’t see anything as broken. They assume that those ideas and notions we had when we are young will just go away, especially if they were not the ones who had to subordinate their goals.

The common thread to me in all this is the importance and power of relationships.
I believe that the ability to build and sustain relationships is the key attribute that ultimately defines individual and organizational success and is the most important dimension of effective leadership.

As a former human resources professional and now a management consultant I speak and write on this topic frequently, maybe even obsessively.
This week I watched the stock market plunge because Congress and the President could forge a meaningful compromise without a deadline looming down on them.

Employee dissatisfaction with their jobs is at historical highs, and nine out of ten Americans in a recent survey expressed distrust for the senior management of the organization they work for – nine out of ten!

If you ask: does that matter, I would submit it does.

• Studies show that 40% of new or newly assigned managers and executives fail within the first 18 months of their assignment with the key reason not being ‘technical competency’, but rather the ‘inability to build effective relationships’.
• The Department of Labor estimates that employee turnover costs the U.S. economy close to $3 trillion annually.
• Presenteeism, the phenomenon where people show up to work, but fail to engage represents another $200 billion of leakage.
• U.S. organizations spend an estimated $100 billion on training annually. Studies indicate that the knowledge transfer after 24 months is less than 10%.
• Health care delivery costs us 12% of our GDP in 2010 with a substantial portion (approaching 20%) directly or indirectly related to depression, stress, substance abuse, accidents and injuries and other factors that deal with environmental factors like job dissatisfaction and anxiety about economic and emotional security.
• In 2010 the average compensation of the C suite went up 32% while the average compensation for regular workers went up 2%. Unemployment remains over 9%.

Outsourcing, lean systems, and trickle-down economics are not going to solve this problem.
There is no such thing as human capital: there are only people and relationships. Perhaps the sooner we recognize that and start our journey to build relationships based on mutual trust, respect and personal competency, the sooner we can arrive at a much better place….

The Value of LinkedIn Connections

One of the issues that Geoff highlights on his blog is the importance of networking and listening to new voices. One of the platforms that he uses to meet new people is LinkedIn.

Many of us connect in the virtual world of LinkedIn first. When we find a common ground we try to meet in life.

LinkedIn is a treasure trove for making connections and expanding your network. Many people may just use it to have a public resume online they can refer to for work related matters. This is a very limited and static use of a dynamic platform. Others use LinkedIn’s full potential by updating their profile regularly, post on the home feed and commenting on posts from others, and they are active in groups.

If you wish to get the most out of LinkedIn and need a little help, you need to connect with James Potter. James is an expert at helping people, directors, CEO’s & corporates turn LinkedIn into the success they seek, be it sales, new business or new projects using LinkedIn.

And to prove that Geoff means what he says: we met on LinkedIn. We stayed in touch through the groups and when my travels took me to the UK, Geoff took the day off to meet me at my conference in London. True networking!