After Raising a Glass, What Should I Do With a Milestone?

All businesses that stay in business achieve milestones.  Since starting Trellis Wine Consulting three and a half years ago, I've been on a fast-paced learning path filled with them -- some more cheerful and inspiring than others.  The first milestones that come to mind include incorporating and registering a mark, getting my first client, getting my first big client, receiving a client's heart-felt thank you note (and wow did that mean so much), achieving a big win for a client, outsourcing some services to enable growth and focus, most recently, hiring a talented colleague and of course, celebrating each anniversary.

Owners and operators in the wine and spirits business go through many of the same milestones. Plus the first harvest, first bottling, achieving press recognition and distribution, hitting the "black" zone of profitability and so much more.  The industry tends to celebrate the big numerical milestones (5, 10, 20, etc.) with fanfare around the anniversary including press releases and parties, which are a well-deserved reward for a job well done and thank you to customers.

Where some brands may fall short is using these anniversary milestones as a catalyst for growth.  Why not think about the strategy for next 10 years while celebrating the last 10?

I am currently in the middle of an engaging research project for a supplier who is using a milestone as an opportunity to consider the company's next steps.  For them I designed a research survey of key stakeholders including internal team, distributor managers, and trade.  Each survey group requires a multi-step process beginning with survey creation and refinement, followed by list development, interviews, coding, analysis and reporting.  The final report will include a full SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and strategic recommendations for growth.

We are studying strategic possibilities, portfolio changes, industry trends, brand awareness, business practices, competitors and more.  For my client, gaining this knowledge will accomplish the following:

* create interest and buy-in given management's need for and desire to change to position the company for growth

* confidentially gather a range of diverse perspectives on the issues facing the company

* provide an organized format for all to voice creative solutions and an opportunity to analyze business and industry trends

* let customers and partners know that their insight is valued and considered -- this is a wonderful way to thank them intrinsically

* serve as a vehicle to reach and interact with the media -- our professional critics

So far, I've provided preliminary reports on the internal and distributor management audiences; my next step is to code and analyze over 500 trade survey response sets -- it's a huge number and double our assertive goals.  And I know it will be full of knowledge for my client and me.

Taking time to pause and consider goals and direction for the future is critically important for any successful business, especially in our industry, where the competition is fierce.

In my next post, I'll discuss best practices for survey design and present a case study to demonstrate how data can be used to position a brand for success.