It’s been a month of big two-day meetings. Normally not a favourite pastime of mine (I'd usually prefer poking around cellars in France – wouldn't anyone?) but this time they were all excellent.
Post Christmas – especially after a really good one for the Company – is the time to plan ahead. In a relatively quiet month, with the Big Months of the year nicely under our belts, we can make bold plans.
‘Recruit lots of wildly imaginative, clever and energetic young people, scatter them around the globe, then drag them back and cram them together in a small room for a couple of days and see what happens’ seems to be CEO Simon's way of working.
Meeting 1. Having all our overseas Laithwaites companies fly home for a week with tales of how they are making a success (with the odd failure – you're not really trying if you don't have failures) in their often very different markets. We got shown loads more wine ideas than last year. They seem to be ramping up exponentially. It’s like nuclear fission. Ideas bounce off each other and multiply fast.
Also, when you're selling US wines to Americans, Australian wines to Aussies, German wines to Germans, they had better be good wines and great deals. Or else. Many of these we can also acquire for the benefit of our UK customers.
It’s not all one way; they've successfully introduced Americans to English sparkling wine! Must try that in Oz!
Meeting 2. Following this, we finally corralled all our buyers in one room for two days and made them stand up and tell us all their recent 'finds'. Then we had a bit of a free-for-all argument on what the best deals were. There were fights. Our buyers are all accomplished linguists and deeply embedded in and passionate about 'their' countries
But … we now have an 'embarras de richesses'. Don't know how we are going to cram all these deals into our already large catalogues. But we'll try. Wine buying in an uncertain world can be very rewarding for the smart, fleet-of-foot, and well-connected wine buyer.
The only thing is the oversupply situation is coming to an end, generally, as cautious producers cut back production. But then … maybe time to try further afield? Next month we've Turkish, Indian, Greek, lots of Portuguese, and even Bulgarian – not been there since the glory days of Bulgarian Cabernet in the late 1970's when we sold little else! (You can read about that trip in my post from 30 March last year.) Lots more like that to come.
Meeting 3. The last pair of days was spent planning the future. Well, trying to. We are looking at our 2020 Vision. Our sons and our youthful team will be leading the charge but Barbara and I have every intention (God willing) of still being well-involved in our business eight years ahead. So we all need to work out, now, roughly, where they are going.
Lots of paper was produced. Not waffly. Concrete ambitions. Tomorrow, I'll try and provide a short version of Laithwaites’ 2020 Vision.