The Grapevine

Your Wine Shop’s Most Valuable Asset

September 17th, 2013

We’ve been reading recently about Wally’s Wine & Spirits launching an auction division to complement their LA-based retail operation. Most of the press hasn’t gotten too deeply into the behind-the-scenes intrigue, but in a nutshell, the new leadership team at Wally’s Wine Auctions has basically been lifted wholesale from Zachys auction division in New York.

That’s obviously a blow to Zachy’s; time will tell how deep the damage cuts.

And though most of us don’t have more than a small handful of employees, if that, it’s good to remember that those people – including yourself, if you work on the sales floor of the shop – are your most valuable asset. You should treat them that way.

Your staff are so important because they’re the ones who spend the most time listening to your customers. In fact, there are times when an employee is going to get more information from customers than you could as the shop’s owner. (This is particularly true if you’ve done a great job of personalizing your service and have strong relationships with your customers. They may feel uncomfortable giving you negative feedback, whether on price or selection or the state of the shop.)

So, what does that mean for small wine shops?

  • Choose your staff wisely. Decide what’s important and build around the strengths you hire for, whether that’s retail experience, wine knowledge or a winning attitude. (Don’t laugh; there are many major retail chains that know they can teach skills and knowledge, but a genuine smile and love of helping people is tough to fake.)
  • Invest in your staff. See above. Especially if you hire for attitude. Give them the tools to do their job well. Yup, you might lose them to a competitor, as Zachy’s just has. But remember that the only thing worse than training employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.
  • Compensation is only part of the package. Pay fairly, but don’t think you’re going to keep people happy with fatter paychecks alone. A pleasant work environment, the ability to have their ideas considered, the power to make some decisions on their own … these things all contribute to job satisfaction.

If you can build an attractive shop environment, not only will you have happier employees who are unlikely to leave you for a competing shop, but those employees are going to make your customers happy. And that means higher profits for you.