Creating a Culture of Collaboration

Tasting Room Traffic is Down” or “Ecommerce Lowest Since 2019” or “Wine Club Attrition at All Time High” – these are not subject lines we’re unfamiliar with lately. There is a lot of doom and gloom being reported highlighting downward trends. However, as an industry, we’re prevailing and seeing a lot of positives within and collectively with the individual DTC channels.

Now, more than ever, is the time to break down silos in winery DTC channels. If we are going to survive, let alone thrive, we need to work together. The adage “when the tide rises, all boats rise” has never been truer. This applies to inter-winery, intra-winery, and within the larger communities to which we belong.

Often, there are deep-seated territory fights within a single winery, otherwise known as ‘The Channel Wars’. It may be from competing priorities, a fight for resources or attention of senior leadership, or from a personality conflict between managers. There are many wineries where channels are so siloed and running their own programs that they miss critical opportunities and efficiencies that could move the needle for the whole business if they were just on the same page.

Breaking Down the Internal Silos
How does that wall get broken down? By coming to agreement that it is One Team, One Dream – that we are all on the same team. While it is ideal to start at the top of the organization, that may not be the reality, and sometimes it needs to begin with front line employees – or their managers – working together. Having two or three channels collaborate Vision, Mission, and Goals is better than rowing in different directions, but again, ideally this would happen at the top of the organization and permeate throughout.

Overcoming siloed channels within a winery is crucial for promoting collaboration, efficiency, and innovation.

  • Create Cross-Functional Teams, Team-Building Activities, and/or Cross-Training: Encourage employees from different channels to work together on projects. Organize events and activities that bring employees from different channels together. Encourage employees to learn about other channels. These all promote understanding of each other’s roles and facilitate collaboration.
  • Encourage Transparent Communication & Collaboration Tools: Establish clear networks for communication across channels. Use technology to facilitate collaboration, such as project management software, shared calendars, and instant messaging platforms. Use tools like shared platforms and regular meetings to keep everyone informed.
  • Exemplify Leadership Support: As leaders we should be actively promoting a culture of collaboration. We can set an example by working across channels themselves and highlighting the benefits of cooperation. Align channel goals with overall company objectives. When everyone is working towards a common purpose, silos are less likely to form.
  • Shared Goals and Objectives with Incentives: Align channel goals with overall company objectives. When channels understand how their work contributes to the bigger picture, they are more likely to collaborate…and if we reward them? People respect what we inspect, so establish KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that are shared across channels then celebrate/recognize/reward successful collaborations to encourage more of such behavior.

Industry Regional Silos
While the poet Frost may have said “Good fences make good neighbors”, it was originally penned in 1640 by E. Rogers and went on to say: ‘A good fence helpeth to keepe peace between neighbours; but let us take heed that we make not a high stone wall, to keepe vs from meeting.’ Intra-winery communication is imperative to regional growth. Comparing metrics (like using Community Benchmarks or other benchmarking tools is like meeting over the fence and can help neighbors thrive. One clever application of this mindset is “Try January” to combat a slower season and the Dry January moment. This is where wineries joined together, created a cobranded piece of collateral, and promoted each other’s tasting rooms to their members. Members were invited to taste complimentary at other wineries during a traditionally slower season. It was a win-win for all wineries involved, by driving qualified traffic, and promoting the region overall.

There is fierce competition to attract qualified guests to wine regions. Within the last decade there have been many emerging destinations that are learning to work together faster than prior regions. We know through economic impact reports that wine-industry-driven tourism is significant and can provide a quality of life for all residents that may not exist otherwise. Within that, however, there can be competing agendas, like “heads in beds” (hotels) compared to “cheeks in seats” (restaurants), and taxes levied may favor one agenda over another. Wise regions embrace the tide rising together and seek a cohesive message out to the broader world about driving traffic. Key winery personnel need to have a seat at that table by getting involved in local tourism bureaus. Is there a “wine release” season that wineries can leverage that coincide with slow periods for hotels? Can lodging, dining, and winery experience packages be created to drive tourism? Can funds be used to leverage public relations efforts and help the tide?

May the ‘Cup’ Runneth Over
Beyond the drama and negative energy around The Channel Wars, there are more reasons to overcome silos.

  • Improved Efficiency, Cost Savings & Increased Employee Engagement: Silos often lead to duplication of efforts. Breaking them down streamlines processes and eliminates redundant work and can save costs. Employees feel more engaged and valued when they can see the impact of their work across the organization. Collaboration fosters a sense of belonging and purpose.
  • Enhanced Innovation, Better Problem Solving & Adaptability: Collaboration across channels brings diverse perspectives together, sparking creativity, innovation and solving complex problems more effectively. Different viewpoints with the different skill sets can lead to breakthrough ideas and solutions. In a rapidly changing business environment, wineries with integrated channels are more adaptable. They can respond quickly to market changes and opportunities – like lean on phone sales when traffic is slow or lean on tasting room when ecommerce is down.
  • Enhanced Customer Experience: Channels working in silos can result in a disjointed customer experience. Breaking down silos ensures a seamless and consistent experience for customers and guests. Our guests have one relationship with a brand – not per channel. We need to ensure we give them that seamless experience.

The Culture of Collaboration boils down to one key idea…One Team, One Dream. Whether it is for the individual winery, the collective wine road, or the local hospitality industry at large. What can we do more of to create this culture?