Book: From Bubbles to Boardrooms : Startups are Such Fun
Author: Michaela Rodeno, Retired CEO of Domaine Chandon and St. Supéry
If you’re like me, you snap up your Christmas gifts all the year long, as you see them. I’ve already ordered several copies of this new book for my wine loving friends, and for my entrepreneurial ones as well.
Michaela Rodeno is a retired CEO who was involved with the startups of two Napa Valley wineries you may know: Domaine Chandon and St. Supéry. This is her personal memoir. The book packs a triple punch: it’s all about wine, it’s full of sage business advice, and it’s an engaging tale about a woman making it to the top in all-male territory. Her experience rising to a CEO position in the wine industry is full of rich nuggets of career advice, for anyone in business who is chasing success.
LM: It sounds awfully glamorous to be a Napa Valley wine CEO.
.Michaela Rodeno: That’s what people think. Actually, most people think just being in the wine business is glamorous. And French connections invoke glamor more than Napa farming, non? Add bubbles, and they’re certain you’re having more fun then they are. It’s hard to get people to believe that it really is a business.
LM: You were a serial entrepreneur, having been involved in 3 start-ups. What advice would you give to those with high ambitions?
MR: First, startups are really fun. There is everything to be done, to create, and the work is pretty exhilarating because you’re learning so much. Just remember that it’s less stressful if you have strong financial backing, assuming you want to grow the business. That said, a tiny enterprise with no/limited growth aspirations like Villa Ragazzi can be successful nowadays at very low expense with just sweat equity and the (mostly free) internet. Bref, learn how to be an entrepreneur with someone else’s money first.
Second, and this is VERY IMPORTANT, don’t be afraid to speak up when you (finally realize) you want something specific. No one can read your mind; besides, they’re too busy thinking about themselves to bother about your hopes and dreams. Make it easy for your boss: tell him/her what you want and how it benefits the organization as well.
Third, if you’re not finding the opportunities you want, move on. (The Millennials have this one figured out already.)
Fourth, if you’re bored at work, move on to the next promising opportunity.
Fifth, don’t run away from problems; try to solve them. The only good reason for leaving a job is to go to a better one.
Sixth, it’s easier to become bored if you’ve lived through the heady experience of a startup; that’s why so many company founders aren’t very good executives once the business is established. Different skill set. It’s OK to be a manager rather than a leader, there’s a role for both in all businesses. Just figure out which you are or want to be and go for it.
Seventh, hire smart people and give them the freedom to use their brains to contribute to the organization. Don’t micromanage! The trick is to keep everyone going in the same direction, within quasi-flexible guide rails.
I think I better stop here, I’m beginning to sound like Chairman Mom.
LM: Are there more women in the wine industry now, and is it easier for women to get ahead?
MR: The California wine industry is pretty female-friendly compared to older industries and professions. There are still way too few women at the very top. The low representation at the top should, in my opinion, change as it’s not for lack of capability. Interestingly, one company was specifically looking for a woman to be the CEO of what would become a large wine enterprise because he was “tired of the big egos” in the male wine community. Maybe the tide is turning?
The Book: Available at Amazon.com From Bubbles to Boardrooms : Startups are Such Fun
Website: Villa Ragazzi Wine
Facebook: Michaela Rodeno
Lynn McBride is from Charleston, South Carolina, where she worked for ten years as a regional editor and stylist for Better Homes & Gardens and Traditional Home Magazines. Eight years ago she and her husband moved into a medieval château in southern Burgundy. She now produces articles for European magazines as well as writing her own blog about her expat-French life at Southern Fried French. The blog is part travelogue, part cookbook, part French lesson, plus stories about the marvelous, maddening, and always entertaining French.