In Vintner Magazine, we write a lot of stories told from the perspective of owners, general managers and winemakers, but tasting room employees are an important piece of the pie.
They’re often the first person a new customer speaks to when they visit your winery. A good tasting room employee can help a customer fall in love with your wine, and a bad one can lead to a one-and-done experience.
Additionally, they can help provide the owner or general manager with valuable feedback, said Nini Edwards, owner of Harkness Edwards Vineyards in Winchester, Kentucky.
“They have helped us keep going by adding a fresh perspective,” Edwards said. “Their opinions are important as they see things I (the owner) may have missed. I’m constantly asking them how things are going or is there anything I can organize better, usually they answer with genuine good advice.”
What do you look for when you’re growing your tasting room staff? Experience? Energy level?
Edwards said it’s more important who someone is rather than what they know or what they’ve done.
“I hire based on humble and positive personalities,” said Edwards, who said she’s recently made tasting room staff hires. “I can teach my staff anything, but they have to be willing to learn. One of my best salespeople knew nothing about wine when she started, and she’s been a key player in growing our business.”
When taking this approach, communicating effectively is key, as is patience while training.
“I’m very open and honest with my staff if an operation is underdeveloped or needs attention. As mentioned before I take their advice a lot,” Edwards said. “And when I do I give them full credit. I thank them and let them know how important they are to growing our company.”
When the time is right, they can move up.
“I give them many opportunities to show initiative, I like to see who is thinking about the business or who cares enough to come up with solutions,” Edwards said. “My solution seekers are the people I want to rise to the top in my company.”