I am lucky enough to live in upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region, known for producing some of the country’s (and the world’s) best wines, especially those varietals that excel in cooler climates like Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and ice wine.
As spring finally began to emerge this past week, it got me thinking about the winemaking process. Although I am a happy consumer of wine, particularly vinifera reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Pinot Noir, I know very little about the wine-making process. So, I did a little research.
As it turns out, the best wine comes from the heartiest grapes— those able to flourish under the most challenging conditions. Vines with ready access to water and nutrient-rich soil tend to produce fat, characterless grapes, which result in watered-down, flavorless wine.
In contrast, fruit that grows under the most Spartan of circumstances, like dry, rocky soil and low levels of rainfall have to work a lot harder. They develop complex root systems adept at seeking out the water table and hard-to-find nutrients. The plant ends up focusing all of its resources on producing rich, complex grapes instead of beautiful leaves and long, snake-like vines. It prioritizes the one thing most important to its species’ survival: luscious, sugar-filled, flavorful grapes, which in turn serve as the foundation of a delicious, complex wine. It also ensures the propagation of the species.
These challenging times feel a lot like growing grapes on a rocky Italian hillside during a harsh, dry summer. Many businesses are struggling, and more than a few aren’t going to make it to the other side. Yet some are finding ways to excel. They are innovating their products, services, and internal processes to adapt to our new reality, whether that means empowering employees to work from home, or offering curbside delivery to their customers. Meanwhile, those brands that have proven unwilling or unable to pivot to meet their clients’ and employees’ needs are withering on the vine.
We can learn valuable lessons from these companies that are spreading their roots further from the vineyard – seeking out new prospects and finding new ways to communicate their value propositions. Can’t hold your in-person user conference this year at a fabulous destination? Why not move it online? How about setting up a regular speaker series or webinar training program? This may be the year to start that podcast, video series, or weekly newsletter.
Innovation has always been the hallmark of the business community, and it amazes me how many companies have been able to survive and even thrive during this historic pandemic crisis. Yet, as more Americans get vaccinated every day and the danger of the virus begins to recede, the endless possibilities of springtime are blossoming. After a seemingly endless winter, it’s a great relief to cheer on those organizations, people, and brands that stared into the abyss and are now poised to reach new heights.
And that’s something we can all raise a glass to.