Wine, Cheese and Small Business Leadership

Jul 13, 2017, Written by Jim Miley


Coaching business people every day really highlights challenges we share across industries, geographies, personalities…  common challenges we share as working people.   I guess I should not be surprised but yet I am at how some issues seem universal.

This week’s universal challenge is keeping energized about our business.  The buzz phrase is “improving engagement” but the challenge goes by many names: energy, engagement, enthusiasm, ownership, focus, zeal, commitment, enjoyment, on and on and on.  As people, our energy level fades over time when we feel ourselves settled into a hum drum routine.  Business Owners, Managers, Staff, Consumers- it doesn’t matter who you are as it happens to all of us at some point.

Some time back I received wise counsel regarding my business management that stuck with me; “… the management of our business is more like making dairy than wine.  It doesn’t age well.”

The more I reflect upon this wisdom over time and experience, the more profound I find it to be.  The application for this post is simple and directly from three different coaching sessions in less than a week.


Regardless of your industry, the approach to management of the business is more like making dairy than wine.  Keep it fresh. Don’t put it in a cellar to collect dust for even a month, let alone years.  Look at your leadership and management as a product that moves from you, through the company employees and out to the customers.  If it becomes stagnant and sits still for too long, it tends to spoil.

Stagnant Leadership looks like routines that we follow without seeking better ways; it looks like employees who don’t feel or see opportunities to grow; it looks like a manager who does not encourage new ideas from the team or from the market.

Fresh Leadership looks like a vibrant culture looking for ways to improve; employees encouraged to learn and to grow, management seeking new ideas from inside and outside of the company.

When things are going well, we may feel so pleased with the flavor of our current state that we don’t want anything to change.  We just want our wine to age; enjoy it for the next 15 years or so.  One problem – it ages like dairy.

Enough of the metaphor; how do we keep our leadership fresh, moving and dynamic?

Here are a few fundamentals to keep your leadership fresh:

  • Vision Casting: Review the Vision for your business.  Invest yourself in the vision and bring it to life by sharing it with employees, incorporating it into Performance Management verbiage and targeting it with Marketing Plans.
  • Marketing Planning: Evaluate your marketing plans for whether they are fresh, dynamic and driving the business or whether they seem stale and ineffective.  Make sure the business and team are energized about your marketing plans and see how they target the business Vision.
  • Performance Management: Invigorate your performance management process.  Make sure you are challenging your team to grow and take on new opportunities.  Demand employee feedback and take it seriously; act on good ideas.  Provide valuable feedback to your staff on how they can grow and support the business Vision and plans.

These are just a few ways to keep your leadership alive and all are standard reminders for my clients when things begin to feel a little stale.

My goal with this post is to give you a little nudge to keep your Leadership fresh and dynamic as the success of your company depends upon it.  You can leave the wine to age in the cellar but not the management of your business.

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Jim Miley

As a Business Coach, Jim brings a broad background of operational and sales management skills and expertise to help small business owners grow their business and reach their highest potential. He has 30 years of field-proven professional experience.

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