Business Experts Offer Good Advice to Wine the Experience

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     Photos: David Croxford

New-business development

Hawaii Business selected Lynette Jee, owner of The Pacific Place, as a consultant because she started as a small-scale tea manufacturer and landed large hotel and restaurant accounts – something crucial to WTX’s growth – while maintaining a busy store at Ala Moana Center.

Jee’s first piece of advice: Create a niche with your product that larger companies cannot duplicate. Start by researching your competition, she says, but don’t undersell them just to win business. When pitching prospective accounts, it’s OK to offer an opening special, but don’t keep your prices too low, Jee says.

Since WTX already offers a private-label program, which allows clients to create custom wines with a personalized label, Jee says it will be easy and economical to extend the program to hotels and restaurants. But, she advises, WTX should have a contract for private-label programs that require buying a lot of special inventory, because hotels and restaurants have high turnover and the manager you’re working with today could be gone tomorrow – and so could their business.

Another challenge Shannon faced was deciding whether his time was best spent handling day-to-day operations or out developing new business opportunities. Jee says since Shannon demonstrates the most passion and knowledge of the product, he is the best salesperson. But, for other companies, it might be wiser to hire an experienced salesperson to pound the pavement.

“Managers who are in high-end hotels and restaurants really value good service and attention,” Jee says. “If Shannon can deliver that and a great product, there’s an opportunity for him to be branded as an expert in local wine.”

Other new-business development tips

• For businesses producing custom products, buyers will understand the need to commit with larger orders. If they don’t, it might be better not to pursue these smaller deals.

• “Suppliers can help you manage cash flow until you are paid,” Jee says. “For large orders that require larger purchases, try to arrange with suppliers for longer terms or payments in installments.”

• Hotel managers usually plan their programs for the next fiscal year in May or June, so be sure to present your proposals before then. “Listen to what managers are trying to achieve as a whole for their properties, so you can create a proposal that fits their plans, not yours,” Jee advises. Follow up and then follow up again with samples, a good menu, brochures or whatever it takes until a final decision is made.

• There are many roads to “yes.” Hotels and large restaurants have numerous departments and managers. Approach the most logical manager first, which is often the food and beverage manager, but don’t be afraid to call a different manager if you hit a dead end.

• Form strategic alliances with other small businesses that are noncompetitive but have complimentary products to develop new product lines and share resources, expertise and costs.

• If you can’t afford a full-time salesperson or product demonstrator, find partners in the same boat and split the cost.


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