Why All Business Leaders Should Start Thinking Like Sommeliers

Business leaders who embrace diversity in teams and in thought are able to call upon a wider range of different talents.

learn more about Neha Sampat

By Neha Sampat


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Creating and running a business can be trying. You are faced with adversities on a daily basis and are forced to make decisions that affect the future of your company. There are many parallels between a business and a good bottle of wine. They both require a combination of discipline, know how, the right ingredients and a little chemistry. If all those things come together just right, like a good bottle of wine, you end up with a business that is thoroughly enjoyable and gets better with age.

So why should business leaders start to think like sommeliers? Well for background, the wine industry looks to sommeliers for profound knowledge -- from the different types of wine varietals all the way to the optimal presentation of the resulting bottle. Their rigor and attention to detail is deeply respected by wine drinkers around the world. They even influence the food industry by knowing what wine pairings will bring out the best flavors. Importantly, sommeliers cannot achieve their status without mastering their business end-to-end. From perfectly popping a bottle of bubbly to the ability to recognize wine origin, age and value, sommeliers have a respect and understanding from vine to table.

Related: The 5 Leadership Lessons That Fixing Cars Taught Me

So how does thinking like a sommelier help with running a successful business? For starters, growing a company takes a variety of skills, talent and intuition. Whether it's employees, investors, members of the leadership team or customers, it's important to assemble just the right blend to create something amazing. Sommeliers, just like good business leaders, understand how important it is to have different qualities and a variety of characteristics in their arsenal. Any sommelier worth their money is sure to always have the right varieties of wine in their cellar. Similarly, business leaders should embrace diversity in teams and in thought to be able to call upon a range of different talents.

Speaking of varietals, in many ways different types of wines directly correlate with ideal characteristics CEOs and entrepreneurs should possess. Speaking as a somm, there's a glass of wine (or two) for every business problem you encounter – and their flavor personalities are a reminder of how best to handle any situation. Let's take a closer look at five wines that do just that:

Cabernet Sauvignon: Time to wo(man) up.

This is a wine that packs a big punch and refuses to be ignored. It has a firm handshake and knows its worth. Best paired with when you need to tackle big problems, make bold statements and back them up with backbone and persistence.

Pinot Noir: Embrace complexity.

Pinot Noir can be a finicky little grape. Sometimes there are no shortcuts and the key to finding an elegant solution to a tricky situation is having patience, applying delicacy and making adjustments until you get it right.

Related: 5 Keys to Inspiring Leadership, No Matter Your Style

Chardonnay: Ignore the haters.

Adapting Mark Twain's wise words, "There are no standards of taste in wine, poetry or entrepreneurship." You have your own voice and a majority vote cannot decide for you. Some like Chardonnay oaky, some like it buttery, but no matter the opinion, it doesn't apologize and when you're running a business, you shouldn't either.

Sauvignon Blanc: Keep It fresh.

Entrepreneurs need to be able to take a step back and view problems with fresh eyes, a positive attitude and a zest for more, more, more. Like a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, a good business leader should forget the traditional roles and be unique. The key to success is to keep everyone in the office constantly thinking and challenging the status quo.

Zinfandel: Stronger together.

Just like how a fine Zin brings the family together, a good leader knows that when it's time to troubleshoot or celebrate victories, it's best to bring in the team. It's crucial to build a team, a network and a community that you can trust and call on often. At the end of the day you need to feel reinforced by the people you work with, and make sure they feel your support as well. This wine knows how to get people on board, but never forgets to say thank you. And even when the going gets tough, Zinfandel always keeps a glass-half-full attitude.

Related: 10 Behaviors of Real Leaders

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to drinking wine, but a good business leader knows that having a combination of the traits that accompany them is key. Whether they consider themselves a wine snob or an indiscriminate drinker, business leaders should channel their inner sommelier: it will lead to greater understanding of the complexities in running a company, better analytical skills to solve problems and, most importantly, stronger recognition of what makes their business special.

Neha Sampat

CEO of Built.io

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