It’s amazing how much bravery a little hope can inspire. But take away hope – make someone feel trapped and hopeless – and they then become cautious and fearful. Many people live their lives from a position of fear because of this lack of hope. Their best efforts are directed at minimizing damage and suffering the least. That isn’t really living. We can cope with a lot of trouble if we have an underlying sense of purpose in our lives; it is this purpose that gives rise to vision, which in turn yields a sufficient supply of hope.
The wine world is interesting in this regard. Making wine is a capital intensive business, and for many, cash flow is a big issue. When people are under financial pressure, they often make bad decisions, and this has a compounding effect, putting them in an even worse place than before, and under subsequent greater financial pressure. The first response to this pressure is typically to enter maintenance mode (keep things going, but bleed as little capital as possible), but more often than not this soon becomes panic mode (without investment things usually get worse). A lot of cheap wine on supermarket shelves is distressed stock bought from wineries in panic mode.
Momentum is everything in a business, or a relationship. We need to feel we are heading somewhere. There needs to be some goal, far enough away that it’s not easily achievable, so that we can work to bit by bit. The small victories of the day as we head towards this distant marker are what leave us with a sense of fulfilment. They are the water that helps the seedlings of hope grow daily a little bigger. Seedlings are fragile, but before long they become larger plants, and hopefully –after a long time – trees!
If you are on a journey to somewhere, you work a lot harder and it’s much more fun. On the road, you tolerate the sort of hardships that would have been unacceptable if you had stayed at home. Pyschologically, we are built to journey. The destination is something outside of ourselves, bigger than ourselves, that gives meaning to our lives. We each need to spend time with the destination in mind, working out what it is, and how we are positioned in relationship to it.
Also, It’s much easier to make a decision while you are still moving. I remember this from sailing. On a relatively calm day, if you aren’t sure of where the wind is, just start moving – take any wind that’s on offer. And then when you feel it, you can begin to sail, and head where you want to go.
So how does this relate to a wine business? You need to know where you are going. And you need to start on that journey, somehow. There’s no point agonising about where to start – sometimes it’s the starting that’s the crucial aspect: you can always turn to the left or the right, or even back on your original tracks. You just need to start. But you do need to have a vision of where you want to go, otherwise it is going to be impossible to make decisions. It is having a sense of the destination that turns the process of doing business into a journey, and it is embarking on the journey that gives hope. And if there are real problems with the business, it’s better to stop and start again – or at least do some radical surgery – than letting the business die slowly. That’s painful for everyone. If you act in time though, this usually isn’t necessary.