I’m a long-time fan of Chateau Ste. Michelle, a winery not too far down the road in Woodinville, WA. It’s my go-to brand for their really nice dry Riesling (dry being the operative term here), a Rosé that nearly takes me back to Bandol in southern France, and a big, plummy, robust Syrah that we enjoy quite often. I’ve tried several other varieties and haven’t been disappointed. But this isn’t a post about drinking wine.
Besides offering nice wines at reasonable prices, CSM does a great job creating loyalty through their wine club and introduces their wines to thousands of new consumers each summer with a concert series that—literally—rocks. Think of seeing your favorite artists, outdoors, on the lawn, in the summer, and with all the other ingredients necessary for a fantastic evening under the stars: picnic food, good friends, and yummy wine. Can you tell I’ve spent many memorable evenings there?
So, I was already a loyal Chateau Ste. Michelle fan. And then I saw an article about CEO Ted Baseler in Seattle Business that made me rethink the ideas of competition and generosity in business.
The article describes a bad year for small wineries all over Washington State, when an unusually harsh spell of winter weather in the major grape growing region threatened the crop in a big way. Small vintners fretted as the temperature dropped and they realized there would be no harvest for them that year. No vintage that year. Nothing to sell that year. They faced a real disaster.
But then something remarkable happened: Ted Baseler started making phone calls, offering to provide grapes to dozens of affected wineries. Ste. Michelle Estates intended to use the grapes for their own wine, but instead followed a long-standing philosophy of putting the state’s wine business above their own. His belief is that Washington wineries are not in competition with each other, but with California wines and French wines. And that what is good for all Washington wineries is good for Ste. Michelle Estates wineries.
I found Baseler’s actions truly amazing. And inspiring. He’s a good guy who reinforces the idea that big, successful businesses don’t have to act like complete jerks. Businesses can embrace their competitors. And even help them out once in a while.
That’s how it should be. Can’t we all do a better job at respecting our competitors? Collaborating with them? And creating durable relationships? Take a lesson from Ted Baseler, and maybe one day, your company will be the country’s seventh-largest in your industry—and the fastest-growing in the top ten. Just like Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.