Creating the future you want

Feb 28, 06

This Month

This month’s issue is based on Paul Dolan’s book “True to Our Roots: Fermenting a Business Revolution” and my conversation with Paul Dolan. The book is about his incredible journey which reaffirms the highest values that all sustainable businesses can and should embody.

Paul Dolan was very generous in accepting to do an interview with me when I requested for his time.

Be sure to pick up the book as soon as you can. You will come away very inspired. In the mean time, here are some take away ideas from his book.

Happy reading and warm wishes,



Creating the future you want

Paul Dolan’s journey of change and transformation begins when he felt the impact of chemicals on the environment in general and on the grapes in particular, first hand at the Fetzer Vineyards in 1987. Paul Dolan, then the head wine maker recalls the difference in tastes between two blocks of vines a few feet apart. One “infused with lush, creamy flavours of ripe figs and melon, perfect for Sauvignon Blanc” and the other “less flavourful and less expressive”. The first block of vines was a part of an experiment to farm some of the vineyards organically.

The book offers the guiding principles and his personal story of how he and his team built Fetzer Vineyards as one of the largest brands in the United States in the premium wines category, making nearly four million cases of wine each year. They farm organically all the vineyards they own. They have increased earnings on an average 15% each year through the 1990’s while keeping their environmental and social responsibilities as top priorities.

The Learning: The following are three guiding principles that you can put into practice in your lives and at your work place to make a difference.

The Power of Conversation: “People do what they talk about, and they talk about what they do.”

“Conversation is one of the few processes on Earth that is guaranteed to produce new insights, new ideas, and new connections. Ideas show up between us that might never show up in our own ruminations. And because we helped create them, we can start talking about them and living what we know immediately.”

In my conversation with him, this is what he shared:

“We began by just exploring. We did not know what results we should be aiming for; we did not have any models. We took about a year, my team and I read, discussed, kept the internal process of discovery and kept the conversations going at all levels of the business. I am firmly of the belief that the things that we talk about get done”

Points to Ponder:

What is the subject of conversations you are having… within your teams, your organization?
Are issues that matter to you the most figuring in your conversations?

True Power is living what you know

A year as a President of Fetzer, Paul Dolan sent out a letter to 700 wineries in California to talk about taking a stand against toxic chemicals in agriculture and becoming a leader in preserving the environment through their farming practices. Here was Paul Dolan wanting to have a “big, earth changing conversation”, yet only a couple responded positively. Two of the most eminent winery owners wanted to know why they should ever want to suggest that they were not an environmentally sound industry!

Did the lack of support from the industry discourage him, stop him from going ahead in doing what he believed, the results of which he and his team were seeing in their farms? According to Paul Dolan, “Living what you know sustains us. It is always at the back of your mind. It empowers us and unleashes new possibilities. If you know something is harmful, you will have to act from that knowledge even if it means confronting people. So the idea – true power is living what you know.”

Points to Ponder:

What are some of your beliefs and values that you act from?
What are some of the issues that are not integral to your values that you are divided against?

You can’t predict the future but you can create it!

One of the primary tasks of successful leaders is to create a compelling vision of the future for their organizations: Jack Welch’s Number One or Number two, John F Kennedy’s “We shall land a man on the moon before decade is out”.

This is how Paul Dolan describes using unpredictability as an ally. Sharing from his own experience this is what he says, “If I stand in the future and look back at Fetzer after we have become a six-million-case winery, I see things about today’s four-million-case winery I can’t easily see from the present. Now my whole thought process about my business is different – what I listen for changes, what I observe changes, the conversations I have changes. My perspective is now six million cases looking backward, not four million cases looking 10 percent ahead.”

Paul Dolan shares examples such as “envisioning all our service and support vehicles operating with solar powered electric or natural gas engines” or “working with their independent growers to try to convert their 9000 acres to organic farming by 2010.”

Points to Ponder:

What is the picture you see of yourself and your organization in year 2010?
From the year 2010, looking back… what are the things you need to do, to develop, to grow to that?


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