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Soundview Executive Book SummariesWinemaker Paul Dolan has led Fetzer Vineyards to become one of the biggest and best-known wineries in the United States while also becoming a model for sustainable businesses around the world. As the president of Fetzer, Dolan is helping to lead his company - as well as the entire California wine industry - toward major changes in how wineries and grape growers preserve the environment, strengthen their communities, and enrich the lives of their employees, without sacrificing business success.
In True to Our Roots: Fermenting a Business Revolution, Dolan describes the six guiding principles he uses at Fetzer that can help managers in any industry build and grow stronger, more sustainable companies. With an intense commitment to define new business principles for the future, Dolan and Fetzer have taken positive and active steps toward proliferating sustainable commerce while leading a management revolution in one of the most competitive industries in the world. True to Our Roots offers a fascinating glimpse into the California wine industry as well as extensive proof that a company can do well while following sustainable business principles that focus on the future of employees, the environment and the community.
A Dramatic Difference
On a September morning in 1987, Paul Dolan's entire way of thinking began to change. Before that morning, he had only read about the impact of synthetic chemicals on the microbiological richness of the vineyard earth. On comparing the lush, sweet flavors of a row of organic grapes with the bland, less expressive flavors of the conventionally grown grapes only 15 feet away - grown with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides - Dolan was amazed by the dramatic difference in flavor between the two.
At that moment, he could see that the continued use of chemicals at nearly every step of the grape-growing process would diminish the quality of future vintages, and surely affect the long-term market position of the winery. It was clear to him that Fetzer Vineyards and all other wineries were risking their economic futures by placing themselves in an unsustainable position. He realized he must take action.
When he was made president of the winery, he was given the opportunity to make a difference as a winemaker, and was determined to take advantage of it. Dolan moved immediately to steer the company into a new course, one that would be described today as "sustainable."
Inspiring Passion and Creativity
It would require a revolution within organizations, and among managers and workers. His company needed to replace standard operating procedures with something more sustainable. Everyone could participate in the process, and everyone could benefit. His company and its employees could lead the revolution themselves: They simply had to reconnect with what's important and practice the principles of sustainable leadership that arise from the experience.
Dolan writes that it is time for business, a powerful force that can create tremendous wealth and technological progress, to become a positive force for change. The new possibility for those in business is to preserve that progress and wealth for the generations to come.
Over the past 10 years, Fetzer's employees rallied to this new possibility with inspiring passion and creativity. Changing the world is not easy when you're running an industry-leading corporation that's competing in the global marketplace, fending off low-cost imports, managing multiple production facilities, leading employees with diverse cultural backgrounds, adapting to constantly shifting regulations, and responding to tightening health, safety and employment laws. Fetzer makes nearly four million cases of wine each year, and competes with more than 1,000 other wineries in California, as well as those all over the world.
While competing with them all, Fetzer Vineyards increased earnings an average of 15 percent a year through the 1990s, while keeping its environmental and social responsibilities as top priorities. The company's experience proves that operating on a more sustainable basis is not an economic liability - it is an economic advantage. Copyright © 2004 Soundview Executive Book Summaries