Recognizing that You’re Part of Something Bigger

“Your strength will not come from your place on some org chart, but from building trust and earning respect.” – Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook

“I’m an employee of Costco that just HAPPENS to oversee the wine category” – Annette Alvarez-Peters

I would guess that many of you have heard of or are members of Costco.  My wife and I are members of Costco, and I would venture to say that we spend more money at Costco than at any other single retailer we frequent.  We purchase everything from electronics and appliances, to groceries and other staples, to clothing, and even some large purchases like furniture.  For those of you who are members, you’ll smile fondly when I describe the experience of wandering through a Costco, nibbling on their samples, and seeing what new products they have to offer this week.  But my favorite thing to buy at Costco is wine…they have a fairly good selection of wine at some of the best prices I’ve ever seen.  And I do so love my wine!

Costco is an interesting and perhaps surprising study of a successful business.  Costco is the largest membership warehouse chain in the United States, the fifth largest retailer in the US, and the seventh largest retailer in the world.   They have built their business around a business model that flies in the face of the traditional retail approach.  They have no standard products (their inventory and offered products changes almost daily), they offer very few options for the products they sell (that includes sizes as well as selection), and their stores are anything but fancy.  Yet they have achieved a measure of success that rivals even the largest retailers, including Walmart.

But for this week’s message, I thought I would to talk about wine.  Yes, wine.  And not just because I love wine.  But because there is an interesting lesson behind Costco and their sales of wine.  Did you know that Costco is THE largest distributor of wine in the U.S.?  That’s right!  They sell more than $1 billion in wine annually.  And they do it with a unique model – they offer a surprisingly limited selection of some of the best wines they can find for the money (typically around 100 different labels, compared to over a thousand at many other distributors.  And so it is no surprise that being featured in shelf space in the Costco wine section can literally put a winery on the map.  It can be a make or break moment that helps establish a brand that may have otherwise not been known.

OK, now let’s tie in this week’s quotes.  Who is Annette Alvarez-Peters and what does she have to do with Costco?  Well, Annette is one of the most influential people in the wine industry.   Why?  Because her opinion on specific wines can have a significant impact on the producer….largely because……she also happens to be Merchandising Manager for Costco’s wine, spirits, and beer category.

Her quote above was given to a journalist who asked what she felt about being named as such an influential person in wine.  How refreshing is it to see such humility.  For someone to recognize that they are part of something bigger.  Something grander.  And to recognize the responsibility that comes with it, and that such trust and influence must also be earned.  So I would offer she has earned some of that influence because she has focused on building trust and earning that respect.

POST SCRIPT:

Several of you have sent me congratulations on being named to SIA’s Top 100 most influential people in staffing list.  And while I am grateful for the recognition, I am also humbled and not fully deserving.  It is not lost on me that my role in managing TAPFIN happens to carry some influence in and of itself.  And so I’ll lead by example, or better yet, follow the example set by Annette Alvarez-Perez:

“I am an employee of ManpowerGroup, who HAPPENS to oversee their MSP offering”  [Kip Wright]

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