There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.
Meet: Gerri Becker, the president of The California Wine Club, a monthly subscription wine club with more than 10,000 subscribers. Members receive two bottles each month and can select from various levels, even a prestigious aged Cabernet Sauvignon option.
Gerri’s mission is to support family-owned and boutique wineries in California and the Pacific Northwest. These wineries typically produce fewer than 10,000 cases a year and often will not catch the eye of a national distributor. So, when Gerri selects a winery for inclusion in a monthly shipment, it often changes the economic landscape of that winery—and can make their year.
Gerri started as The California Wine Club’s in-house marketing director in 2000 and then served as the COO for more than 10 years. She was so passionate about the product and the company she purchased the company from its founders.
You can find them on Twitter @cawineclub.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Gerri Becker: What didn’t I want to be? A unicorn, nurse, doctor, photojournalist and even a starving New York City actor. I was always curious to try new things but it wasn’t until college that I narrowed my focus to marketing and business.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Becker: Since coming to the club in 2000, there has never been a day that I haven’t wanted to come to the office. There have been difficult things to do…but I’ve never had an “I don’t want to be there” day. I felt so fortunate to be part of a company that valued relationships with its customers and winery partners that I could never imagine being anywhere else. Even before I owned the business, it felt like my business. The decision to take the Club over as my own was an easy and natural one. Plus—wine! For a wine lover what could be better?
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Becker: Fear of failure took me to the edge of a mental breakdown. Once I identified my “worst case scenario” and created a plan to survive even if I failed, I was no longer afraid. I was empowered to go forward, take the risk and ultimately succeed.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Becker: Surround yourself with people smarter than you and then be the person that asks the simple questions.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Becker: Being selfish. In order to give everything you’ve got to your business, customers and employees, you must take time for yourself. Relax, reflect and reenergize. Chances are you’ll find you’re at your most creative and productive when you do.
Lesonsky: Do you have a prediction for small business?
Becker: Not just for this year, but for years to come, more and more consumers will gravitate towards supporting small businesses. Technology has changed our lives for the better, but at the cost of being disconnected from each other. Small businesses can provide a personal connection that’s lost with large corporations. At The California Wine Club, we don’t outsource or automate anything. From answering the phones to packing the wine, it’s all done on site by a team that’s proud and cares about every single customer we have. Consumers recognize that that kind of service is rare, so they value it when they find it and aren’t likely to go elsewhere. Big business may seem to be taking over the world, but small businesses have all the advantages.
Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?
Becker: The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Becker: One from Henry Ford that I remind myself and my children of often: “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.