An international consulting project with a focus on wine-tasting becomes one of the highlights of this team's IMD experience

We are the lucky few. 60+ members of our class applied for this International Consulting Project, however, Farina, Canay, Marly, Aman and I were the lucky ones. As a result, we are now working on a strategy project for a wine-making business located in New York state. Our chance to turn grapes into gold!

While classmates fantasize about our opportunity to assess the offering of the client and its competitors (understand: drinking wine for 8 weeks!) the project is a lot more challenging. There is no doubt that the reputation of US wine goes well beyond North America. However Californian wines are taking the lion’s share when it comes to this reputation and the value derived from it. Wine producers in New York are not known beyond the borders and suffer from relatively high production costs. This in turn puts pressure on the profitability of their business.

The Challenge

In essence this was the challenge we were faced with: How to turn a business which has been loss-making for the past 25 years under previous ownership, into a profitable one?

Striking the right balance between breadth and depth was certainly a constant challenge during this ICP. With multiple revenue streams such as grape sales, tasting room, wholesale business, events and weddings, e-commerce, and wine club, there were plenty of varied sub-businesses to dig into with a fresh pair of eyes. Currently under-developed land on the estate was enlarging the toolset for us to turn this business into profitability, and with it the complexity of the project. What quickly became apparent was that we would have to explore multiple areas to turn this company into a profitable one. On the other hand, we wanted to make sure we provided some meaningful recommendations with a strong backing of research to the client, hence the constant struggle.

The reward

With very little industry or practical knowledge in the wine-making business, our ICP has been rewarding on so many levels. On top of learning about the company operations and financials, we have been exploring the wedding and corporate events industry, the company’s varied distribution channels, local and international grape types and their impact on the business, as well as the grueling day-to-day operations of managing 500+ visitors on premises. This project even gave us the opportunity to harvest grapes with the staff. Unfortunately, the tight deadline of our next presentation called us back to our meeting room and computers far too soon.

We are very grateful for the hospitality, help and openness of the staff members. Thanks to them, we could delve into their operations and way of running the business. This ICP project will remain undoubtedly as one of the highlights of our year at IMD.

Author: Lionel Vaucher
Team: Alia Farina Rosly, Aman Narwal, Canay Kara, Marly Levene

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