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The Family Business

Generations ago it was common for the son to follow in the professional footsteps of the father. Dad was a farmer so son became one. In today’s world change is so great from generation to generation that what makes sense one day loses relevance twenty year later. This translates to a loss of specific skills being passed down as well as security for the next generation when one can anticipate their future from an early age.

So what actually gets passed down from generation to generation in a time of rapid change? In our family, it is the approach to life which relies more on values and foundational truths: the value of fairness; the value of relationship; and the foundation of understanding the needs of the marketplace and how to meet those needs.

At Buona Notte Wines the son has assimilated from his parents in two main ways. One is by watching and absorbing, the other is in the deep secrets of DNA. Graham has been observing us through his own discerning filters and making conscious decisions about what works for him. The secrets of DNA have been more mysterious as behavioral patterns have emerged unconsciously because of centuries of ancestral response.

It is amazing to me to begin to work with Graham because I can see how he has grown into the man he is today. When a child is at home you see changes on a daily basis. When the child moves out and becomes an adult, the changes continue but you are not witness to them. Then one day our relationship turned daily and the gap that had been years is filled in. I am witnessing his vast abilities and know how for the first time.

I would be remiss if I didn’t speak about Graham’s sister, our daughter Emily. In today’s world women have many opportunities that did not exist in their grandmother’s generation. It still takes a certain verve to believe opportunities exist and have the courage to step in. Emily, whose career in retail started at a young age, is stepping in with her exciting and successful jewelry and costume design business to make her mark in the business world.

The story of our family has been considerably shaped by Graham and Emily’s mom Peggy. Peggy has been in business for more than 25 years leading culinary adventures throughout the world. Her influence has been instrumental in shaping Emily’s aesthetic and Graham’s palate and appreciation of food and wine. Most people know what they like to eat and drink. On a daily basis food is often prepared perfunctorily to fuel the body and to provide a social context for times with family or friends. Peggy’s approach, which has been passed on to Graham, is that there is nothing more soulful than sitting down with friends and family to enjoy a meal that has been prepared with Love.

Then there is my wife Zita who has been in the family for twenty years. She is an accomplished herbalist and the family healer. It can be difficult when a new wife and stepmother comes into a family. Relationships shift and the apple cart can be upturned. In our family we picked up the apples and found loving and inclusive right relationship which includes Peggy’s partner, David, an author, world traveler and Chai Wallah. Our family’s ability to open up the traditional the definition of family has had a profound effect on how we see the world and carried all of us to an increased sense of what is possible.

I have been an entrepreneur and business consultant all my life, building both for profit and non profit businesses.

Why is all of this so important? It is important because the shaping we receive from family is inevitable. We cannot escape where we came from and the influence it continually exerts. Now that I am older, I realize life is less about what I have become and more about the influence I have on others. I feel the generational responsibility my parents learned from their parents and our children’s children will learn from them.

Life is like a fine wine. Most of the work is done in the early years. In the beginning grapes appear on the vine growing in the sunlight. Then the grapes are harvested and pressed. The wine is fermented in a barrel and bottled to be enjoyed by many. There is a maturation, a ripening that ends up making the real difference. The story is the making of the wine and is equally true for the making of the winemaker.

Where will Graham’s story lead him? He has wine in the bottle and sales have begun. He is in a committed relationship with his own Emily. She brings her considerable marketing skills and commitment to their future. What will their experience and family history bring to their children as another branch of the family tree? The answer will be determined in time. I see a certain clarity in their joining together as a sign of mutual purpose. They are immersed in the excitement of a new venture with the clear purpose of building a family, and a family business, at the same time.

We wish them only the best. A life of full bodied, elegant, complex experiences with more than a hint of success.

Family, what a lovely tradition.

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