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TD Magazine Article

Savoring Success

Family-owned wine and spirits company takes a strategic approach to developing talent and launching new brands.


Thu Jun 15 2023

Savoring Success

Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits: 2023 BEST Award Winner, #20

Savoring Success-DEUTSCHfamily_Bonus23_TD.jpg

Family-owned wine and spirits company takes a strategic approach to developing talent and launching new brands.


Just as fine wine improves with age, the skilled talent development team at Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits (DFWS) enhances and expands its reach as it matures. Fostering a knowledgeable and charismatic sales team is a key component of that success.

"Since the wine and spirits industry is such a competitive landscape, quite often what sets one supplier apart from the next is the ways in which they provide their people with the resources to be their best and do their best," says Scott Jones, training manager. "It starts with hiring people who are talented and best fit the culture of the organization, then developing people through world-class training and coaching that sharpens skills and allows employees to flourish."

Supporting sales staff

DFWS, founded in 1981 in Stamford, Connecticut, prides itself on being a family-owned company with a great appreciation for its 360-plus employee workforce. The company has grown by adding quality brands to its portfolio and creating highly effective sales plans.

Last year, the TD team played a critical role in the launch of a new champagne brand named Beau Joie. "This was an addition that could 'premium'-ize our portfolio and open doors in accounts that we have not been able to access before. However, this also meant we needed to address potential shortcomings in the abilities of our sales organization," explains Theo Rutherford, senior manager of wine and spirits education.

TD partnered with the company's category development, acquisition, marketing, and sales teams to understand the category, landscape, and brand before launch. "This meant getting buy-in from key stakeholders and aligning on the proper training materials," states Rutherford. "We executed virtual instructor-led training to better prepare our teams for expanded brand and category education," followed by in-person training across the US.


The company measured the launch's success using two main metrics: sales and post-training surveys conducted among sales staff. "We could tell that the training worked for those who adopted the system, as their markets either met or exceeded plan—proving to those who were less willing to adopt the information and fundamentals outlined in the training that the system works," Rutherford notes.

TD also leads critical on-the-job training for sales staff via its "work-with" initiative, a "process of observation, coaching, and capturing feedback for a direct report based on their mastery of the key sales and management capabilities they are expected to execute within their role," explains Tony Costello, senior district manager training manager. During a work-with, a manager spends a day with an employee focusing on specific developmental and performance-based objectives.

"The direct report receives immediate feedback and coaching on their performance, strengths, and opportunities" as well as captures successes of the day and clearly defined objectives for ongoing development. The manager provides a written work-with recap form that the employee can review for future reference and reinforcement. That commitment to TD has led to 39 people managers documenting 398 work-with records during the past year.

"This continual coaching conversation delivers results through documented behavioral change and the expanded role-specific capabilities of our team members," says Costello.

The TD team further boosted training for the enterprise in 2022 by integrating a new customer relationship management platform. To gain employee buy-in and demonstrate the platform's positive impact, "We provided multiple large-group, in-person, and virtual trainings on the CRM basics, weekly office hours, and a clear ask for how they should get started," explains Natalie Mauser-Carter, district manager training manager. Early adopters and subject matter experts joined the training team in delivering peer-to-peer training and motivational reinforcement of the CRM's benefits.


"We are now in the phase of continuing to engage and develop individuals' CRM skills through various methods: monthly newsletters, recognizing successes in the field, peer mentorship, one-on-one coaching, and the coaching of direct managers," says Mauser-Carter.

Continuous improvement

DFWS is continuously building managers' skills. For example, after identifying a need for a capability-specific management training module for people managers, the TD team launched the Management Excellence Program. The initiative features five four-hour virtual instructor-led sessions, plus a final in-person session with C-level and senior leaders discussing key leadership learnings from their career journeys.

"Over the course of the program, in small cohorts of 25, each manager worked collaboratively to embed key skills around setting expectations, engaging their teams, setting the stage for high performance, and delivering coaching and feedback to unleash superior organizational impact through innovation and collaboration," reports Jason Steffens, training manager. The program has proved highly effective, with 62 managers over three cohorts participating. Managers have reported stronger connections with their teams, higher team engagement, and more confident leadership behaviors, according to Steffens.

DFWS also offers a high-potential employee development initiative—the People Power Program—that assists in driving ongoing talent development. "This program, in partnership with sales leadership, pairs high-potential candidates with a dedicated talent development manager for a full year of immersive training," states Justin Cardwell, senior district manager training manager. "This program has allowed over 90 percent of promotable roles to come from internal candidates."

To enhance its learning ecosystem, DFWS recently added a dedicated in-house instructional designer. Erin Frank, senior instructional designer, says that with that move, the company "expanded our e-learning capabilities into scenario-based learning, added blended learning courses to our portfolio, and provided a deeper level of content customization using multiple mediums."

Going forward, DFWS will continue to prioritize L&D. "The hard work starts when the training is over," says Francois Magnant, senior director of sales and marketing capabilities. "Repetition, reinforcement, and coaching are must-do, not nice to do."

View the entire list of 2023 BEST Award winners.

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