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Business Travel with a French Twist

What do Max the dog, a family chateau and a bus ride through the forest have in common?

They all offer business lessons to be shared, challenges of competing in an international environment, opportunities to forge new relationships and a business travel environment like no other.

Oh, did I mention that they’re all in France? And that they are a part of The Ultimate Wine Fantasy Experience? Yes, really.

Leadership, marketing, communication skills, motivation, client retention and pricing were the topics of today. Ok, the topics were interspersed with a few glasses of wine and the venues for these discussions may not be the norm. However, these business discussions and sharing of ideas are amazingly interesting and impactful. And of course you know how important relationship building is. The relationships are already growing strong after 24 hours of our group being together. After a week of sharing wine, amazing food, history and business ideas, these relationships (and memories) will last a lifetime.

Today we started with a visit to a chateau and a not-seen-by-the-public tour by Count Stephan and Max, the chateau’s Black Lab.Along with amazing tastings of wine, we learned of smart business tactics that have resulted in the wine estate being in the top 10 in the Saint Emilion wine region. My favorite lesson learned is the method in which the Count recognizes that the grapes are ready for harvest. The method is not very high tech, but is very accurate in its simplicity.

It’s all up to Max, you see. He routinely chases rabbits through the 65-year old vines.

When he has one of his rabbit chases in the fall season and returns back home with stickiness on his fur, it’s time! It is the stickiness from the juice of the grapes that is the magic sign that the grapes are ready for the all-important harvest. Sometimes it’s the low tech methods, tried and true, that are better than all the advanced technology in the world.
In the middle of the day, while utterly enjoying a picnic lunch under a bright blue sky alongside the chateau’s grapes, we learned some of the struggles of a new business. The chateau owner, host and chef of our lunch, began his winery along with his parents in 2006 — a very new business by French wine standards. He left a career in finance for the love of the vine. Topics of moving from a salaried career to entrepreneurship, imports to European and African countries, how to provide a quality product in a mid-price range and the struggles of a family business were shared over bottles of wine, incredible food and scenery that was jaw-dropping.

After lunch we wandered through the streets of the 2nd century village of Saint Emilion, a village with narrow cobblestone streets, outdoor eateries and cafes, a stunning Monolithic Church, Collosseum-type walls and numerous shops offering wine and wine tastings, colorful macaroons and local handicrafts.

As our group continues on this amazing journey through the southwest of France, traveling by bus through small villages and forest roads, the sharing of business ideas is even more profuse than the wine tastings. I sit back, very comfortable in our Mercedes bus, in awe of the people, the history, the lessons and the hospitality, and full of gratitude for this very unique travel experience.

Our group tour continues to the Castle of Poudenas next, so come back tomorrow to experience this 14th century castle, the lessons to be shared and the adventures that await!

Now this is business travel at its best!

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