It’s All About Connection

Last week I attended the groundbreaking for Sonoma State University’s new Wine Spectator Learning Center for the Wine Business Institute. At the groundbreaking, Bill Silver, the Dean of the School of Business & Economics for SSU gave a great speech.

He talked about raising money for the new building and how, after some phone conversations, he went to New York to meet with Marvin Shanken, owner of the Wine Spectator, to talk about a donation for this new project.

Before his trip he called his parents in Connecticut and told them he was coming to New York. His mother asked what he was doing in New York and he told her about the new building and that he was meeting with a man named Marvin Shanken. To which his mother replied that she went to school with Marvin Shanken. It turns out that Mr. Shanken and Dr. Silver come from the same hometown and both sets of parents owned retail businesses in the town.

In their subsequent meeting Bill told Marvin about their joint heritage, Marvin asked for Bill’s phone and called Bill’s mother to chat with her. Once off the phone, Marvin looked up and said, “Well, I guess we are doing this.” And so, Sonoma State kicked off their fundraising with a three million dollar donation from Mr. Shanken and the Wine Spectator.

The building of the Learning Center for the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State is a great boon for the whole wine industry, as students come from near and far to learn more about the business of wine. It is possible, perhaps even probable, that Mr. & Mrs. Shanken would have donated to the fund anyway. Though the connection between the two families made the whole transaction simpler and quicker.

The point here is to create connection with your customers, employees and co-workers. Having a personal connection oils the wheels of philanthropy and commerce. People are more likely to do business with and buy from people with whom they feel a connection. So, create as many small connections with your customers as you can.

I am proud to say that my connection with SSU is that I teach classes for the Wine Business Institute. It’s a great place.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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