Q&A with wine pioneer Susan Sokol Blosser

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Friday, February 01, 2008

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EARLY THIS YEAR, Susan Sokol Blosser announced she was turning over control of Sokol Blosser Winery, the Willamette Valley establishment she founded and has helmed since 1991, to her children. Alex, 34, and Alison Sokol Blosser, 28, will serve as co-presidents, and Nik Blosser, 37, will remain chairman of the board. But don’t expect the 63-year-old Sokol Blosser, a pioneer of the Oregon wine industry and leader in green business practices, to be idle in her retirement. She will continue to act as ambassador for the winery and plans to devote time to environmental and writing projects. She offered Oregon Business some thoughts about the industry and her career.

What’s the state of the Oregon wine industry?

I think this is a very good time to be in the wine industry. It’s an extremely crowded market — there are new wineries coming on all the time — but on the other hand, wine consumption is increasing, and the appreciation of fine wine is increasing, as well.

I think Oregonians are very proud that in the space of one generation the wine industry has gone from zero to internationally recognized. I see that continuing.

There certainly will be hard times ahead. That’s not to say it’s a perfectly rosy future. But I think that it is an industry that has found its niche in Oregon and will just continue to get better.

Your greatest achievement in the business?

I’m proud of being part of the pioneering group that set the standard for collaboration. One of the things that is distinctive about the Oregon wine industry is that we work together. We realize that we will accomplish more by working together than we will being at each other’s throats, vis-a-vis the national market, for example, or the world market. That’s one of the reasons that the Oregon wine industry has come as far as it has in one generation. And when I look at the early pioneers who did that, we were just one of them. There are a number of people who really work together to make this industry what it is.

What advice do you have for Oregon’s wine industry?

I would say keep working together. What happens is that’s sort of the position of the underdog, and once you get out of that position and the industry matures, you start going after each other. I hope that doesn’t happen. We always have to be collaborative rather than competitive. Ultimately, we’re all competitive, but collaboration comes first.                                                                                                 

JAMIE HARTFORD


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Editor's Letter: Power Play

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014

There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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