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Cheers!

Release Date: September 15, 2020 • Episode #133

Professional Drinking book coverHave you ever been at a business meeting with a client or colleagues and wondered, “should I order wine? What wine do I get? How many should I drink?” Mixing business with alcohol can be tricky and sometimes an awkward subject. Host Steve Walker welcomes guest Jim Schleckser, author of the new book “Professional Drinking: A Spirited Guide to Wine, Cocktails, and Business Entertaining,” for helpful advice on how to keep it fun and professional.

 

Transcript

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Steve:
Ok, bear with me, because this is important. Do you know the difference between a Pinot Noir and a cabernet sauvignon?

Jim:
What amazed me is these guys and gals are super smart, really competent. And you hand 'em a wine list and they're like, I don't know what to do. And it just struck me that how competent they were in one part of their lives and how kind of they struggled and got uncomfortable and nervous in the other.

Steve:
Knowing how to entertain to build business relationships on this episode of The CX Leader Podcast.

Announcer:
The CX Leader Podcast with Steve Walker is produced by Walker, an experience management firm that helps our clients accelerate their XM success. You can find out more at Walkerinfo.com.

Steve:
Hello, everyone. I'm Steve Walker, host of The CX Leader Podcast, and thank you for listening. On The CX Leader Podcast, we explore the topics and themes to help leaders like you leverage all the benefits of your customer experience and help your customers and prospects want to do more business with you? Well, I think we have a fun episode today and I'm really looking forward to it. But just to set some context. Have you ever been at a business meeting with a client or colleague and wondered, should I order wine? What wine do I get? How many should I drink? Mixing business with alcohol can be tricky and sometimes an awkward subject, but my guest today has some helpful advice on how to keep it fun and professional. Jim Schleckser is a best selling author, speaker and CEO of the INC CEO Project, and he has been a previous guest on this podcast. He's releasing a new book called "Professional Drinking: A Spirited Guide to Wine, Cocktails and Business Entertaining," which will be available on Amazon and all the regular places on September 16th. And he's going to tell us a little more about the fun things we'll find and learn about it from his book. So, Jim, welcome back to The CX Leader Podcast.

Jim:
Hey, Steve, how are you?

Steve:
Great. Well, I'm really looking forward to this. You know, we've been talking about this for a few weeks. And full disclosure, Jim is a good friend of mine. I've known him for over a decade and he's been a great coach and a trusted advisor to me in a business capacity. But I've also had the pleasure of dining and enjoying adult beverages with Jim over the years. And it's always been a pleasure. And one thing that we didn't put in the script here. But Jim, you are a level two sommelier.

Jim:
I'm a certified sommelier. That's right. Yeah. Something I did in my spare time.

Steve:
Which which is not easy to do.

Jim:
No, there's about 8000, 9000 in the world. So, you know, it's sort of a smaller group. As you go higher level three, level four, which is all there is, it gets insanely hard. And I'm never… I know I'm never doing that. I've reached my terminal level of education on this one. So it's more for fun going forward for me.

Steve:
Well, I know being around you, you do know a lot about wine, obviously, and to to reach, you know, even a first level of sommelier, let alone the second takes a lot of work. And as someone who started their business career out in the Bay Area of San Francisco, I got to experience Napa early on in my adult life. So I've always had a fascination with wine and and enjoy it very much. And frankly, as a business person, you know, I've had plenty of times where I've been out with clients and colleagues. And so it is a reality. And a lot of our listeners are in the B2B space where they build long term relationships with their customers. But, you know, just for some context, why did you write the book and how do you see this kind of playing into the role of a relationship builder in a in a business and how they might want to know more about this?

Jim:
Yeah, I mean, I think it's central to relationships, but what drove me to write it was I spent a lot of time with CEOs like yourself and entertaining as part of that process, will spend, have dinners together and so forth. And what amazed me is these guys and gals that are super smart, really competent, reasonably well off and you hand 'em a wine list, and they're like, I don't know what to do. And it just struck me that how competent they were in one part of their lives and how kind of they struggled and got uncomfortable and nervous in the other. And I said, you know, there's a… That's a problem that's looking for an answer. I guess it's the entrepreneur in me that says, you know, that there's a problem to be fixed. And then as I got this sort of sommelier education, I said, that's it. Combining the two sort of the business knowledge in the business entertaining experience I've had over sort of 30 years with the wine knowledge and the spirits and the beer knowledge I have now and help people in this situation. And really, I hope the outcome is you read the book and the next time you're at a restaurant which who knows when that's going to be, but the next time you're at a restaurant, you're feeling comfortable and like, all right, I kind of got this, which would be an awesome outcome in my book. So relative to relationships, just for a second, I mean, you think about the biggest business deals you ever did, the best relationships you ever had they're struck over meals almost almost always, you know, so I think it's super essential to giving a customer great experience and building a long term relationship both with your peers as well as your clients. So, yeah, I think it's right there. If you're a CX professional, you got to know how to do this.

Steve:
Yeah, I think it I don't know exactly what the quote is, but, you know, to really get to know people, you have to break bread with them. You don't have to have a good personal relationship with clients, but it kind of helps make it a lot easier if there is at that personal relationship.

Jim:
Well, and I think about it like this. Like there's always going to be booboos, right? There's always going to be mistakes. And if you and I have a positive working and trusting relationship, we're going to figure it out right. And if it's a little tense, it's a little sort of nickels and dimes in our relationship. You go, wow, that's a big problem. You know, life's too short to have that kind of relationship. But I think there's a phrase I got taught early in sales is: "I know you. I like you, I trust you. I'll buy from you." And so this is part of that. I know you. I like you. I trust you. Process so that they'll buy from you and build a long term relationship.

Steve:
Yeah. I think also the book is not simply about kind of the knowledge of beer and wine, but it really sort of how do you conduct yourself. In some ways maybe our traditional institutions are teaching some of that basic etiquette. So I think particularly like when I've taken young people out for client dinners, sometimes they're just a little awkward, too. So there's there's some good stuff in there about just sort of how do you conduct yourself at a business meal, right?

Jim:
Yeah, no doubt. I mean, there's a thousand books about wine and beer and cocktails, and I wasn't going to write another book like that because there's that need is served, if you will. Right. But that question like what do you do when the host hands you the wine list and said, hey, Steve, pick a bottle of wine you like? What do I do right? Or what if Steve has fish and he has beef? What how do I pick something and how much do I spend on a bottle of wine so I don't get, you know, my head torn off when I come back the next day? And those are all they seem basic, but every one of those is like stress inducing and a chance to screw up. And so, yeah, it's probably more about that than is a little bit about wine and beer. But it's basics. It's more about this stuff, actually.

Steve:
Right. And I could talk to you all night about different wines and your knowledge is is so vast.

Jim:
I'll drink to that! [laughing]

Steve:
And by the way, for those of you who don't have the video, Jim, as we record this podcast is enjoying, it looks like a like a big red, there.

Jim:
It is a Sonoma Pinot Noir distillery.

Steve:
Yeah, it looks lush. Before we get into some of that, but I know you have a couple of great horror stories about business entertaining gone wrong. So maybe we'll just, you know, just kind of make everybody feel comfortable. They're not the only one that's ever done it.

Jim:
I'll give you two: I was at a fairly important dinner with peers. And some clients. Spilled an entire bottle of red wine all over my clothes. How do you recover from that one right? There is… You just… It turns out white wine takes out red wine. So I got a bottle of white wine and helped clean myself up a little bit and just carried on. There's nothing you can do. It's it happens. It's they just wish it didn't happen to them. That's probably all they were saying is, thank God it wasn't me. Right.

Steve:
Yeah.

Jim:
But the other one and this is maybe more apropos to the conversation, is I handed the wine list to a client one time and he was a wine guy at that time. At least he knew more than I did. And we were in an Italian place and he was more of an Italian wine guy and he ordered some wines. And when the bill came, there were three five hundred dollar bottles of wine on the bill. And I'm like, it's not that I couldn't, but for God's sake, there's a lot of good bottles of wine at one hundred and two hundred dollars. I mean, you don't need to spend five hundred a thank you. I own my own business, but I've heard stories where, you know, that happens to a salesperson or a relationship manager. They go back in the next day, they go to their Bud Light swilling controller who has never spent more than, you know, six dollars on a six pack of beer. He goes, here's a fifteen hundred dollar wine bill for my client last night. So it's happened to me. It's happened to other people. It's it's a real thing to you get a little bit ambushed by a client, unfortunately. And I don't think he was being malicious. I think he was just thought, well, that's a nice bottle of wine. And Jim said I should order. So I ordered. And they don't think about the context of what's the right numbe.

Steve:
What are some kind of good rules of thumb or just sort of some mindset that business entertaining that you would take into it?

Jim:
Yeah. So if I'm going to hand the wine list over, the uncomfortable part is that I've not been given any guidance. Right. And so as a host, a good host, if I hand you the list, I might hand on the list and get next to you and say, hey, Steve, why don't you find something around two hundred bucks a bottle you think would be delicious? Right. And that way you've got guidance. You can spend a little more, a little less, but more or less, you know, where you want to be or one hundred or whatever my number is. It's when I don't give you any guidance that you're a little bit lost. So it's really those scenarios where like like it happened to me, I didn't give them any guidance. And so I kind of own it. Right? It's more of my… It's a little bit my fault. Having said that, somebody hands you the list, what I'll do and I've done it before. That happened just a few months ago. Somebody gave me listen, why don't you order the wine and like, all right, how do I figure out how much to spend here? So I said as I opened the list, I like how good a year are you having? Right. And they go, "just OK." I'm like, thank you. So that meant keep it under control. If they had said we are crushing it, I go fantastic, you know… If they go "it's a tough year," maybe go a little cheaper so that, you know, I think a joking kind of question is a good way to go. Guidance from the host is a good way to go, but I'll give you two other techniques that I found. On almost every wine list, you'll see a bottle of either Silver Oak, Alexander Valley or Canice, and they are what I call or businessperson's lifesaver wines. Why? They're nicely priced. They're reasonably good tasting. They're not the best value for money, by the way, but it'll work on an expense report. That's why they're priced where they're priced about one hundred and twenty five bucks a bottle usually. And so what I'll do is I'll look on the wine list, I'll find the Alexander or the Canice and I go, one twenty five. All right, that's my number because I know they've already done all the market research on what the right number is. I don't need to do it. I'll just use their research and so I can either just buy that which is the safety move or I can find something else about the same price and I know I'm not going crazy. So that's another tip when you're like a little bit lost on how much to spend and you could always have a host say, you know, after they see the first bottle and they go, hey, why don't you get it? You know, bump it up a little bit. But you'd rather have that conversation than a hey, tap on the brakes a little bit. You know, that's a better conversation with the host. The other one that I use is I look at the entre price and I'll spend two to three times the entre price. So if I'm in a steak restaurant and a steak is fifty bucks, I could spend one hundred hundred and fifty bucks and I'll probably be kind of OK. If I'm in an Italian place and it's twenty five bucks a plate for the pasta, that's more like fifty, seventy bucks is about as much as I'd want to go unless I had permission to get kind of crazy. So that's those are a couple of good rules of thumb when you're faced with here's the list, figure it out. Right.

Steve:
Actually as you're talking, I'm thinking of a couple of times where I've in a really nice restaurant. I've used the sommelier that they have or their wine expert. And typically they will come and they'll very quickly, you know, what's your budget or what are you comfortable with? So I think these are professional techniques. Another one I've used, at least I used to use when I didn't know as much as I look at what they serve by the glass because, you know, they're trying to give you a good value for your price point. And then you kind of sneak that back and you find if they got that by the bottle and but they're not going to serve wines by the glass that are going to disappoint either.

Jim:
So I think that that's a super it's actually in the book I talk about, I think that's a great safety valve. If I don't know what to order. Look, there featuring about ten or twelve wines on there by the glass usually. And it's known good wine. Yeah, I may roll back actually. Here's the thing. People worry about that I pick a good wine. There's two rules of thumb on wine. One is particularly in a restaurant, there is no bad wine, period. Like somebody tasted every damn bottle on that list, the sommelier or the general manager or somebody. They're not going to put a crummy bottle on the wall. They don't want you to have a bad experience. They've curated the list. It's good wine, so don't sweat it. Just pick something you like and you're good to go. The other one is I get asked all the time. They go, Hey, Jim, is this is this good wine? I'm like, do you like it? They go, Well, yeah, I like it quite a bit. I'm like, then this good wine, I don't worry about anybody else. Things like if you like it you like it. The same thing to just one other little tip. When I use sometimes when I, when I particularly when I don't quite know everybody like around you, I just say, hey, I only want to spend a hundred bucks a bottle. We just, we know each other. Right.

Steve:
Unless I'm buying. Right.

Jim:
Well then it's a whole different number. Yeah. Do you have a reserve list? [laughing] And I'll be needing the sommelier. [laughing].

Steve:
By the way, a tip, if you go out with Jim, make sure before he picks the wine you clarify who's paying, so… Just just a little tip.

Jim:
Well, having said that, I don't mind…

Steve:
No, you're very generous in your…

Jim:
I don't mind buying the wine, because then I get whatever I want. If I want to try something a little more expensive, I don't worry about busting somebody's bank account. But what I'll do with a sommelier or manager, I'll take the list and I'll run my finger down. And I'm pointing at the prices, right? I'm not pointing at the wines. And I go, I'd like something from this region. And of course, every sommelier worth their salt goes one hundred dollars a bottle. Yes, sir. I absolutely can handle that for you. What's everybody having for dinner? OK, let me go find a great bottle for you. So it's a really sort of sneaky but not embarrassing way to tell the somm what what you want to spend without having to announce it to the table in like a guy's a cheapskate, he's only spending, you know, whatever. So that's a that's a great way to go. And like I said, every somm knows that game.

Steve:
Well, this is kind of come back to the business purpose again of, you know, when you nail it like this, when you can employ some of this savoir faire at the at the dinner table, what does that do for you sort of as a professional?

Jim:
You know, I I think two things. One is, you know, when you're in the hands of a professional drinker, somebody really knows how to sort of pick a nice wine and a fun cocktail and maybe a little after dinner drink. And it's all very it's appropriate and elegant and just sort of flows. It's a bit like the dog that didn't bark. None of that gets in the way of the conversation, it's just nice and you'll walk away saying, and that was a great meal. I don't know quite what made it great, but it just all flowed. And we had great conversation. And we we built a relationship and I got to know Steve better. And so I think what does it do is when it works great, nobody notices. Right? It's when it when it's awkward and uncomfortable, then people notice and it takes away from the business conversation that you're really trying to have. I think the other thing that's important is that competency in one area is sometimes transferred to competency in other areas. So if they go, wow, we kind of knew what he was doing more or less there, they'll go, we must know what he's doing in other parts of his life to in business or whatever. And so I think having just a little bit of knowledge, you don't need a lot to be perceived as being competent here, transfer as they go, what kind of has it together here? So I think dogs that didn't bark and transferal of competency is are two things you're looking for.

Steve:
Actually, one thing you said there, Jim, kind of piqued my interest in an area that I have. But, you know, I know when I first started into wine and still today, it's just such, you know, there's so much information that it just gets totally intimidating. It's sort of like I always joke around about the fine art. I every time I've ever been in an art museum, I've enjoyed it. But it's just so overwhelming, intimidating because I know I'll never know as much about it as I really want to. And I feel the sort of the same way about wine. But, you know, if you're somebody that's just sort of starting out in business and you kind of like this and stuff, how would you go about kind of honing that interest in finding some places where you could add some competency?

Jim:
Let's start with I like the wine by the glass answer. It's a great way to sort of broaden your palate and figure out what you like. It's sort of a low key, middle way to try a new wine, right? I don't have to commit to a whole bottle. I'm just going to have a glass. You know, it's a great way to sort of learn what things you like and things you don't like. Within that, I would say one fundamental delta that people you want to understand is old world and new world wines. And Old World is sort of all of Europe, if you will. And really, it's where everywhere the Romans, as they conquered Europe, brought grapes. And they did that because the water wasn't safe to drink. And so if you want to keep the army healthy, you didn't give them water, you gave them wine. And so they had a wine allocation every day but didn't have grapes everywhere they went. So the minute they'd conquered, they'd start planting grapes. So that's why you find grapes in Spain and France and so forth. And everything else besides Central Europe is considered new world. And the big delta, when you taste them is if I taste a new world wine. And this is from California Sonoma. So this is New World. The first thing you smell or taste is fruit, in this case, cherries and plums and dusty notes, just really yummy and delicious and kind of fruity. Same thing of a true of Australian or Chilean or so forth. But if I tasted a French Pinot Noir like from Burgundy, it's going to be other stuff first, like leather and tobacco and green notes and flowers and, you know, there'll be fruit there. But like in the first case, the fruit is driving the bus and an old world, the fruits on the bus, but it ain't driving the bus. And so for me, that's a real fundamental. Which one do you like? Right. And most people tend to start liking a new world. I think over time people try more old world and maybe settle there. So the other move would be there are seven noble grapes. Just try all of those. Try a chardonnay is one of them. Sauvignon Blanc is another one. Pinot Noir is another. Cabernet Sauvignon is another. Merlot's another couple others Riesling. And just try an old world over time. Old-World Cabernet Sauvignon, New World Cabernet Sauvignon, Old-World Chardonnay, new world, chardonnay about down the list. By then you'll go all right. I like Sauvignon Blanc from the old world. You'll know that because you've tasted it. So that's a good way to sort of build your palate.

Steve:
One of the thing I think for the knowledge set for somebody is new. And I still I don't remember exactly when it happened, but I remember being at dinner with you when you showed me the Vino, the wine app, which is kind of cheating for somebody with your knowledge. But it's a really nice way to categorize and keep track of some of the things that you learn as you go along.

Jim:
So, yeah, I think you need to have an app to keep track of both your cellar if you have one and like wines drank and wines you liked. And Vino's one of the popular ones and one of the best ones, I think, because you can just take the bottle and take a picture of it and it automatically recognizes because they've got this database of all the labels, it tells you what the wine is and then how other people thought about it and what grapes are in it and what what it would cost to buy it.

Steve:
Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but I mean, here's another I know sometimes, you know, if you're going to a restaurant in another city for the first time, you'll go get the wine list off the website, right?

Jim:
Well, that's right. And I think that's part of being a professional drinker is if you want to give people a great experience and you don't know the wine list or the restaurant and you're the host, you all go online. I'll go look at the wine list. I might spend 20, 30 minutes on the wine list before I ever show up and I'll know. All right. I like these two whites and these three reds. And, you know, that'll be I'll pick one of those most likely. But I've actually done the research before I show up, so and clients are impressed. When I walk in, I open this big, thick encyclopedia like, oh, yeah, we'll have that, please. And they go, how the heck did you do that? And I go, Well, I cheated [laughing] That's the only way to do it. Nobody can open up a book like that and go, oh yeah, this one. And know that they got a good choice, you know, good value for money and appropriate. And so yeah, I totally cheat. Absolutely.

Steve:
Well we've talked a lot about being the host. What are kind of the other side of the equation, because sometimes we're being entertained when we're the client. How does that change the calculus for the entertainment side?

Jim:
You know, the first is just got to remember, all wine is good wine. And so you've got to have an attitude of gratitude about what your host picks. So even if it isn't the wine you would have picked or you're a little bit of a wine snooke, it's all good wine, man. You just chill and it's all good? You're not here to embarrass your host. We talked a little bit about what happens at the hands of the list and how to come up with the right price. That's probably the most difficult situation. But the other one for me is pacing your consumption with your partner. And so…

Steve:
Not my long suit, by the way.

Jim:
[laughing] Well, there's pacing and then there's pace car. You know, somebody's got to be the pace car. [laughing]

Steve:
No, I'm joking around. But I mean, that's there's a big booboo there, right?

Jim:
Well, that in a situation, am I sort of rule of thumb is you can have one more than your host. And so if there are a light drinker and they have one or two cocktail and a glass of wine, you have a cocktail, glass of wine and maybe one more and then you are done. And if you are thirsty for more than go hit the bar afterwards. But don't do it with your client if they're not a drinker and you don't even go in to sort of the far end of that, there are more and more people that choose not to drink either for religious reason or health reasons or whatever. And, you know, and they might say something like and here's how I think about. It's just like you and me and you go, hey, Jim, I don't drink, but I don't mind if you do either. I just won't drink. Right, because it's polite to them. Or I might have one like one more than my host. Right. And that's it. If it's in a larger group, six, seven, eight, and the host doesn't drink, then I don't have that same feeling like I wouldn't make. There's going to be other people having a cocktail or whatever. And so I don't feel quite so compelled not to not to drink in that environment. So one more than the host is my rule of thumb. If they're like drinker, you're drinking like if they're nondrinker either zero or one, they're heavy drinker. Feel free to tap on the brakes whenever, you know, whenever it's right for you. I mean, that's that's up to them at that point.

Steve:
But I would say that I mean, I think one of the things in your book is you got to remember that this is a business setting and, you know, you're primarily there to conduct yourself in a professional method, hence the name of the book.

Jim:
Well, I say, you know, don't get drunk, ever, period. Like it just it's just not a venue to get hammered when you're trying to do business, you know, and we've all had it happen. I know so much with me, but with people I've been around where they just got sloppy drunk at a business event. And I'm like, oh, my God. Like, this is just not the place to do that, dude. Right? This is where you earn a living. So you do have to be careful about that stuff you do. I will give you a secret, though, if you're going to go drink. There's two techniques for pregaming. And if you get little overhung, they work on the overhung side, too. What is electrolytes and specifically Pedialyte? So this is the electrolyte they give the babies and kids, but Pedialyte is it it's like better than Gatorade and you drink a little bit of a bit of that bottle of that before you go out drinking, really helps because alcohol is a diuretic. You're going to flush your system that helps load you up before you go out. The other one, vitamin B12.

Steve:
Yup. Yep.

Jim:
Wow. You are a professional drinker already, Steve. You know, this! [laughing] This I found this out of my research. I didn't I never did this. But apparently it's a critical vitamin in the processing of alcohol. So you want to load your system up with it and it helps avoid any negative feelings the next day.

Steve:
Well, it's been a fascinating journey down professional drinking lane and really enjoyed it. But one of our signature events here on the podcast is that we ask you for your one best tip based on all the information you've shared. So if I'm a CX leader and I've got a big business meal, big business deal planning, what's the one thing that you want somebody to take from our session here today?

Jim:
Like pizza and ice cream, there is no bad wine, so just chill, relax and enjoy it.

Steve:
I've enjoyed having Jim Schleckser as my guest on the podcast this week. Jim's a best selling author and his new book is called "Professional Drinking: A Spirited Guide to Wine, Cocktails and Business Entertaining." If you listen to podcast, you know he's got tremendous insights for those of you that do do some business entertaining. And you want to tell them where the book is available and when it's going to be available to you?

Jim:
September 16th, it's coming out. It'll be on Amazon, it'll be on Barnes and Noble, all the sort of popular locations, both as an audio book as well as a Kindle as well as a paperback. So dig in and grab a copy. Makes a great Christmas gift.

Steve:
Hey, thanks again, Jim. And if people want to continue the conversation, can you just give them a website or LinkedIn profile or something?

Jim:
Yeah, well, Jim Schleckser LinkedIn is great, but professionaldrinking.com is where I post a lot of my articles and information and so that be a great place to learn a bit more and check in on some additional content that we have available.

Steve:
Thanks again, Jim, for being on the podcast.

Jim:
That was great, Steve. Thanks for having me, man.

Steve:
And if you want to learn anything more about this podcast or about how Walker can help your business customer experience, feel free to email me at podcast@walkerinfo.com and be sure to check out our website, cxleaderpodcast.com, to subscribe to the show and find all our previous episodes, podcast series, and our contact information. And you can even drop us a note and let us know how we're doing. The CX Leader Podcast is a production of Walker we're an experience management firm that helps companies accelerate their XM success. You can read more about us at Walkerinfo.com. Thanks for listening and we'll see you again next time.

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