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Susan DeMatei
September 3, 2014 | Analytics, Social Media Marketing, Training and Tech Support | Susan DeMatei


Unless you’ve been drinking far to much of your own product, you know that an earthquake hit the Napa Valley this past week.

In the days that followed, I, like many others, touched base with all my friends and colleagues and we shared our stories. Besides all the personal trials of broken garages and cracked pool linings, I was struck with how wineries reacted to the day the earth hiccuped. Did your winery get through it without a hitch, or was it chaotic the morning after in the tasting room?

Here is my list of Ten Tips for a smooth recovery should we find ourselves in this position again.

1. Get Your Head in The Cloud

There are so many affordable and simple solutions to put your customer data in the cloud, there is really no logical excuse for having your most crucial customer sales and contact data located on a single machine or server that could be damaged. If you still are working tied to a cord, make it an initiative in 2015 to get your data hosted offsite so you can access it from anywhere and it is safe from any single event. Remember, the cloud is your friend.

2. That said, have a backup.

It doesn’t matter if you are a 500 case winery using Quick Books on a single laptop or have a huge ERP system for your 50,000 case winery – you should backup your data daily in case of an emergency. I am a small business and I not only use the cloud but also back up my laptop twice a day. I don’t want to ever have to call a client and say “I lost your data”. Data is currency. Protect it like you’d protect any other valuable.

3. Don’t forget about your wi-fi.

If you are using ipads, you’ve got wi-fi, and that can be tricky during storms, much less a disaster.  It is best to have some boosters, or a back up so you’re not dead in the water.

4. Enough about Computers. Let’s talk about paper.

It is always a good idea to have paper order forms and sign up in the case something goes terribly awry. I was struck the morning after the earthquake when I went to Ranch Market (we were caught without water or paper towels and badly needed both for the cleanup). I was struck because they were completely dark, but were taking orders in an orderly line at the door for cash transactions and writing it down on order pads. Smart. Think through your process and somewhere deep under the counter, have the paper tools you’d need to do your job without electricity or technology.

5. Set up a phone tree to alert employees.

You want your employees to feel comfortable so they know where they need to be and when.  If they’re comfortable,  they can focus on the customers and their jobs. The best way to make them feel comfortable is to communicate, and the easiest way to communicate quickly is to disperse responsibility.

6. Assign an employee or employees to communicate to the customers.

If you’re closed, who is contacting the first tour appointments? Who is addressing questions or posting on Facebook or the website? Who is answering the phone calls? Some wineries even sent out emails like the one below. If given a role, and communication happens quickly, uniformly, and in all channels, you have the best chance of making your employees and your customers feel at ease.

7. And this includes management. This is an “all hands on deck” situation.

One friend was telling me that while the staff was trying to clean up the shambles of a tasting room the morning after the earthquake, the CFO came in and had the nerve to be upset that the staff wasn’t in the conference room for the month end accounting meeting he called that morning. Be sensitive and roll up your sleeves.  It will mean a lot to the staff, improve morale and the customers will see the results.

8. Review your pre-scheduled Social Media posts. 

Nothing says “I wasn’t paying attention” than a post with a happy cellar worker that says “Come see us during Crush” or “It’s a Beautiful Day in Napa” the day after such an event.  Check what you’ve got scheduled on Twitter and Facebook and make sure it is sensitive and appropriate.

9. Listen to your Winery’s voicemail message

Is it clear you’re open, or closed? If possible, record a version that you’re closed now that you can have as an option to switch over with just a few buttons.  Especially if you’re busy, customers will want to know if their appointments are still being honored.  You can easily head off a lot of frustrated customers with a good voicemail recording and leave your staff free to tackle other challenges.

10. Practice Makes Perfect.

We no longer live in the Cold War where we have drills and dive under our desks, but a little practice never hurts.  Set up a disaster plan listing some of the items above, have a meeting with staff and assign roles, then run some drills.  If you’ve done it a time or two, when the time comes and it really counts, it isn’t so scary.


We were lucky, and I was truly touched at how resilient the people of this Valley proved to be this past week.  I truly hope you all didn’t sustain too much damage or injuries … and that we never have to get shaken up like that again!


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