The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2018

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20  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2018 A s a Corporate Trainer at Empire Merchants, one of the nation's leading spirit and fine wine distributors, Shana Reade's role is extensive. While her primary focus is to educate the company's sales representatives, she also helps onboard new talent while introducing them to Empire's portfolio. Read on to learn more about her career and the trends she anticipates will define the future of the industry. ForceBrands: From working as a som- melier with Jean-Georges to serving as the resident wine expert for an innova- tive wine app, your career in wine is expansive. Describe your current role at Empire Merchants. Shana Reade: My main responsibil- ity is teaching WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) classes. All of our sales reps are required to pass the Level 2 Wines and Spirits, and spirits- dominated divisions are required to complete Level 2 Spirits. Something I find inspiring is the Level 3 Wines class—the most intensive class we offer—is completely voluntary, but it usually ends up being booked to capacity with a waiting list. One of my favorite responsibilities is running a "Lunch and Learn" for our back-of-the house employees to teach them about some of our products. FB: Given that two of Empire Merchants' mottos are "training is a process" and "our associates are our greatest asset," what value does inter- nal training provide that you otherwise might not be able to gain simply by hiring top talent? SR: Well, I think no matter how skilled someone is, everyone has an ability to improve. I think the resources Empire devotes to this effort ultimately lead to greater job satisfaction and a feeling of personal accomplishment. Some of the classes we offer would cost quite a bit if our employees were to take them independently, and this allows our people to be consultants more than order-takers. So, in a way, Empire investing in its employees affects our customers positively as well. FB: There's a lot happening in the wine and spirits sphere right now. Which current trends do you think will have the most far-reaching effects on the industry? SR: One trend I personally find exciting is the desire for wine education by the industry and the consumer. A huge shift I've noticed is that rather than stumbling into this industry as a serendipitous accident later in their careers, more and more of our new hires studied wine in college or focused on the beverage industry in other ways. The success of craft spirits and beer, sparkling and rosé, and indigenous grapes from around the world is a product of a more educated and savvy consumer base, which results in a much greater diversity of quality offerings. Shana Reade HOT SHOT CORPORATE TRAINER, EMPIRE MERCHANTS

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