Inflection points are those moments of change—points in time where hopefully you have the awareness to look about you and think, “Where to, next? How do I make best use of this moment? How do I survive—thrive?” You sum up the situation: the possibilities and the traps that could detract from your goals. You think about what you have in you that will serve you well in accomplishing your goals. You try to identify what you don’t know or can’t do that could keep you from reaching your goal. In short, you conduct a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity and threat) analysis—whether its conducted formally in a conference room, noted on a napkin in a pub, or discussed over a kitchen table.
Inflection points are continual opportunities to make what you need out of your life. Is it time to press forward? Take a break and recharge, regroup? Will you change directions all together? You may carefully consider or react instinctively. You may choose to act or not.
In the vineyard, we started out testing 9 different grape varieties over one acre. The work in the vineyard was small, relatively easy to handle and we were learning, actively learning, about the vines, the seasons, what worked and what didn’t. We hit an inflection point: “do we continue our experiment?” Yes! How do we fund the experiment so that it becomes self-sustaining? Can we commit to the time it will take to do so? What training do we need? How do we partner with other wine grape growers?
We put in our first commercial acre, Vidal Blanc. We chose the hybrid because it grows well in our climate and it makes delicious white wine that pairs well with regional Southern Maryland food. We helped form the Southern Maryland Wine Growers Cooperative and made plans with the other members to start a cooperative based winery.
We faced an inflection point: what do we grow next? Two years later, we added two more acres. This time, we planted Petit Verdot and Barbera, both red wine grapes we think would work well with the climate and produce wine worth consuming. This past year we planted two more acres, Merlot and Albarino.
Now we face another inflection point: How do we build upon our success with limited resources and time? How do we handle this growth? How do we manage the vineyard and our lives so that our family needs balance with our work demand?
To decide how to proceed, we’ll ask ourselves (and others) a series of questions. I think you find these questions are ones that you may grapple with when trying to reach a decision. So that I could organize these questions, I framed them using Johnson, Scholes and Whittington’s criteria for success:
- What’s suitable for us as an organization, as a family? What makes a profit and also adds value to our lives? Does the work involved in gaining the profit add value to our lives or does it work against what we value in our lives? Are we adding to our community? To our environment? To our industry?
- What’s feasible for us to accomplish? What can we do in our limited time? With our limited resources? Are we measuring what matters? People like our wines, very much—where is that break-even point that makes this all worthwhile? What are the trends in local wine consumption? Regional wine consumption?
- What is acceptable as an organization, as a family, to do in order to achieve our goals? When should our investments be reasonably paid back? What are the risks in putting in new water and electrical—or not? How much family time are we willing to invest? How do we keep our small, experienced labor pool engaged? Do we look for more vineyard workers? What does our customers want from us? Why would they continue to want to buy from us?
How do you reach decisions at inflection points in your lives?