We continue our Onwards & Upwards series featuring key figures in the drinks and hospitality sectors that are now looking for new roles and opportunities in the industry with the highly experienced national account manager Matt Lindsley, who has worked at a number of major importers, most recently at Castelnau Wine Agencies, who looks back on his career, his experiences and what he hopes he can offer in his next role.
Matt Lindsley had enjoyed a wide career both in and outside the wine industry, where he has been able to take disciplines and skills learnt in the FMCG sector and use them to full effect in the wine trade.
Tell us about your background?
In my early years it was boarding school that had the biggest impact on me. As my mum said “boarding school or borstal, the choice is yours”. As a young boy I was full of beans, I needed to be occupied all the time, if I wasn’t, I got into bother, nothing serious but enough. I guess these days I would be diagnosed with ADHD.
It did me the power of good. I thrived, my education changed almost overnight, but it was the fact that I was always busy and challenged, Rugby, hockey, athletics, every club I could get to, it turned me around and I went on to become head of house and very happy. The boarding life really shaped me and my future. I think this energy has stayed with me for the rest of my life, thankfully not getting me into trouble quite the opposite, driving me to be successful at whatever I want to try.
I have two grown up children, I recently got married and gained two more. I’ve lived in many parts of the UK, but have been settled in Cirencester in the lovely Cotswolds for many years now. A major benefit to this is my season ticket to Gloucester rugby who I have followed around the world.
How did you get into the drinks industry and why?
My mum and dad loved to holiday in France and Spain when I was young and they introduced me to the delights of food and wine at an early age. After a long European trip of my own following my A levels I decided to get a few jobs to pay off my overdraft . Working in two pubs and a part time job at good old Victoria Wines. This was great in the early 1990’s I was selling Black Tower, Blue Nun, Piesporter Michelsberg and everyone’s favourite Liebfraumilch.
I moved into retail full time when I was poached by Woolworths as a trainee manager and then on to Ferrero Rocher. But it was always my passion to get back to wine, so once I had gained plenty of FMCG training, I jumped back into the wine trade with Freixenet and so my wine career really began.
What skills do you think you learnt working in the FMCG sector?
Working and training in an FMCG environment was so valuable. I learnt so much and found it very useful in the years that followed. The wine trade is still light years away from some other categories with reference to customer insights, data etc
Ferrero in particular enabled me to understand the importance of category management, account management (including joint business plans and P&L’s). It was very much about discipline, man management, negotiation techniques, but the real priority was customer relationships, building trust, showing competence and confidence.
Things will always go wrong, it’s how you react and deal with the issues.
You have spent a lot of your time on the wine supplier and distribution side of the sector – why did you follow that route?
I would love to have a clever answer to this one, but I don’t really have one. I had a good retail background too with Victoria Wines, Woolworths and Wine Rack and Bottoms up. I realised that I got on with people and got a real buzz from selling, my thought process was that I could do more selling to these companies rather than selling for them.
What skills and experiences have you most enjoyed being able to develop during your career?
Mentoring, it’s so rewarding when people go on to thrive.
Building my wine knowledge and travelling, we are so privileged to work in some of the most beautiful parts of the world with such amazing products
The job is so varied, no two days are the same, working on projects such as grape to shelf, concepts, research, branding, blending, production, logistics, promotional activity, consumer buy-in (tastings) and many, many, more
Any particular achievements you would like to pick out?
I was an integral part in the launch of the Argentine brand Vinalba in the UK [during his time as national account manager for Buckingham Schenk], selling the first few bottles into Majestic and then developing the brand into something pretty special.
I worked hard with the buyer at Booker a few years ago and effectively created a “one stop shop” for their entire Italian range including a Prosecco which went on to be a huge success for them.
I am well regarded for my ability to obtain new business, mostly through my resilience, tenacity and resolve. An old boss used to call me the “Jack Russell” of the team. He thought that once I got a sniff of a potential, I’d never let go.
People talk a lot about forging good relationships between suppliers and their retail and on-trade customers – how do you see that and how do you look to build and forge relationships?
It is so very important, it has always paid off for me, ensuring any business is good for everyone. The winemakers, the suppliers and the customer should all be happy in as much of an equal measure as possible.
I believe it’s crucial to get under the skin of your customer, understanding their priorities, KPI’s, targets, etc and helping them achieve their goals will inevitably help you achieve yours and most likely a good relationship.
What are the key skills you need for introducing new brands to a sector do you think?
Knowledge of the category you are going into. Authority, confidence, pride in your product and work, a clear vision of what you want to achieve all backed up by a quality product. But sometimes it really can be just the right time, right place.
How would you describe your management and working style?
I would say that my management style is a pretty relaxed coaching one, probably mostly by setting a positive example and by being as consultative as I can. Positivity goes a long way
I like to think that I’m a doer not just a talker, let’s get out there and try it. I like to work smart not long. A good work to life balance is so important. It’s a fun product so let’s have some fun selling it.
How would you describe your personality?
Determined, positive, energetic and empathetic. I am a good communicator, enthusiastic and diligent. I take huge pride in my work. I’m ambitious, self-motivated, loyal and dependable.
I try not to take myself too seriously. I believe we should all work hard to achieve something in life, but not at the cost of having some fun. When I joined the wine trade all those years ago I knew it was passionate, interesting, full of unique characters and a fantastic industry to be a part of, however, I do feel that it’s changed quite a bit and lost some of its joy. I try to bring back some of that energy and fun, after all the product is there to be enjoyed.
What sort of business do you most like working for?
I’m flexible on this. I love the smaller business as I can be involved from grape to shelf but I also love the bigger FMCG businesses as the use of market data, analysis and knowledge can make a real difference.
I think I’ve been at my happiest when I can find the customers needs and then find the solution, it might be a grape variety or a region, a label design or the price point that can trigger the fun.
What are you looking for in your next role?
I know it’s probably not the correct thing to say, but I am looking for more of the same. I enjoy the challenge and never get bored or deterred.
I would say the rejections just make me even more inspired to get up and go again and again.
What key skills do you think you can offer anyone?
Determination, discipline, positivity, leadership, loyalty and good old fashioned hard work.
Anything else you would like to say?
I would just like to say that I’m not very good at this sort of thing. It doesn’t come naturally to me to be “bigging myself up” and I find interviews etc really awkward, especially now with the need for Teams or Zoom interviews, but it’s definitely the future so I am working on this.
- If you would like to contact Matt then you can do so by email at email@example.com.
- If you are looking for a new role in the drinks and hospitality sector and would like to share your story and experiences on The Buyer then please contact Richard Siddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.