Yesterday I had the great fortune of getting to interview wine expert, entrepreneur and all around great guy Gary Vaynerchuk. I’ve been following him online since 2009, first as a fan of WineLibrary TV and also as someone who really admires his tenacity, drive and understanding of what it takes to build relationships and make social media work for business.
I’ve seen tons of his keynotes that have been posted on the web as well as a few in person at SXSW, so being able to ask questions about topics that are typically not covered in a GaryVee keynote was a real treat.
Check out the full, unedited audio below of the interview as well as some quick highlights from our conversation. We talked about becoming a better salesperson, scaling relationships, doubling down on your local community and much more.
…On being asked for career, personal and business advice by people he’s never met in real life.
“It feels like a blessing really. Its very flattering and then I also answer it very carefully, tiptoeing because you’re right, I don’t have enough context, but I have a thesis and I have things I believe in and I think..you know that I’m very to the point, honest and truthful. I don’t sugar coat it, and so I think I’m able to give high level advice but never deep enough because you need more context to be able to give very specific advice.”
…On being a natural salesperson and becoming a better salesperson or brand advocate:
“Number one, I’ve always believed in what I’ve been selling. Baseball cards and sports were my passion so that was easy. Wine, I started selling it before I was an expert in it but I had a passion to learn it so it felt appropriate. You know, I got better as I became an expert. Business advice, or business thoughts or innovation, you know I think people forget that I was 30 before I started one episode of WineLibrary TV and I was 33 before I even started talking about business in any way and had already built a $50-$60 million dollar business. So I think I stay in a very small lane of things that I know and things I feel comfortable with and that gives me enormous belief in what I’m selling. I’ve never sold anything I don’t believe in, ever.”
“Sell something that you’re passionate about or something that you really know well. You might know everything about guitars but it might not be your passion, but if you have a passion to be a good salesperson that would at least be a start.”
…On building something great in your area (Utica in particular):
“I remember a feeling the I have now and it’s re-bubbled up. I think you have an enormous passion for your area and I gotta tell you it’s very obvious to me from afar that you should build there and build up that area. I actually truly believe that if I heard you became the mayor of that town, it would make a ton of sense to me. Like it’s very clear that you care about it and so what I think you need to do is to start putting out content. A funny thing starts happening when you start doing things. If you start videotaping on your iphone the stories of every small business downtown or the general area [focusing on] small businesses…if you start interviewing college kids or young entrepreneurs in the area that are still there but are thinking about leaving, if you start telling stories I think that would matter.”
How do you know when to ask for help? Who do you ask?
“You know, that’s probably my biggest flaw. I tend not to ask for help at all. I’m very within myself and have a lot of pride in figuring it out. I don’t know. I’ve always been lucky that I’ve been working with my family and you know, my dad is my mentor in a lot of ways. My mom is an emotional mentor in some ways, but I always feel like I’m the leader. Even when I was a child, I always felt like I was the guy, that I was the Captain. That there was no one to look to – that it was up to me. So I think that’s a flaw of mine but it’s also a gift of mine.”
…On using a ton of social media tools and platforms…
“I trust my intuition on products so much that I try them all to see if there’s value in them and continue to use them. …. I tend to use things if I believe in them and if I think that consumers are going to eventually be there, so I use a lot of things to get a taste.”
On a personal note, I got to speak with Gary very briefly while at SXSW this past March and asked him about his thoughts on opportunities in upstate NY vs NYC or larger cities as well about extending your own personal brand. It was a brief conversation and one of what I’m sure were hundreds that he had during the conference. When I got the opportunity to interview him I wanted to revisit that topic of localized opportunity, and I was really impressed that he remembered our conversation in Austin (as you’ll hear in the interview), because it really drives home to me the importance of actually listening to people and the effect that creating context around even small interactions can have. I didn’t expect him to know me from Adam, and the recognition of that previous conversation really makes me respect the effort that he puts in to actually create a meaningful connection with members of his community.