Each month, ForceBrands partners with The Tasting Panel magazine. The Tasting Panel offers an insider’s look at the tastemakers and trendsetters in today’s growing beverage industry. From winemaker profiles, to brands that are the bartenders’ best friend, this monthly publication gets up close and personal with today’s influencers and explores the products they love the most. With a readership of 85,000 professionals across all levels of the industry, The Tasting Panel maintains its position as a leading authoritative voice in the beverage industry. This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of The Tasting Panel.

As a Corporate Trainer at one of the nation’s leading distributors of spirits and fine wines, Empire Merchants, Shana Reade’s role is extensive. While her primary focus is to educate the company’s sales representatives, she also helps with onboarding new talent and introducing them to Empire’s wide array of products. Read on to learn more about her established career in wine and the trends she anticipates seeing define the future of the industry.

ForceBrands: From a Sommelier with Jean-Georges to a resident Wine Expert for an innovative wine app, your career in wine is expansive. Describe your current role at Empire Merchants.
Shana Reade: I am the corporate trainer. My main responsibility is teaching WSET (Wine and Spirits 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 usually ends up being booked to capacity with a waiting list. I also am involved in the onboarding of our new sales reps, and acquainting them with our order placement system. One of my favorite responsibilities is running a “Lunch and Learn” for our back of the house employees, to teach them about some of the products that we sell.

[media-credit name=”Shana Reade” align=”alignleft” width=”300″]Shana Reade[/media-credit]

FB: What do you find most rewarding about the work you’re doing now?
SR: It is so encouraging to watch people who are so passionate and excited about the work they are doing. I love hearing about how former students not only feel more confident at their jobs, but also choosing the wine for friends and family at holiday dinners and special events. Wine has a long history of bringing people together, and being a part of cultivating that love in others is a truly special opportunity. Also, being an educator of adults has its own challenges — most of our learners thought they would never have to be studying for an exam again! But it is truly inspiring to witness the grace and determination under pressure — calling people to let them know they passed a big exam is always a lot of fun.

FB: Given that Empire Merchants’ most important mottos are “Training is a process” and “Our associates are our greatest asset,” what value does internal training provide that you otherwise may not be able to achieve by simply hiring top talent?
SR: Well, I think no matter how skilled someone is, everyone has an ability to get better and improve. I think the resources that Empire devotes to this effort is unique, and ultimately leads to greater job satisfaction, loyalty, 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 contribution on the part of the company allows our people to be more than just order takers, but consultants. So, in a way, by Empire investing in its employees, it also affects all of our customers positively.

FB: There’s a lot happening in the wine and spirits space right now. What trends do you anticipate defining the future of the industry?
SR: One trend I personally find exciting is the desire for wine education by the industry and the consumer. A huge shift that I have noticed is that more and more of our new hires are people who studied in college or are in other ways focused on the beverage industry, rather than a serendipitous accident later in their careers. I think that this is symptomatic of a larger consumer base that is so curious about wine and spirits, and this has spurred an expansion of what is interesting to the market. The success of craft spirits and beer, sparkling and rosé, indigenous grapes from around the world, are all products of a more educated and savvy consumer, which means a much greater diversity of quality offerings.

Read the full article in the March issue.