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Wanted: CEO of a wine estate, no experience necessary

Daniel Schmid, Harvard MBA, is looking for a CEO for his family’s winery in Austria. No wine experience necessary to apply

For many MBA students, becoming CEO of a company is a long-term goal.

But Daniel Schmid, a Harvard Business School MBA student, is looking for a CEO for his family’s winery in Austria, and he wants someone smart and highly motivated to take the job, either before or immediately after obtaining an MBA. Schmid, who has no interest in running the company and intends to return to McKinsey & Co. when he graduates this spring, thinks of it as a “gap year” program for a young professional who wants to be “CEO for a year”. ”

It targets young professionals who wish to use their experience to pursue prestigious MBA programs or a career in management, although Schmid is also willing to consider recent MBA graduates who wish to try their luck. The CEO would essentially operate a 20-acre farm which, in a typical year, would produce 5,000 cases of Grüner Veltliner. In Pillichsdorf, Austria, about a 15-minute drive from Vienna, the farm has been in operation since 1661, but now only produces 1,000 cases a year.


His recruited CEO’s “program” includes a 100-day mentorship from Schmid and his brother, Josef, the expert winemaker, after which the CEO would then implement a plan to take the Schmid Family Winery to the next level. “In your first 100 days, you’ll learn the ropes,” says Schmid. “You will observe every role. In the vineyards, you will drive a tractor. And the 100th day. you will decide what the priorities are for the rest of the year. On top of that, you’ll benefit from coaching from established CEOs and business leaders I know. »

Schmid admits his plan is unusual. But his 82-year-old father is retired and his winemaker brother is not interested in the business of the winery. “My brother loves making wine, but he doesn’t like running a business,” says Schmid. “No one in the family has the ability to fully manage it day to day. It’s a business that has it all: you learn how to sell, manage inventory, organize events and manage a team.

“It’s kind of crazy to do, but we do it out of necessity, and I don’t think we would have the kind of talent that would traditionally go to HBS or McKinsey. We’re trying to attract that kind of person. It’s not is currently not a healthy business, so this will be a good transformation opportunity for someone who gets the job. After the first 100 days, we will have a brainstorm on what needs to be done. Ultimately, this no one has the boots on the court and they will. He or she should know where they are going and believe they can make it work.


His ideal candidate? “I imagine someone who has no experience in the wine industry,” he adds. “I envision it being someone who may later want to do an MBA and has high hopes for their career and wants to use this as a learning opportunity. Maybe it’s also someone who just got an MBA and wants a year before doing something more conventional. You will learn from scratch. The sale is very tangible. You will be selling at a farmer’s market. You will drive a tractor in the fields. You will understand how to import wine into the United States

“You will definitely be a wine expert by the end of the year,” adds Schmid. “But I don’t just want to paint a rosy picture. You won’t be sipping pinots all day. This is a difficult work. It’s a tough industry. It’s not for someone who wants to sit in a desk every day. You will get your hands dirty. You may have to work long hours week after week. But it’s a good business challenge.

And Schmid also sees another benefit at work. “It’s an experience you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. Every time you sit down at a fancy dinner party and order a glass of wine, you could say I ran this business for a year. This is a nice side benefit.

The Schmid Family Winery, just outside of Vienna


The CEO will live on the farm and feed from the nearby farmer’s market. The person would receive an allowance of 200 to 300 euros per month to cover what Schmid calls “weekend expenses”.

Schmid says the assignment could extend beyond a year, if the CEO does a good job and wants to continue in the role. “It’s up to them to decide,” he says. “If after a year they say it’s my life and they’ve done such a great job, then maybe. they stay more than a year.

In the meantime, he expects dozens of applicants to apply. “It will be extremely competitive, more competitive than HBS,” he believes, because only one person will get the job at the end.

Schmid hosted a webinar on February 28 for potential job candidates. He will answer questions and explain the application process in detail. There is a March 20 application deadline for what he calls “a cover letter.” “They have to explain why they are there, what kind of motivation they have, what they hope to learn and what their mindset will be,” he says. Then it will go pretty quickly. We will have interviews the following week. You will talk to me and my brother and then by the end of this week we plan to send confirmations. We might want to meet with them for half a day before offering the job to someone.

Although speaking German is a requirement for the position of CEO, he is also looking for an English-speaking chief of staff who would report to the CEO.


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