Ryan Marcus, ForceBrands

Boutique wineries and craft spirit brands are on the rise, as average consumers become more educated and more willing to explore new products. This increase in consumption of smaller production wine and spirits has led to more acquisitions of these small producers by multinational companies. Often, newly acquired brands are placed into an “incubator” arm of the larger company to give both companies an opportunity to learn their respective cultures and to redefine marketing strategies.

It makes sense to do this, as the go-to market strategy for craft spirits and boutique wineries require a different approach to gaining market share. In addition, the talent needed to deliver a unique go-to market strategy requires a complete overhaul of hiring tactics and talent strategy. However, many acquiring companies fail to make the right talent decisions to drive growth for the brands, leaving untapped potential and unrealized revenue.

What does the right talent profile look like for your incubator arm? The best candidates are those who bring together a mix of classical training with high-growth experience. Additionally, they possess a “founder’s mentality,” which, at a top level, describes one’s ability to make key growth decisions based on the unique value proposition of the brand and on market-derived insights. The challenge in the talent marketplace is that many professionals claim to have both skill sets, when in practice they don’t. The question then becomes, how do you screen, vet, and hire the right talent for your incubator arm?

A quick résumé scan will rarely reveal whether a candidate has that unique, hybrid skill set. Look beyond the résumé by first vetting candidates for hard skills (most often apparent on the résumé) such as the ability to analyze data and distill insights, the ability to build on-premise and off-premise programming, and so forth. Once you’ve narrowed your field, vet for specific soft skills—resilience, adaptability, nimble problem solving—that define a true incubator arm fit.

As the rise of smaller production alcohol continues, the number of incubator arms and talent needs will continue to grow. The talent pool for these roles is small, resulting in many companies opting to bring over talent from their core business to supplement the shortage, or to bring talent from the company being acquired over to the larger company. The outcome is almost always suboptimal, failing to match the business strategy with the right talent.

Seek to understand a candidate’s mastery of the three soft-skill competencies mentioned above, as they’re a leading indicator of success in the incubator arm of a business. If they reveal both skill sets and consistently present them throughout the interview process, they should be prioritized for further interviews. Be discerning about each candidate to ensure they fit both the job requirements and the culture of the companies they’ll be overseeing.