I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately. Of course, everybody has all kinds of relationships, but when you are an importer—a middleman, really—they are crucial. And, given what I do, there are a lot of them in my life, and they require a lot of work. Cultivating relationships and nurturing them is a full time job, and at the very core of what I do. Relationships with my employees, with my customers, with my suppliers. Ultimately my business is more ore about the relationship than it is about the product. 

Relationships are the building blocks of human life—in everything we do, whether its someone across a counter, relating to our own spirituality, the wine producer with his vines, the beekeeper with his bees, the farmer with his land.

The common thread is basic: having respect, understanding the other person or thing or animal, and understanding their strengths and their weaknesses and putting that all in perspective to be able to work within that framework and to adjust yourself, if you’re working toward a long term relationship with the other person and how they negotiate that minefield as well.

It keeps our business our life our soul engaged, is constantly working on these relationships. In Greece we observed total breakdown in trust between government and it’s people … We’re expected to take certain things and give certain things, and when part of that circle breaks down, crisis ensues. And the Greek people allowed them to carry on in irresponsible manner, even though the politicians violated the sacred trust. That’s when relationships need to be changed or abandoned, something I hope is going to happen in Greece. 

The way I see it, relationships rely on four main things: attention, work, trust, and respect. Each feeds into the other. 

Work and attention. Take the relationship between a winegrower and his vineyard. He might think that it’s in good shape, but if he’s not paying attention, disease, malnutrition, pests could be occurring there. It’s the same way between me and my customers, and my suppliers and me. We need to be in touch a lot to make sure we’re all operating on the same page and that there aren’t small problems that will grow with time and inattention.

 Trust plays a big role too. Say between me and a customer—each of us may think we’re doing the best thing for us and for the brand, but if we don’t have an upfront trusting relationship with our distributor, things can sour. We must all feel secure that the other party is looking out for our best interest. If one person is doing something that seems to be contrary to that you need to take a step back and try to solve it or reevaluate the relationship.

And, of course, respect. Respect is the foundation, it’s the keel that keeps a ship stable, the pillars that keep a building from wavering. The relationship I have with George Skouras, is full of intense passion and respect. We have gotten into many many heated exchanges, but at the end we know that we are two entities who respect each other. Even though all business relationships are selfish by definition, that needn’t be the standard. Ours is a very unselfish relationship. It’s almost like collective capitalism. If one benefits, we all do. 

We all want to profit, but we’re all entwined, just like the Assyrtiko vine that has burrows into and around the soil, having simultaneous relationships with the earth, the air, and the light. It has to be a relationship that’s mutually beneficial to all. 

I’m starting a new relationship with food products and producers, not middle men, but with the producers themselves who are out there picking olives or making honey and the bottarga. It’s a new chapter for my company, and a host of new relationships for me to embed myself in. And I’m so excited to tell you more about. I

Next: Naturally Greek. The beginning of a food company.

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