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Gemma’s Playbook: Be open minded to ideas and opportunities

This episode of the CFO Playbook features an interview with Gemma Castle, CFO at Cult Wines, which blends heritage, expertise, and innovative technology to transform the fine wine industry for producers, wine enthusiasts, collectors, and investors alike. With over 20 years of experience, Gemma Castle is well versed in delivering nuanced and sophisticated financial strategies in the fast growth SME sector. Before joining Cult Wines, Gemma worked in the leisure and hospitality industry for 10 years, where she served as Director of Finance for Travelzest and Yotel Limited Global Hotels, as well as CFO for Light Cinemas Limited.

In this episode of the CFO Playbook, Gemma talks about the process of investing in wine and how her company ensures a high level of quality control. She explains the importance of collaboration among the finance team, while providing avenues to give them the best chance to be productive and successful. Gemma also gives insight on why she thinks embracing and investing in technology is critical for efficiency, progress, and connection when it comes to employees, clients, and recruiting.  

Promote Empowerment

A lot of success and growth comes from having good coaching and mentoring. To help promote someone you need to not just pay attention to their technical development but also their ability to communicate and be confident in their abilities. Work to empower your team no matter what their level is, giving them additional training and offering as much support as possible to help propel them forward.

“I think it’s all about having good support. My department’s success is not just down to me, it’s down to the people I employ and if they work well, then that’s obviously a good reflection on me. And if they don’t, then obviously I have to carry the can for that. So I think, balancing the demands means having the right people in your teams so you don’t feel the need to micromanage. You want to feel perfectly secure that everybody’s doing their job.”

Embrace Technology

The wine industry is one of many embracing technological advancement, which allows for new customer engagement opportunities, better access to recruiting talent globally, and can improve a company’s core functions. When you invest in technology, you are also investing in your company, customers, and employees for a better experience and enhanced efficiency.

“I think across all stakeholders within the wine industry there’s a general acknowledgement that technology is going to play a part in the future of the industry.” 

Heed Insight and Advice from Others

As the financial leader, always have your door open. Don’t get hung up in traditional hierarchy, allowing people to feel comfortable providing their concerns, ideas, and solutions. Encourage your team by making sure they know how integral they are to its success. 

“To get to be a CFO, I think you have to learn from your mistakes because you are going to make mistakes, but it’s how you then move on from them. It includes listening to people. You shouldn’t profess that you’ve got all of the answers and, if someone else does have a good suggestion, don’t be scared of acknowledging that person. Because, I’ve been in a number of roles where some people have made some very good ideas and perhaps more senior people have taken credit for it. So, it’s all about giving credit where it’s due.”

Collaborate and Communicate Effectively

Being a good CFO requires you to be collaborative in efforts with the entire company. Open lines of communication to help understand the focus of each department will better prepare you to forecast, judge capacity, develop sales strategies, and negotiate deals. The finance function Being on the same page overall will allow you and your team to have a bigger impact on the company. 

“Immerse yourself within the business that you work for and understand the demands and requirements of other departments. Be honest and also find that balance to make sure that you have got a good team that supports you.”


Time Stamp Topics:

01:50 Professional Journey 

05:30 Fine Wine as an Investment

09:00 Quality Assurance for Wine Investors

09:00 Cult Wine’s Finance Function 

14:45 Finance Team Development and Collaboration

17:30 Hiring and Retention Challenges

20:30 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

23:48 Technology, NFTs, and Blockchain

30:30 Technology as a Tool for Efficiency

34:30 Time Management, Team Reliability, Being a Good Leader



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