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Corley Family Napa Valley

Chris Corley
January 6, 2020 | Chris Corley

The Golden Broom and Dustpan

I've been working at Monticello Vineyards my whole life. I started working for the winery during summers in high school, and with the exception of a brief time at Humboldt State University to pursue studies in Marine Biology, I've been working steadily at the winery since 1989. It's interesting to be able to see your workplace through your own 18 year old eyes, and also those same 48 year old eyes 30 years later.


"Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?" 
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to", said the Cat.
"I don't care much where -", said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go", said the Cat.

Like every endeavour in life, there are usually multiple paths. The important thing is identifying the destination first. Navigation second. Our dad made it clear to me that if I was going to work in the winery, that my work started at the bottom. It wouldn't matter if I had a winemaking degree or not, my first job in the family business would be on the bottom rung. At the wise old age of 18, and with our dad's approval, I decided if I was going to start at the bottom either way, then I wanted to start right away. I chose my destination first ... I wanted to be the winemaker for my family's winery. We charted the navigation second.

A lot of my uncles on my mom's side worked in the trades in Scotland. This was largely an apprentice based learning system ... from Apprentice, to Journeyman, to Master Craftsman. It was appealing to me, and this system was the basis for how I approached learning how to make wine. I started working in the cellar at a young age, and took a lot of winemaking and viticulture classes to support the on-hands learning. To this day, our hierarchy in the cellar adheres to this structure. Including myself, every single member of the production team at Monticello has started at the bottom rung, and worked through every level to their current position.


In my first days working in the cellar, I would observe our dad making his way slowly through the cellar, broom in one hand, dustpan in the other. He would sweep and pick up bits of trash to throw away. A gregarious man, he visited with people along the way. He was the president and founder of the company, generally dressed for business not cleaning, as he came from a generation that presented themselves that way. My young self couldn't understand why the president and founder was sweeping and picking up trash, certainly he had more important things to work on? 

I never asked him why he spent his valuable time with a broom and dustpan, but over time it became clear that he wasn't really sweeping and cleaning up the winery. He was communicating ... slowly making his way through the winery, talking with everyone in the cellar, asking them about their work, their families, how they were doing. If they were having problems could he help? If the president and founder asked those questions, many employees would be tight-lipped. But in these exchanges, he was just Jay with a broom in his hand. Our dad was an outgoing, caring man, a really great guy. We've learned many lessons from him, both personal and professional. At a very young age, the lesson I learned from his broom and dustpan, was that our business was built on the shoulders of people. 


To this day, our written Values, from our Vision and Mission Statement, carry forward these simple, yet strong values that are symbolized by the broom and the dustpan.

PEOPLE are the foundation of our company. We strive to create an inclusive workplace, one in which mutual respect, collaboration and integrity are the driving principles.

RELATIONSHIPS are the strongest bonds which unite us. We strive to maintain respectful and authentic relationships, amongst ourselves and with our customers.

COMMUNITY is a space, in which we thrive when positively nurtured. We strive to create a positive and interactive workplace, and to engage in a positive manner with the community at large in all of our business functions.

INNOVATION AND QUALITY are motors of our forward progress. We strive to create an inspired workplace, one in which ideas and communication are paramount.

PERSISTENCE AND DETERMINATION are omnipotent in maintaining business momentum, in times of strength and weakness. We strive to create a secure workplace, one in which everyone is motivated to always press on.

Regarding the title of this post ...The Golden Broom and Dustpan'. In his later years, we presented our dad with a (painted) Golden Broom and Dustpan. They are symbols of our stated values. After some time, this broom and dustpan found their way back on to the cellar floor and were being used by staff that didn't realize their significance. I realized this recently and pulled them aside. Now slightly and appropriately tattered, we'll hang the Golden Broom and Dustpan up on the cellar wall as a lasting tribute to our Dear Ol' Dad, and to the values he instilled in us and our family business.


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