Erica Crawford - What Influence Means to Me
Erica Crawford is co-founder of Crawford Wines and owner of organic wine producer, Loveblock Vintners
In the early days of my primary schooling I was painfully shy. I’d count the minutes at break time, unsure of who to talk to, hovering uneasily.
I was, however, a kid who was ‘good at stuff’ and other kids would often seek me out to help them, whether it be to join their running squad, help with a maths problem or do illustrations for their little projects. Over time, that contact helped ease my anxiety around other kids, but it also made me aware of my ‘personal currency’ — what I had that others valued — and how I could leverage that.
The journey to understanding and accepting you have influence, in my experience, takes many steps. I don’t think I really realised I could be influential until I was in my thirties, but looking back it was always there.
I’d call myself a ‘reluctant leader’. I believe everyone has their own path in life and that leadership is something that’s often thrust on unsuspecting individuals who happen to excel in a particular area. I certainly don’t seek to direct other people’s activities or thoughts. But for some reason they just seem to follow along.
The whole idea of Kim Crawford wines as a brand challenger, for example, wasn’t planned. I wasn’t from the wine industry, so I had to follow my own marketing instincts to make it a success. When developing the brand, we steadfastly followed our own path and did not seek others’ approval or acceptance. As a result a brand emerged spontaneously that was embraced.
In terms of those who have shaped my own thinking, I’d name three people who have been particularly influential.
The first is Dr SelvaSaman, my postgrad supervisor at the University of Cape Town Medical School. He taught the importance of critical and original thinking, that emotions and numbers should never mix — and that you can never read too many books. Thanks to him, I’ll always look at a business plan with the same critical eye I’d pass over a scientific research paper.
The second is Jon Moramarco (CEO of Constellation International at the time) who talked me into taking a big corporate job as a change agent at Constellation — the premium wine, beer and spirits company that acquired our Kim Crawford brand. Jon believed in my passion to bring about change in the company’s culture. I had no real plan of attack, but barged in, took them with me and we moved mountains for a while.
The third is wine writer Timothy Giles. Giles taught me to believe in myself, that I was good at what I did, and that I could be influential and help others through simply by listening or offering advice.
So if I could offer any advice to women aspiring to be change makers it would be just that: always back yourself and trust your instinct. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
× Do you aspire to be a change maker? What advice would you give others on how to achieve this?