Women in Business Q&A: Andrea McGinness, chief operating officer for WineStyles Tasting Station

Andrea McGinness serves as the Chief Operations Officer and oversees all the day-to-day operations of the WineStyles Tasting Station concept.

McGinness' career with WineStyles Tasting Station began in 2006, when she and her husband, Bryan, opened a WineStyles location in West Des Moines, Iowa. As a first-time franchisee, McGinness was responsible for the store's daily front-end operations and oversaw all aspects of sales support, staffing and the execution of marketing strategies to drive customer loyalty and ensure brand consistency.

In November 2012, the McGinness' were presented with the opportunity to purchase the entire WineStyles concept from its original owner. Following the acquisition, Andrea and Bryan launched the rebranding of the existing concept into the current WineStyles Tasting Station. Today, customers can Taste, Learn and Enjoy® the best in fine wines, artisanal cheeses, chocolates, craft beers, teas and other gourmet items at WineStyles Tasting Stations across the country.

Prior to WineStyles Tasting Station, McGinness spent a number of years as sales manager for a trucking and cellular company and most recently served as operations manager of Canon Computer Systems.

McGinness lives with her husband Bryan and their three children in Clive, Iowa.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I was always quiet and shy growing up and never considered moving away from my family and out of my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After graduating from Iowa State University, I moved a total of six times from Illinois to Iowa to Pennsylvania and New York before finally settling down back at home in Iowa. During this time, I got married and had children -- without the benefit of having close family nearby -- and tried to find a balance between my career and raising our children. I learned to take on more responsibilities, which eventually forced me to open up and build relationships. Today, I am confident and willing talk to anyone who will listen! Looking back, I realize that life sometimes forces you out of your comfort zone, but it will eventually lead you to a path for personal growth and development.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at WineStyles Tasting Station?
I consider myself blessed to have had so many great career opportunities in my lifetime. The frequent relocating allowed me to develop a diverse work history that includes sales, customer service, administration and operations. In addition to growing up in a family of educators, I've had the opportunity to work alongside some great leaders and mentors, which has helped me to succeed in my current role at WineStyles Tasting Station.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at WineStyles Tasting station?
The biggest challenge I have found is trying to find a work-life balance, which is something so many people struggle with. There are never enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that I would like to do, and I find myself spending more time on Tasting Station and less time on things in my personal life. It is critical to find a balance and it is something that I continue to work toward each day.

The best part of my tenure at WineStyles Tasting Station is helping our franchise owners to grow their business. As a franchisor, we are tasked with providing our franchisees with the tools and support that will allow them to deliver a high quality customer experience at each of their locations. Our two corporate stores in Iowa serve as test markets where we can evaluate new products, merchandising and promotions before they are rolled out systemwide. The more tasks we can help simplify, the more time that our storeowners and managers have to get out into their communities to network and focus on driving their businesses.

What attracted you to work in the wine/craft beer industry?
The opportunity to stay in Iowa near family is what initially attracted me to the wine and craft beer industry. After moving back to Iowa from New York, my husband's company was bought out and we were forced to make the decision whether we were going to stay or move yet again. We made the decision to remain in Iowa and take a leap of faith into franchising. In 2006, we purchased our very own WineStyles franchise. The plan was for my husband Bryan to run the store, while I continued to work at my existing job. Through a series of retention programs, Bryan wound up staying with his company as it transitioned from Iowa to Michigan, which forced me to leave my job in order to manage the store. Although I joke that I was pulled into this industry (kicking and screaming), I later realized what fate had in store for my family and me.

What advice can you offer women seeking a career in the food/beverage industry?
Read as much as you possibly can and spend time learning about the industry and the marriage of food paired with wine, craft beer and spirits. Learn the stories of winemakers, brew masters, distillers and chefs through your travels to wineries and craft breweries around the country and the world. You should also be willing to experiment and try different foods and beverage combinations. Most importantly, never stop learning and trying new things because the business is always evolving.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
It's a constant struggle to manage the demands of the job and the rest of your life, but I am slowly trying to do more outside of work. I make it a point to schedule time for myself to do the things I enjoy most, such as spending time with my husband and children, going for a walk, reading a good book, or taking a vacation to disconnect. Finding that work-life balance is a very difficult thing to do, but at the same time, it might be the most important thing you do. If you can feel better about yourself, everyone else around you will feel the effect and be happier, too.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Women have made great strides in the workplace, yet still many hinder their own
professional growth because they lack the self-confidence and ambition of their male counterparts. The biggest issue I see in the workplace is that women tend to put others first before looking out for themselves. In today's age, managing a household and a career while trying to get ahead is a balancing act. We often feel guilty if we can't accomplish every goal that we set for ourselves. In a sense, women can be their own worst enemy. As a working professional and mother of three, I can attest to the fact that although it's not always easy, each challenge has to be viewed as an opportunity for growth.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Although I have worked with some great people, my husband has always been my greatest mentor. Whether it's something work- or home-related, Bryan's counsel and guidance has helped me grow as a leader. I believe in mentors and strongly recommend that every business owner find that person who they can turn to as a guide for both their career and personal goals. Within our network of franchisees, our area developers act as mentors who share their professional knowledge and expertise with the WineStyles Tasting Station community to help them run successful businesses.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Many businesses, both large and small, are run by women, including companies like Xerox, DuPont, Avon, HP, Yahoo! and Pepsi, among others. I cannot say that there is one woman in particular whom I have looked up to, but I will say that I admire all those who have overcome tremendous adversity in order to reach this point in their career. I also respect every woman who raises children while maintaining a profession. The world is slowly changing its view of women in the workplace, and it is inspiring to see so many successful, strong and compassionate females in leadership roles in organizations of all sizes.

What do you want WineStyles Tasting Station to accomplish in the next year?
With nearly 30 locations nationwide, our brand is expanding and we are continuing to focus on enhancing the customer experience. At WineStyles Tasting Station, we encourage our customers to "Taste, Learn and Enjoy" the best in fine wines, craft beer and other gourmet items. My goal for 2015 is to develop a curriculum of educational sessions that covers all aspects of the industry for our franchisees to host in-store. We are constantly looking for ways to enhance our business and we see this as a unique opportunity to further position the brand as an industry expert and ensure the best possible experience for our customers.