"What do you do with a brilliant person that's not a team player? This was the one that I wanted to tackle out of all these amazing questions that I was asked, and mainly because it's been the thesis of my career. Culture is everything. The way that I built Wine Library, the way that I built Vayner Media, is completed based on this thesis. The best five wine people that ever worked for me, I fired. Because culture and atmosphere is the only way to cohesively make a team unit that will dominate in your business. So you fire them." -- Gary Vaynerchuck
Gary Vaynerchuk is a New York Times bestselling author and American businessman who was born in Belarus and immigrated to the United States as a young child. Gary’s entrepreneurial instincts took over at a young age, when he owned a franchise of neighborhood lemonade stands and made $1,000 a weekend selling baseball cards. Much to his dismay, his father Sasha pulled Gary into the family business, a local liquor store called Shopper’s Discount Liquors. Before long, Gary recognized that consumers collected rare wines just like people collected baseball cards, and he was off to the races. Gary transformed himself into a wine expert, rebranded the store as Wine Library, launched a retail website in 1997, and by 2008 he had raised annual revenue from $4 million to $60 million. In 2006 Gary achieved one of his life-long goals when he was caricatured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in an article about online wine sales.
In February of 2006, Gary launched Wine Library TV, a daily video blog about wine. With the tag line “changing the wine world,” the show offered an unpretentious approach to an historically stuffy subject. As the audience grew and word spread of his informal and unorthodox approach to wine, Gary made numerous national television appearances as a wine expert, including spots on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Ellen Degeneres Show, The Today Show, Nightline, and Mad Money with Jim Cramer. In 2009, Gary was recognized as “Innovator of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast magazine, and as part of Decanter magazine’s prestigious “Power List” of the most influential figures in the industry. Wine Library TV garners 90,000 daily viewers and has now surpassed 800 episodes, featuring celebrity guests including hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, Travel Channel star Samantha Brown, Food Network host Ingrid Hoffmann, rock star Maynard James Keenan, Digg.com founder Kevin Rose, and esteemed wine critics Jancis Robinson and Daniel Rogov.
While developing the audience for Wine Library TV, Gary eschewed the traditional media tools he had relied on when building the retail store, turning instead to the social web. Gary joined the online conversation by becoming an active member of blogs and forums, and then proceeded to utilize web 2.0 tools such as Facebook and Twitter to connect with consumers online. The business world took note of Gary’s approach, and before long he was being invited to speak at conferences and corporations around the world.
Gary launched a second blog, garyvaynerchuk.com, where he dispenses business advice and comments on emerging technologies and cultural trends. As his following grew online, Gary became one of the first to reach Facebook’s friend limit and accumulated more than 800,000 followers on Twitter. Gary’s first business book, entitled Crush It! Why Now is the Time to Cash in on your Passion, was released in the Fall of 2009 and debuted as a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. Gary proceeded to make tv appearances as a social media expert and business consultant on programs including CNN Your $$$$, Fox Business’s Your Money Your Questions, and The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch.
As Gary’s career as a speaker and writer continued to soar, companies of varying sizes approached him for consulting advice. The consulting role agreed with him, and in 2009 Gary and his brother AJ co-founded VaynerMedia, a boutique agency that works with personal brands, consumer brands, and startups. Gary is now also an angel investor in various startups, offering sweat equity to the projects he supports in addition to financial investments.
Gary’s ultimate goal is to one day own the New York Jets. Although his various businesses obviously play an enormous role in his life, he always puts his family first.