Collaboration requires collaborative culture. That’s the whole point of this blog. The opposite of collaborative culture is star culture, which our collective culture—particularly in the United States—perpetuates. The media is certainly complicit, because celebrity stories draw audiences. Therefore, the media has a vested interest in manufacturing stars—not just Hollywood people, but business leaders, athletes, entrepreneurs, surgeons, chefs and others. Food writers are particularly culpable, and we’ve certainly seen the celebrity craze spread to winemakers.
Now, apparently, star culture is trying to envelop tequila makers. Last Friday, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a short article by Camper English headlined “Next big thing: Tequila bottle signings.” You can read the article here. The story begins, “Further evidence that distillers are the new rock stars…” We learn from the article that Carlos Camarena, owner and third-generation master distiller of El Tesoro Tequila, will be in San Francisco to sign autographs on $185 bottles of tequila at a liquor store.
Clearly, Mr. Camarena is not alone in contributing to the success of El Tesoro. According to El Tesoro’s web site, making tequila begins with the jimador, the person who hand picks perfectly-ripe agaves and separates the pina, the juicy blue core, from the rest of the plant. “Most other tequila producers use an automated system that processes the entire stem,” the web site notes. Next workers cut the pinas into quarters with a special ax. In the next stage, workers use the traditional method of baking the pina quarters for 36 hours and cooling them for another 36 hours. Next workers use a one-ton stone wheel called a tahona to crush the pinas, extracting their juices. There are three more steps.
The point is that many people with a variety of expertise collaborate to make El Tesoro tequila. While I appreciate the marketing benefits of Mr. Camarena signing tequila bottles during his rock star-style tour, this feeds into star culture and sends the wrong message to the public and to El Tesoro team members. Promoting the CEO as a star may produce a momentary marketing bounce, but a collaborative culture sustains greater business value than a star culture.