Interview with marketing expert Denis Mackenzie

Denis Mackenzie, COO of an international marketing firm, is based in New York City. He divides his time between his job in the city and his small winery on the shores of Lake Erie in western New York state.

Denis got his start in marketing right after college, when he was hired by a small firm that promoted local businesses. He started in an entry-level job and later worked his way up to a high-ranking position within the company. He was able to help several small companies enhance their branding and reach new markets. He was hired as a senior marketing director for an international marketing firm a few years later.

Denis Mackenzie spent several years traveling in Europe, marketing wineries in Greece, Italy, and France. He learned to speak French and Italian to help him in his professional career. He enjoyed traveling through Europe, learning about the wine industry and enjoying the local food culture. He dreamed of someday opening his winery back in the United States.

An opportunity presented itself in 2001 when Denis Mackenzie discovered that a winery owner near his hometown near Lake Erie wanted to sell his business. It was a struggling, small vineyard that needed a lot of time and care to get off the ground again. Denis was able to make it a success.

Denis’s winery is the home of many different charitable events throughout the year. Denis supports both local and national causes. His popular sip and paint events draw crowds to the vineyard.

How did you get started in international marketing?

I worked in a small marketing firm for a few years when I decided that I wanted to get out and see the world. I applied to a larger company with an international presence. I wasn’t sure that I would get the job since my experience was mostly related to small, local companies, but they hired me. The company is involved in marketing wine and spirits, both internationally and in the United States.

What has been the biggest accomplishment of your career?

My biggest accomplishment has been my promotion to Chief Operating Officer of my current company. It’s good to be recognized for years of hard work. I feel like I’m an asset to the company, and I am a mentor to young people coming up in the industry. The only bad thing about my position is that it doesn’t leave me as much time as I would like to spend at my winery.

Is international marketing your biggest passion?

A few years ago, I would have said that it was. Now, I’m beginning to shift toward my winery as my biggest passion.

What motivates you?

I enjoy helping businesses of all sizes succeed. My best days of work are when company owners come in and thank us for helping their business grow and to reach new customers. When we build a new brand strategy for a company, we can often turn their fortunes around and bring them greater profits.

How do you stay ahead of the competition?

I strongly feel that our creative staff are the reason we have experienced so much success. The balance of new ideas and solid business tactics have helped us to grow. I’m very proud of the work we have done over the past few years. We have helped several different wineries and distilleries find new markets.

Which business leaders, past or present, have inspired you the most?

Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft, has truly inspired me. He was able to make a huge impact on Microsoft’s success based on solid programming skills and marketing savvy. I also look up to him because when he left corporate life, he spent time following his interests and learning more about the world.

What is the next step for you?

I’m working to find a way to make my winery business a full-time job. As we are growing in sales and popularity, this dream is coming closer to fruition. For now, I’m going to stay in my current position, but I am looking forward to the day when I can leave New York City behind and work in my winery.

International marketing can be taxing, how do you relax?

Working in my winery helps to clear my head. I try to get up there at least two weekends a month. I love to learn new languages. I’m working on learning Greek right now. I also love to cook. Making new wine and food pairings is an art that I’m just beginning to learn.

What advice do you have for others who want to enter your sector?

Be open-minded and be ready to learn. Don’t let your ego box you in, but take the opportunity to learn from every task.

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