Robert A. Donoho, MBA ’91: Vice President of Supplier Development, E. & J. Gallo Winery
Promoting strategic growth and new markets in the wine industry
“I almost feel guilty about telling others how well Gallo has done during the past few years of economic malaise,” Donoho said. “The bottom line is that Gallo’s revenue has doubled over the past 10 years and we expect this growth to continue as we release new products as well as make targeted acquisitions. My single biggest challenge is enabling this growth through more capital investment and increased outside manufacturing while maintaining quality and cost.”
As vice president of supplier development, Donoho leads the company in buying supplies such as packaging material and capital equipment. Donoho has capitalized on numerous other growth opportunities during his 17-year career with E. & J. Gallo, taking on responsibilities ranging from financial planning to managing a wholesale wine distributor in Phoenix, Ariz.
According to Donoho, E. & J. Gallo’s “greatest strength is in the retail chain space with wines priced under $15.” As consumers look for better prices without sacrificing quality during recent periods of economic tightening, he says, E. & J. Gallo has been able to grow their lower-priced segment substantially by providing thrifty options such as André Champagne — the best-selling brand of sparkling wine in the United States. Additionally, Donoho says Gallo is finding success in transitioning to higher-priced wines, such as their Louis Martini and William Hill labels.
Donoho believes that E. and J. Gallo’s strong values and company culture will help it remain an industry leader. “Gallo is and will remain a family business,” Donoho said. “While we hold ourselves to the same standards as a public company, we make decisions based on a long-term perspective. The goal is to ensure Gallo remains an industry leader for generations to come. Also, the values of the family permeate the company and mesh well with my own personal values: hard work, integrity, continuously striving to improve, respect for the environment, and just doing the right thing.”
Although Donoho says he hopes to spend the rest of his career working for Gallo, he notes that he ”stumbled into” the wine industry when a colleague at Procter & Gamble handed him the contact information for a Gallo recruiter. After going through the recruiting process and learning more about the fast-growing wine industry, Donoho decided the career move was the right one for him.
“Gallo knew it had to change if it wanted to remain an industry leader,” Donoho said of the early 1990s-era Gallo. “There were so many opportunities — low-hanging fruit — for me to go after to make an immediate impact at the company. It was an excellent opportunity for me to make a difference. In addition, the wine category was and continues to be one of the fastest-growing consumer product segments.”
Teamwork and leadership abilities, skills he honed at Johnson, are crucial in Donoho’s day-to-day responsibilities. “It was very stimulating to work with very bright students in a team setting,” Donoho said. “I learned the give-and-take involved in being a good leader and making effective decisions within a team environment.”
Donoho is now involved in actively connecting fellow alumni to one another, reaching out to classmates as class agent for the Class of 1991. “I accepted the invitation to be a class agent because I see this role as a great way to stay connected with my classmates,” Donoho said. “I’ve formed JGSM Class of ’91 groups on Facebook and LinkedIn , and 31 alumni in my class have joined the group. Technology is a great way to remain connected and I’m hoping to find more ways to leverage it to build a stronger sense of community going forward.”
Donoho also remembers developing strong connections with many of his professors while at Johnson, both in and out of the classroom.
“Easy access to faculty sets the Johnson School apart from other top business schools. I took advantage of this throughout my time there, never hesitating to visit during office hours, so I got to know many of my professors. I especially enjoyed working with Professor [Thomas] Dyckman in accounting. Professor Dyckman had such a wonderful, humble style for teaching, often incorporating humor into his lectures. At the end of the semester, he asked me to help him with a book, so I spent the winter break developing review questions he could use.”
Donoho offers fellow wine-enthusiast Johnson alumni advice on which E. & J. Gallo wines to drink: “For everyday drinking, it is hard to beat our Barefoot wines,” he says. “If you don’t like the wines, we promise to give you your money back. That’s how strongly we believe in our products.”
Brendan Doyle ’12 is an intern in Marketing and Communications at Johnson.