We had the good fortune of connecting with John Stanley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi John, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Through my early passions of motorcycle racing and alpine ski racing, and my willingness to take on new career challenges in completely different fields (wine is my third), I’ve always been a risk taker. So my tolerance for the internal stress of taking risks is very high. Taking big risks has certainly played a huge role in shaping who I am today. I guess I’ve always felt that no matter the outcome of a given situation, I’ll be fine on the other side of it. Once I realized that, I was able to maintain a relative state of calm in taking on risks and maneuvering through tough situations, which allows me to appreciate and thrive on the energy associated with taking on risk – like “I’m not sure if I can pull this off, so I better figure it out – fast!”
As I matured, I actually began to worry that my attitude towards risk was disconnected from that of most people, and I do still think I’m an outlier on the curve of risk acceptance. But many years ago I ran into a quote from Helen Keller that matched my intuition about risk perfectly, and it’s helped remind me that I’m not crazy after all. The quote is as follows: “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
In my business, however, there’s a whole team of people who’ve decided to come on this ride with me, so risks to the business also involve them. It’s essential then to take a a clear-eyed assessment of the risk of any change or initiative as it relates to team dynamic, guest experience, operations performance, and finances. Once I’ve assessed the worst-case, best-case, and most-likely case scenarios, it’s a much simpler and more confident decision to move forward (or not).
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Stanley’s Wet Goods is a wine, beer, and spirits retail shop + wine bar in Culver City. But my view is that we’re really the nexus between two communities – the first being the community of people who dedicate their lives to producing the great drinks of the world that we’re proud to represent, and the second being the diverse community of people around us in the great city of LA.
What we drink is just as important as what we eat. We’re dedicated to bringing only the very best, well farmed, simply made wines, beers, and spirits to our shelves. When it comes to wine, our selections are made by people with a deep connection to their farm, and making wines that express the character of the place where they live as well as themselves. So wine at its best is an incredibly expressive and energetic drink that conveys so much in a sip that it’s often hard to capture in words. But making those connections, telling the stories behind the labels of what we carry, can ignite the spark of interest associated with great drink that really separates us from an ordinary trip to the store.
Nothing about starting and growing this business has been easy. But the support, encouragement, and sustained growth from the community of people who know us and love what we’re doing has been incredible. It’s allowed us to work through some rough patches along the way, and is paving the way for us to be part of the community for what I hope is a long time into the future.
My vision for what the business should be – what I describe above plus providing an exceptional guest experience, and being a meeting place for the community to share in good drink with friends and family, has not wavered from the inception of the business. Being steadfast, and not getting distracted or compromising in that work have, I think, been the key factors in our success thus far.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Nature Vibes: For sure the beach – anywhere is great, but my neighborhood spot is Venice Beach, so there it is.
Hike in Sullivan Canyon – a not-so-secret spot that nonetheless never disappoints.
Hollywood Bowl – timeless LA evening. Just be sure to pick a BYOB event!
Dodger game – nothing beats a day at the park
Food & Drink:
Great White in Venice – best all-day beach vibe, but the breakfast burrito still kills it for me.
Cole’s – Still my fave spot to soak in old downtown while sipping on Manhattans and chowing down the best French Dip in town (sorry Phillipe’s!)
Citrin – Check out the bar for some incredible dishes + great wine in a classy yet comfy setting.
El Primo’s taco truck at Lincoln & Brooks in Venice – everyone has their go-to truck in LA, and this one’s mine. Al Pastor done right – what more do you need to say?
Marvin – great natural wines + solid bistro fare = great time for all.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’m a big believer that we’re all interconnected, and that every interaction can contain meaning and importance. So I deeply value every friend, coach, mentor, boss, opponent, coworker, and citizen who’ve influenced my life.
Certainly, though, the most important relationships in my life have been my parents, Fred & Lori Stanley, and my wife Jean. Steadfast love and encouragement have been hallmarks of all those relationships. But with my wife, she’s also the one who keeps me straight and tells me when I’m veering off course. So my shoutout is to them.