The Torani case tells the story of a 90-year-old company founded in San Francisco by two Italian-Americans, Rinaldo and Ezilda Torre. In 1925, the Torres visited family in Luca, Italy, and brought back with them recipes for homemade flavored syrups which they soon began to blend out of their North Beach wholesale grocery. They sold the syrups to cafes and restaurants around North Beach to mix with sparkling water to make Italian sodas. After Prohibition, the company, under the leadership of Ezilda and her son-in-law, shifted its focus to liqueurs and cordials, until the 1980s when Melanie Dulbecco joined the eight-person, family-run company as its general manager.
The case picks up 24 years into Dulbecco’s tenure, with 150 employees and $100 million in revenue. As CEO, Dulbecco fostered an environment of “caring deeply for our people,” which created an attractive and supportive work environment, but one where inevitable challenges arose when team members could not grow in line with the pace of the company’s growth.
The case details three vignettes which highlight these challenges. In the first, two sales directors express an interest in the open VP of sales position. Both directors are “beloved” by their team, successful in their jobs, and well regarded. Consistent with the culture she has developed of “elevating her people to their highest potential,” Dulbecco encourages both directors to apply for the role. However, she soon becomes aware that one of the directors, Andrew Gutierrez, is not ready to take on VP-level responsibilities. She now must break the disappointing news to him, while doing her best to keep him at the company.
The second vignette involves an open VP of supply chain position that Dulbecco has chosen to fill with an outside hire, much to the disappointment of her director of supply chain. Dulbecco interviews six candidates and quickly lands on the “rock star” she is sure will be the best fit for the role. She now must strategize how to gain her director’s buy-in for this candidate by determining whether and how to include her in the interviewing and onboarding process.
The third vignette deals with communication to peers about another manager’s performance. Torani’s director of IT has led a failed process to implement an Oracle roll-out, and Dulbecco is faced with a mutiny, with a call for the director’s termination. She needs to decide not only what to do about the Director of IT, but what (if anything) to say to the other managers about her decision.