Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hats off to the TTB!

So I got a call from the TTB today and they were conducting a satisfaction survey..I am assuming for users whom recently completed the bonded winery application process. I got a handful of questions that were set up on a 5 point ranking scale. The questions ranged from TTB Forms access and TTB Forms Instructions to helpfulness of the TTB officers and general expedience of the officers in correspondence....they even had a question about the ranking of acceptance of web based form submittal and addendums to TTB forms....uh hell yeah!

In the end of the survey, I asked if I can make some comments and the surveyor entertained my comments.

So here are my thoughts on the whole TTB bonded winery experience...

Issue 1: What is the deal with the TTB Website and the crazy links to the wine forms?

-One of the things that I suggested was that the TTB audit their website and point all links to TTB Forms to one page with one uber list of required forms. I mean c'mon, you can click on Wine Forms in the "Quick Links" section and be taken to ->forms.shtml list of forms. OOOORRRR.. you can click on the How do I..? Become a member of the wine industry... and be super deep linked to the following... What TTB application forms.. -> wine packet -> which takes you to wine_packets.shtml page which is a different list of required forms...OOOOORRR on the same page as Federal Application Process there is a link "What documents are submitted by a company wishing to qualify as a producing winery?"..that takes you to yet a different set of required Forms.

Please!!! TTB... let's get this all summed up in one place with multiple examples and clear instructions.

My takeaway... I think the forms submission process is confusing on purpose to weed out the bad grapes :-).

Issue 2: The TTB is adding example forms filled out as a visual aid to help future wineries with the process.

- My suggestion..give multiple examples for all of the possible permutations allowed for each form. Not every start up winery is a Corporation, has a board of directors and plans to make 10,000 cases in the first year.

Issue 3: TTB, let's talk about the 60 days.

- The TTB likes to have it's applicants be ready for business and apply 60 days before operating business. Why would I invest in space and equipment before I am approved to make wine? Well, this is one of those regulations to keep business honest and I get it.. but lets make it 6 months...since that is how long it takes to get approved...if you do get approved. As we did here at Cedar River Cellars, I would assume most new wineries would apply at the beginning of the year and be ready for the fall crush...if approved. So, TTB, I say come up with a really good application deadline schedule that marrys well with the grape harvest schedule.

Issue 4: It's 2009! Embrace Rich Internet Applications and the possibilities it beholds!

- This ones easy, TTB... create an online forms submission, addendum, compliance and review web application that let's applicants log in and review their forms status, history of transactions, taxes paid ( yes..integrate ), change logs, etc. I forsee a rich dashboard type UI that pulls in bulk and bottled wine volumes, sales, taxes, alerts to changes in federal code, label approvals, etc., all in one accessible place.

I'll tell ya what TTB.. you can hire me to write me and I will submit a RFP and BRD.

Finally, I am stoked that the TTB is doing a survey and I hope they listen to the participants and I hope they do make some major changes to the web site (winery section..speaking here) and collate the applications and instructions in an easy to read and use web application.