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Reservist grows civilian career as wine importer

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Andre Bowser
  • 439th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Pairing a fine wine with a meal might be appealing to many palates, but importing the refined, fermented beverage is the civilian job of one Patriot Wing reservist who spends his military time surrounded by pallets of cargo.

Capt. William Short, of the 439th Logistics Readiness Squadron, said transitioning from active-duty where he was responsible for the movement of millions of pounds and dollars worth of cargo, to his delicate shipments of fine imported bottles of wine, was no easy task.

The Air Force Academy graduate started his wine importing business, Jordan Imports LLC, in 2008 - the same year that he transferred from active-duty to the Reserve.

While the comparison of nips to nukes might be a stretch, Short said alcohol has had a long history of stringent restrictions in the U.S. His company, named for his grandfather, requires him to be familiar with domestic and international customs laws, as he frequently makes trips to Europe to import new wines.

The New York resident moved to Italy from Texas when he first started his business, and later settled in the Big Apple. He's been a drilling reservist in Massachusetts where he has worked as a logistics officer at Hanscom Air Force Base and now at Westover. Part of his impetus for starting a business was to stimulate his own economic situation during a tough time for the country's financial markets.

"The economy was going into a tailspin, and here I was trying to start a business," he recalled. "I had to be very careful and make sure that everything was in order."

Short said creating a niche for his company was key: "I stood out from my competitors by focusing on getting superior quality wines from small family estates and delivering them directly to restaurants and wine merchants in New York and New Jersey."

He attributed his penchant for running a business to his education at the academy, the Master's degree he holds in economics and his training and real-world experience as a logistics officer well versed in the art of moving mountains of cargo.

Starting a business in a tough economy required him to trim all unnecessary costs. "I got rid of the middleman by managing the relationships of a small number of quality wineries with their U.S. customers, as well as cutting costs by minimizing warehousing," he said, adding that running an import business demands certain skills, such as projecting costs and revenues, paying suppliers, corporate taxes, and managing his small roster of wine salespersons.

"I was very fortunate to be a member of the Air Force Reserve - a lot of the skills needed for wine importing matched those of a logistics officer," he said. Short became the officer-In-charge for the supply and fuels sections of his squadron, which goes hand in hand with his civilian career. "I knew how to manage a warehouse, as well as a global supply chain - on both the military and civilian sides of my career."

Managing a handful of civilian employees, and dozens of reservists, has contributed to his approach at and style of leadership: Putting people first.

"I wouldn't be able to do anything in business or as an officer without superior managers working alongside of me to get the job done," he said, adding that he focuses on coaching and mentoring his subordinates so that they can become leaders themselves.

"Fostering strength around you is important - especially in a warzone."

During a deployment in 2012 to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, Short said he was responsible for millions of dollars worth of vital supplies strapped to a veritable sea of pallets.

"I had to rely on my managers to get the job done when I wasn't there - by setting and enforcing the standard and letting them make it happen," he recalled. He jokingly added that once his operation was up and running, "I guess -- I wasn't really as necessary anymore."

That same trust and empowerment approach at leadership has paid off in dividends in his civilian career, with his company providing fine wines to some of New York City's superior restaurants, and it all started with him taking a chance when opportunities seemed sparse. I had to trust my instincts and my calculations--and then go for it."