We have just succeeded our three-year anniversary as a business. A fast and furious thirty-six months that has seen the company grow exponentially in people, structure, ambition and profit. As a business we set ourselves ambitious goals, most of them based around a set of accounts and the realisation of personal dreams.
As a leader of this business, I have recently found time to stop and consider what we really want this be business to achieve and how we could go about measuring success in a different way. I have stopped to ask myself, ‘how do we make something intrinsically good?’, ‘how do we create a structure built around giving something back, built around empowerment, delivering fairness?’.
The last twenty years has seen huge change in the wine industry. Much good, but much very impactful in a negative way. Across all areas, technology has replaced people; marketing has replaced story telling; and then suddenly, without a word of warning, retail changed. Trolley shoppers became basket shoppers in less than 5 years. Supermarkets who had long invested in huge, out of town sites started to panic, lost their margin, lost their ability, and lost their voice. Wine suffered, the trade suffered, but no one suffered like the grower; short of margin from the outset, the variability of production started to suffocate.
Over the last few years, I have spent more time with growers than ever before. Watched generational vineyard owners, face the reality that on their tenure, business may no longer continue. I have seen a wine industry fail to react and to invest, fail to even realise that changes in climate, sociology and economics are ripping the farmers from their land.
As a business we are determined to make a difference to the people we work with. The only way we can do this honestly, is to share the burden of risk and our strategy for doing this will alter from grower to grower. I am not about to suggest a business of philanthropy, I won’t be embarrassed by profit. However, we will ensure that our supply chain is sustainable, that it works for everyone involved and that any success we make is enjoyed all the way down.
Liam Steevenson MW