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DrinksTrade29JuneJuly2012

Family owned businesses WINE Bwould be tempting to assume that the reason it’s lasted thatruce Tyrrell’s family has been making wine for over 150 yearsand was responsible for introducing chardonnay to Australia. It long isbecause it’s a family business; a sense of obligation or to carry on tradition, so to speak. In Bruce’s case, the most recent fi fth Tyrrell generation, his children, are most defi nitely in it because theywant to be. But there’s more to it than that, including a good deal of passion The from his family members and staff. And while Bruce says his great- grandfather arrived late to the Hunter, thus ‘luckily’ choosing one of the best plots of land, he is probably selling the family short. Bruce is a real character whose youngest child Christopher is now being primed to take over from him one day. Currently assistant winemaker, Bruce Tyrrell says Christopher inherited his aunt (his sister) Ann Ellis’ palate. She worked for Max Schubert and John Davoren of Penfolds fame as well as Len Evans. “Christopher’s winemaking is starting to wind down now and he’s going to spend more time in managing the business. I’m not getting any younger!” said Bruce. While other family wineries follow strict protocol in terms of factor succession planning, Tyrrell’s is a little more relaxed. In the meantime, Christopher has been enjoying Wine Australia’s Future Leaders Program. Daughter Jane is a sales manager for New South Wales, a post she is soon to resign from to move to the bush and “become a farmer’s wife.” She’ll still be spending a few days a month in Sydney though, dealing with Tyrrell’s high-end restaurant customers. “She’ll be fi nding the next big accounts, which is what she’s best at,” said her dad. Other son John, who has special needs, is unoffi cial HR manager or ‘Minister for Morale.’ Bruce says his son has an amazing gift for seeing into people’s hearts and has, from an early age, been Jen Bishop looks at the peaks and brought in on job interviews to assess whether or not someone is a good sort. valleys of being a family business that Bruce himself never doubted joining the family business, although he admits has been making wine for 150 years. working with his father wasn’t always easy. While the industry is, he says, “full of happy, friendly people,” it’s also a jealous mistress, not leaving much time for anything else. “There are very few totally vertical industries,” he said. “We’re farmers, manufacturers, we run warehouses, sales forces, we run restaurants and cellar doors, we sell to restaurants, we export and we sell direct to the consumer.” But life is very different now to even 10 years ago. The internet has Over the time he has been in charge, Bruce has never stopped innovating. turned retail on its head and, rather than whinge about it, Bruce has embraced It was he who made sure Tyrrell’s owned fi ve of the top six semillon vineyards it, making sure he has a good understanding of the new way of shopping. in the Hunter. Tyrrell’s is not just about the Hunter either. It has cabernet franc, Tyrrell’s, famous for its Hunter semillon, chardonnay and shiraz, has a cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, malbec, merlot, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, Facebook page, his son “lives on Twitter” and the business sponsors the semillon, shiraz, traminer and verdelho planted across the Hunter, McLaren Melbourne Storm and the Gold Coast Titans, mainly to access their email Vale, Heathcote and Limestone Coast. And Bruce strongly believes family databases. “We understand the value in it is not in having our logo on the business is where the innovation happens because the lawyers and the big shirts but in having access to their membership,” Bruce said. A smart businesses won’t allow it. Decisions too, are not always made purely on a move indeed from the man who believes he may have sent the fi rst direct business level. And he tries to treat long-serving employees like family too. mail from a winemaker decades ago. Bruce says they’re also increasingly While he would love nothing more than to think Tyrrell’s will continue moving towards selling direct consumer, for which there is demand. for another 150 years, he would never force his family into the business 76 drinks trade


DrinksTrade29JuneJuly2012
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