FB People

Week at the top

By Families in Business

Monday morning starts with measuring the size of a loading dock in one of the warehouses where we store wine. I wanted to prove to my staffthat there was a way to transport wine in and out of the warehouse without incurring the cost of a fork lift truck. The result? It is not possible and I will have to incur the cost. Not a good start. My staff are right and I'm wrong.

Next stop, a visit to a Member of Parliament. I am on a crusade, to complain about my little wine business being discriminated against by a larger corporation. The Member is no help at all. At the same time he asks me for a donation of two cases of wine for his local charity. What else could I say but 'yes'?

I then drive my car two hours to Sydney to attend a committee meeting for a planned food and wine weekend to be held in the region where my vineyard and winery are situated.

The committee asks whether they could hold a fundraising dinner for the Opera Company in my winery, to which I agree. "Richard, would you be able to donate the wine for the dinner? We will need about ten cases. "What else could I say again but 'yes'? I've now made three calls, lost three times and donated 12 cases of wine. Not a bad start for Monday.

Tuesday was very different. I am due at the physiotherapist at 8:40 am. It's my neck ? a combination of stress from my new business and a thump on the head from a motorcycle accident a few months ago. I've been visiting the physiotherapist twice a week ever since.

The afternoon is spent with my lawyer, finalising my Will and Testament and completing our estate planning exercise with the family. I've been in the wine business for six years and there's not a positive cash flow in sight. At the rate I seem to be going, I won't have anything to leave.

My lawyer was very efficient and I had my Will and Testament ? and his account for his services ? within 24 hours. He obviously did not like the colour of my complexion and thought he should be paid before his account became part of my estate.

I normally drink a glass of wine with my evening meal. Tonight I drink a bottle.

Wednesday starts with two meetings at the Sydney office followed by a charity board meeting by telephone conference which takes three hours instead of one. The interesting thing about a telephone conference is that you can carry out several jobs at the other end of the telephone, such as reading and replying to emails, without being noticed by others attending the meeting. That is, until someone asks you a question. "Richard, are you still there? What do you think about that issue?"? "err, what issue?"

After lunch I eat a sandwich at my desk and work through my 'in'tray until 5:00 pm. At 5:30 pm I attend a board meeting of the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children. Home by 7:30 pm. Mary is at our home at the vineyard and I'm in Sydney. I make toasted sandwiches, washing them down with a bottle of good red wine and am ready for bed.

Thursday is a serious day. I needed to counsel two of my young staff about a misdemeanour on the job. I shut the door of my office for the counselling session, with no doubt every other staff member on the other side of the door awaiting the outcome. Of course they deny the rumour. I counsel, get nowhere andthink to myself, "What a dummy. You would have thought you'd learned your lesson from your supermarket days". I sold my supermarket chain, with over 2000 staff, ten years ago and set up a grape growing and wine production business with only 20 staff. Despite fewer staff, it still presents the same human issues to management.

My wife had asked me to be home early today. As I prepare to leave the office, my day is interrupted by the arrival of the pest control contractor to spray the offices. A pleasant man who not only wants to do his job but also wants to chat. Home late ? c'est la vie!

Fridays are always busy, but this one was shaping up to be a 'doozee'.

At 10:00 am we have our monthly Oakvale executive meeting which is also attended by two of our children, Karen and Marilyn. Each works part-time in the business and Karen is Chairman of our Family Council. This particular weekend they are spending with Mary and myself at our vineyard home with the rest of our family who would arrive late in the day from Sydney.

Following the meeting I spend two hours helping my staff set up for a fundraising dinner inside the winery that evening.

Outside caterers move in and our winemaker, Cameron, moves out. The transformation of the winery into a dining room provides an interesting respite for our staff and a challenge for the caterers.

I had promised Mary I would be home by 6:00 pm to spend some precious time with our visiting grandchildren. However, I loiter too long at the winery and arrive home at 7:30 pm, just in time to say goodnight to them.

The business week has passed, the donations given, meetings held and stress levels maintained. It all dissolves into unimportant oblivion with the glee of those little grandchildren throwing their arms out to greet their grandparents saying, "I love you Granny and Pa". It is worth all the rest.

Dinner is the important meal at our vineyard home. Our children are all good cooks and balance the afternoon between their children and the preparation of dinner. Tonight it is Peking duck pancakes followed by roasted lamb and vegetables ? with specially selected wines of course.

Before going to bed, I prepare the bread mix for fresh bread on Sunday morning.

There is nothing nicer than waking up to four grandchildren under the age of three jumping on our bed saying "hello"at 6:00 am.

Around lunchtime we all set off to our delicatessen at the winery to enjoy a sandwich and coffee whilst the grandchildren play in the winery's playground. Back home by 2. 00 pm and preparation for the evening dinner begins. Tonight it is osso bucco with gremalata and some of our own lovely Shiraz. Dessert is 'lemon delicious' pudding washed down with an old Australian porphyry dessert wine.

The stress disappears and we are in full family mode.