In the face of a quagmire, Joval Wine Group keeps the glass half-full
Welcome to another edition of Fast Five - our fortnightly series where we ask Victoria’s most influential business people five simple questions to understand the challenges, successes and behind-the-scenes operations of Australia’s leading businesses.
Tim Menting, the Chief Executive Officer at Joval Wine Group, has witnessed first-hand what might have been the most difficult year for Australia’s wine industry. Not only confronted with a global pandemic impacting local and international supply chains, geo-political tensions with their most significant importer also posed challenges.
Despite these difficulties, the Joval Wine Group has maintained its integrity and strength in the market while staying true to the business’ core values.
#1: What has been the greatest lesson the Joval Wine Group has learned from the past 12 months?
I’ve been through several crises in business, but never one so comprehensive as COVID-19. As Australia’s leading distributor of wine to the hospitality sector, March 2020 was terrifying when many of our customers closed, our revenue halved, and we began working from home. We’ve had a strong recovery since, but not without sleepless nights along the way.
The biggest lesson was the importance of leaders retaining a sense of calm agility and cautious optimism in a crisis. The challenges were extreme, but by making rational decisions, and listening and communicating clearly, we were able to create conditions for our people to stay engaged despite being apart, our suppliers to remain confident, and our customers to be secure in the knowledge we were here to support them through the uncertainty. We developed a clear mission, and our staff and suppliers got on board.
The turnaround has been very satisfying.
#2: What do you think will be the greatest challenge to the wine industry in the future?
While COVID-19 is challenging, we’ve learned Australians will continue to seek out great quality wine. As distributors, when restaurants closed we found new ways for consumers to access our wines, as did many of our competitors. The domestic market is in good shape.
The biggest challenge facing the wine industry today is Australia’s diplomatic situation with China and the imposition of 212 per cent tariffs on Australian wine. Exporting wine to China is now unviable for most wineries. A massive volume of wine, predominantly red wine, will need to find a new home.
The Australian wine industry has experienced many boom-and-bust cycles, and it will survive, but there will be pain and small players may suffer more than most. Like many wine businesses we have spent years building our presence in China, only to see it evaporate. The silver lining will be red wine bargains for local drinkers.
#3: How do you measure success at the Joval Wine Group?
Any wine business is measured by a lot of intangibles.
While we measure ourselves like most businesses, marketing, distributing and selling wines requires elements of both art and science. It’s complex, but that’s also what makes Joval Wine Group a great business to lead.
Our overall mission is to build the value of the brands we represent. If we have a well-curated portfolio of Australian and world-leading wines, and customers continue to want these, we are well on the way to success.
If we look after the interests of our people, our winery partners and our customers, business success will follow.
The hospitality industry was badly affected by lockdowns. As a business that remained open and was able to realign, we felt a responsibility to help our customers who didn’t have the same opportunity. In June we launched our ‘Restaurant Revival’ initiative - a comprehensive offering that gave restaurants tools and other support to help them relaunch their businesses.
#4: What does the Joval Wine Group need to achieve greater success?
We want to keep building on what we already have – great people, brands and customers. We need to remain nimble and adapt as the market shifts and as consumer trends change.
To be successful, we need to retain our core values and beliefs including trust, empathy and collaboration. People like working for us and dealing with us. We want to keep it that way as we grow.
We have a mantra of “playing small” and we work hard at this. We know our customers personally. Good relationships and delivering customer excellence are central to everything we do. We give our people a lot of freedom to meet our customers’ needs, and this allows us to be nimble and responsive.
#5: What excites you about the future?
I’ve spent my career taking what we have today and trying to make it better tomorrow. I want to grow the bottom line, but a great business is more than this.
Other improvements we’re working on include creating better leaders, improving our use of technology, do more for the community, and create more opportunities for women - particularly at senior levels.
Joval Wine Group is a great business. However, the more you improve, the more you can identify things you can do better. I love this pursuit of excellence, and I’m lucky to have a great group of people on the journey with me.
I know there are many opportunities for our business. Ultimately what excites me though is creating opportunities for our people, our partners and our customers. And having a lot of fun along the way.