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the tastes of consumers in emerging markets (fellow Australian winemaker Penfolds released a Baijiu-infused Shiraz to entice the Chinese in July), Waterman says his relative ease coping with rapid change has been an asset. “I’ve spent 20 years in technology


where change is just constant,” Waterman says. “The wine industry did not have


an appetite for that. When I started here people in the industry would say, ‘Oh, we’re going through tough times, but things will get back to the good old days’. They have not. I have seen things change so dramatically all the way through the supply chain. It has been good to have had experience dealing with change and adaptation and not being daunted by it.” While managing next-generation


family members is something many non-family executives dread, Waterman says he is longing to see the Hill-Smith brothers’ children come on board—and has told them so. “I view my role as a custodian. I’m


a link man babysitting the business… making sure that when they come in, the business is in good shape. And then I’ll step out.”


The family factor For every story of conflict and chaos when an outsider joins a family business, there is an executive who has found their career more fruitful and fulfilling for it. Baskin goes back to the example


of Ford Motor Company in the noughties. “When you think back to 2008,


General Motors was having to hold a monthly or sometimes weekly conference call with Wall Street. “Meanwhile, [Ford’s] Mulally told


the investment community that he and the family had a long-term plan. It was going to take at least a year, and maybe more to work through it, and he was not going to give guidance until they came out of it.” Baskin worked with another


Guatemalan company where all 243 family shareholders agreed to suspend their dividends during the recession. “That is a huge decision, but I


have seen a large number of families make those kind of decisions when they get good information from trusted executives. “I think you can have a much longer and more productive career within a


I VIEW MY ROLE AS A CUSTODIAN. I’M A LINK MAN BABYSITTING THE BUSINESS...


family business. It really is very hard to remain at the top of a purely public company because shareholders really do not know what they want. “It is hard to call them an investor


when their primary motive is to sell. Let us look at them as a trader, not an investor and realise that you have a lot of shareholders out there holding onto stock and we need to think about what is in their best interest for the long-term value of this company. I think families do that well.” Having come from a background in


public companies, Waterman echoes this sentiment. “We’re 169 years old this year and


we talk about what the company might be in 50 years or 100 years— there is that longevity. Without wanting to paint the wrong picture, there are other things that are important beyond pure profitability. “Especially in agriculture which


is subject to cycles, you get to ride out a tough time and not have to react accordingly.” Waterman said last year was


“softer” for Yalumba, largely off the back of Brexit. “If we were a public company, first,


we would have been belted by market analysts and secondly, I would be sitting here going: ‘Right I’ve got to strip costs out of the business’. Family companies do not have to do that. “We still have a very structured way


of running the business and we have strategic score cards that run down through the business.” Then, there’s a more intangible


aspect, he says. “You have history that is based


around continuity of ownership and family. [Our business] has got warmth about it. It has got a sense of collegiality and community. You do not see that in public companies.”


ISSUE 74 | 2018 CAMPDENFB.COM 57


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