Owning a small business comes with many challenges, I love seeing a business succeed and then have the challenge of what to do when it comes time for the owners to retire or move on to something different.
Planning for the future can include bringing the next generation of the family into the business, when this is done well the new generation will add to the base their parents established and this is exactly what is happening at Neudorf Vineyards as Judy Finn gradually hands over her role in this wonderful winery to daughter Rosie.
Tim and Judy Finn were instrumental in me developing an interest in wine in the late 1980’s, and we have a number of old vintages of Neudorf wines in our cellar.
We recently opened some of them to see how they have aged, one wine that stood out in the tasting was the 1991 Neudorf Vineyards Moutere Chardonnay, 1991 was a stellar vintage for a couple of reasons; firstly the 1991 Chardonnay is still a stunning wine, even some 25 years after it was served to Prince Charles when he visited New Zealand in about 1993.
Most importantly 1991 was also the year Rosie Finn first made her future presence known.
As she moves into an important role in the business I have been reflecting on the journey the Finn family has been on, obviously the business has been successful because Tim and Judy kept their focus on quality in everything they did and continue to do, but they have also encouraged Rosie to find her own way in life and come back to the family business when she was ready.
Rosie told me that Tim and Judy encouraged her to find her own way in life, “they didn’t come from families of doing what their parents did and they actively encouraged me to do my own thing.”
Of course her parents influenced the things she loves, and one of those was a love of the arts, “Tim got into photography in a big way and the house was always filled with art.
“I love the connection between fashion and art, Jude and I had always enjoyed fashion. I think it is very much like making wine, there is a balance between science and art in fashion as there is in wine making.
Tim had a really good camera that I could pick up and take photos with while Jude has a really good eye. I remember as a kid mum would put a photograph up on the wall and it just looked right so I embraced the creative side of photography rather than just the technical side.”
Rosie ended up with an Honours Degree in Design with a major in photography before she headed to the UK, “my graduation was on a Thursday and I went to England on the Saturday.
“I have been really lucky to have done so much travel with Tim & Jude. I flew to London by myself when I was 12 to meet them there after they had been working for two weeks, so while leaving New Zealand for the UK was a huge move it was a place I had visited a few times and was quite confident I would be ok there.”
All of the travel she did with her parents may sound glamourous but according to Rosie it is hard work when you are travelling for business, “I learned how difficult the travel is, from the outside it probably looks like a great lifestyle but when we travel we are working, long days and nights, living out of a suitcase and lots of looking at the back of a seat in front of you.
“It also comes with a lot of responsibility when you are representing not just Neudorf but the NZ wine industry, something we do whenever we travel but especially as part of the Family of XII.”
Neudorf Vineyards is actually a small producer but has a huge reputation for premium wines and that comes down to passion and quality in everything they do, “even the photography and design that goes into how the business is presented to the market place is really important and we invest a lot in how the business is seen in the marketplace.”
Being successful means more than just having a great product “our distributors sell our wines into high end establishments in places like Sydney, London and Copenhagen and those distributors expect us to visit them regularly to help them show their customers why they should list our wines. Sharing the Neudorf story is really important and something Jude has helped me learn how to do over the years.”
As part of the Family of XII Rosie has a role in managing the digital content, “it keeps me in touch with the whole wine industry around New Zealand.”
But what about the responsibility of taking over the role at Neudorf? Taking a deep breath Rosie says “I think what makes it less overwhelming is it is probably the world’s greatest handover, Jude didn’t just hand me a folder and say go for it, she has given me a job and mentored me into the role I have taken over from her, she is still actively involved in the business and even when I think I know what I am doing she is there to check with.
“Jude has gently pushed me to do things that use my skills and as well as encouraging me to do things she knew I could do but maybe didn’t have the confidence to take on myself.”
“Also in a small business everything is discussed, it doesn’t land on one person’s shoulders to make a decision, but if you want to do something you also get approval very quickly, we don’t have to wait for the next board meeting so we can get a design off to print within two hours of coming up with an idea.”
Over the years Tim and Judy have also pulled together a great team at the winery, Todd Stevens has taken over the winemaking from Tim, Ken Packer is the General Manager and paperwork guru while Cameron Woods takes care of the cellar door and local sales.
“Todd and I have a great working relationship and talk all the time about everything from bottle shapes, label design and back label tasting notes to international sales reports and occasionally just a good glass of wine. We also share the international sales, he looks after Asia, we share Australia and I look after Europe, so it means I am not in this by myself.
“We are one team, we are selling the same product working as Team Neudorf, Todd is as humble as dad, in fact they are scarily similar in so many ways and we do work well together.
While Rosie is excited to be back in New Zealand working in the family business and even though she and Todd work closely together “Tim and Jude are always there to help, there isn’t a major pressure for them to sell up and retire – it is more of a stepping back and advising the next generation.”
The whole wine industry in New Zealand is at the point where pioneers in the industry are moving on and there is plenty of young energy that comes with new generations “I am so lucky to work with such a wonderful brand and such a talented winemaker, it is an environment that makes you want to succeed” and having watched this young woman grow up I have every confidence she has found her place in the world – right here at home.