Where have all the leaders gone?

This time last week there was great hope among the rank and file.

Most Riverland winegrowers were optimistic that this year, they could begin the long journey back to prosperity. These ‘ongoers’ were cautiously convincing themselves the decade of digging in and digging deep was about to reveal some payback; some recognition of their commitment to the industry.

The recent headlines have all been positive. The key indicators have been strong. Exports are well up in both volume and value. Ongoers understand exchange rates. They all know the Aussie dollar continues to linger around seventy cents to the US dollar. They all understand supply and demand. Yes, they were brazenly thinking, this vintage will ease the pressure. There was every reason to think their cast-iron commitment to exports and their massive contribution to Australia’s research and development programs might be enough reason for them to share the joy; maybe the sound of a few extra dollars, trickling into weary bank accounts between now and next September might mark the end of the longest decade.

‘Surely we’ll squeeze at least 35 cents from a whole bottle of chardonnay?’

Just one week on, and its plain to see…we were dream’n.

Nup, not 35, not even 30 cents!

Not one company that buys grapes in this region has had the courage to stand out from the crowd and recognise their own survival, through the longest decade, is largely thanks to the volume and value this region has supplied to their bottles and bladders. Many choose to believe it’s all a result of their own ingenuity. Others would say it has more to do with short-sightedness,  cunning management and manipulation of numbers.

Not one has actively sought to espouse ‘value chain’ principles. The larger companies, especially the public ones, seem bereft of modern leaders; senior executives who understand the value of transparency; of building trust; of collaborating. It seems there are none among them who understand the power of the value-chain as distinct from the old broken down supply-chain.

Value chain principles prescribe continuous improvement in performance; measuring, managing, working together to achieve a triple bottom line outcome: people, profit and planet all prosper in a well-oiled value -chain. The people part seems to be missing. It’s become fashionable to have an EMS (environmental management system) to show off to export markets just how much we care about the planet and thank goodness for that. Likewise most of these companies have managed to remain profitable. Thank goodness for that also. Regrettably, most of them don’t understand the people part. They won’t even talk about it.

It seems it’s good enough to roll up to the farm gate on about December 15, toss over a few prices, tell the poor bastard behind the gate not talk about those prices to anyone but to follow all the instructions, to the letter, and deliver their grapes to the weighbridge on time in tiptop condition; more of the same old, same old. 35 cents to the grower for a full bottle of chardonnay doesn’t add up in their books. This is such an old-fashioned, unsustainable approach for modern day businesses. Where have all the leaders gone? If you think you know… email Riverland Wine 

Things sure are crook in Tallarook.

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