“We have an expression that unless you have dirt under your fingernails, you’ll never know how to grow a vine,” says James Millton from his eponymous Gisborne vineyard.
"Just because they are family doesn't mean they are the right people for the job," says Hunter's Wines Managing Director. "And if they aren't, that becomes a problem that needs to be resolved sooner than later."
Before thinking about succession, Jane made it clear to her two nephews - James and Edward MacDonald - that they needed to set off and discover the opportunities available to them, "before deciding whether or not they really did see themselves wanting to be in the family business for the long haul".
Fortunately for her, when they came back to the iconic Marlborough wine company, they had different skills and interests, smoothing the transition. "One has a passion for the vineyards and winemaking," she says of James, now Senior Winemaker. Meanwhile, Edward, Assistant General Manager, "has a passion for spreadsheets, analytics, and accounting".
There are challenges in family succession, but the benefits include knowing there is continual support, total commitment and loyalty, and a desire to make the best of the opportunities presented, she says. "Family can have more open discussions - agreement and disagreement - than an employer and employee."
But it's not always easy, Jane adds. "For a smooth transition, I think it is a gradual handing over of responsibility as you can see the time is right and the individual is comfortable to take on more and be able to adjust to the additional responsibility." The wine business is diverse and coming to grips with everything - "interspersed with the odd, unexpected event such as Covid-19 to deal with" - can take time, she says. "Mentoring rather than instructing is important to allow freedom to try new ideas."