239 Milawa Bobinawarrah Road, Milawa, Victoria, 3678.
Established in 1889 by John Francis Brown. Ross Brown joined the winery in 1970, eventually working as CEO until taking on the role of Executive Director in 2011.
Founded by John Francis Brown in 1889, Brown Brothers Winery has handcrafted an enviable reputation for quality wines throughout Australia, and increasingly, the world.
One of Australia’s oldest family wineries, they have vineyards throughout Victoria and most recently in Tasmania. Offering an extensive variety of wines, the family has worked hard to stay on top of trends within their industry. It’s an effort that continues to yield success.
Ross Brown, Executive Director, spoke with us about their strengths and challenges.
What do you feel are Brown Brothers’ key strengths?
Vision, strategy, and our ability to make decisions quickly.
How does being a family business assist in developing these key strengths?
As a family business, you’re intimately involved. You’re basically living and breathing the business all the time. This closeness is essential when it comes to risk-taking and developing a long-term view.
85% of respondents indicated that being a family business assisted them in coping with the ongoing economic challenges. Has this been your experience and if so, why?
Absolutely. We’re able to look beyond the ‘here and now’ and not answer to a shareholder review in terms of our immediate profitability. I also think that being low in debt has meant that we’re not immediately threatened once the banks change their lending behaviours. Without a big debt, you can actually be very resilient.
And without a doubt, our employees – 30 percent of whom are part of our 10 Year Club – are also a big factor in coping with challenges.
What are the values you consider important?
Trust, respect and pride. The important thing is that you have to live the values. They need to be identified, understood and reflected. I think the values of a business are too important to treat them informally. The real success of a family business is in recognising the informal things that work and in making them formal.
Do you find it useful communicating that Brown Brothers is family owned?
Yes. It’s something we communicate at every touch point. It’s identified in our logo, our branding, and our behaviour; family members are visually in the market place, and our cellar door is all about family and location.
Has there been a significant challenge Brown Brothers has recently overcome?
We lost substantial export revenue through high exchange rates and were suddenly dealing with a smaller business with all the inherent costs of a big business. Part of our move into Tasmania was about re-shaping our business to cope with this challenge. It’s important that you can change your business model to suit a dynamic business environment.
Extract from the KPMG and Family Business Australia 2013 Family Busines Survey.