“A business is only as good as its relationships” Tim Kirk - Clonakilla
Just before Christmas, one of the busiest times sales wise at any winery, I drove out to Murrumbateman to visit Tim Kirk CEO and winemaker at Clonakilla. Summer had arrived and the land was drying out, however the vineyard looked lush and green, producing fruit that what would become some of the most revered wines across the nation and the world.
John, Tim’s father planted the vines 45 years ago in 1971 and success for Clonakilla continues to build. For Clonakilla, trial and error over the years highlighted for the Kirk family that Shiraz would be the variety that would put them on the map. In 2015 accolades for their wines came from international and national media and awards. The major highlight, the Decanter Magazine ranking the 2013 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2nd in their ‘50 star buys for 2015’.
As I arrived into a flurry of activity, work on a new cellar door was close to being finalised with orders being packed and sent. In the midst of this, I found Tim in his office, taking the time to handwrite Christmas messages to soon to be delighted Clonakilla friends. This is the kind of man Tim Kirk is, a true gentleman. A Catholic who not only believes, but, through his actions, sets an example of how you can build a life and business centred around integrity, faith and treating all with dignity and respect.
Some would look at the Clonakilla story and wonder how it has happened? After all, in the wine world 45 years isn’t that long to rise to the top of the Australian wine industry and then go on to produce wines that demand international attention. Winemakers only get one vintage each year to prove their product’s worth.
When I asked Tim about this, I suggested that it was the human element that had stood out to me as setting Clonakilla apart from the competition, with the ability to connect and communicate effectively. Tim suggested it was much more than that and went on to describe three core values he believes are needed to run through any successful business.
1) The product needs to be of genuine quality. As Tim describes “the quality has to shine and be at the forefront, making the product inherently valuable”. If we take the example of Clonakilla’s highly acclaimed Shiraz Viognier we can see this delivered tenfold. As Tim explained “when you’re careful, sensitive and intuitive with how you grow the grapes and make the wine, you are rewarded with something beautiful and unique that presents beautiful aromatic qualities of spice and floral characteristics”. Tim describes the wine as “distinctively beautiful, unique spicy aromatic wine, the equal to anything in the world”.
2) The business needs vision to build excitement. For Tim this is all about “taking his blessing and delivering it to the world”. He stresses that great wine is a long term project, which requires the winemaker to interpret the landscape and consider all its complex features. The family element of Clonakilla has proved vital for the business to achieve its vision. As Tim states “I think great wine is about rootedness, its about vines whose roots go deep in the soil and through that process give that landscape a voice…families are also rooted, families put their roots down”. John Kirk’s risk and vision has paid off through perseverance over many years, providing a strong foundation and allowing the Kirk family to become considered custodians of their land. It has given Tim as CEO the opportunity to build on this vision and achieve amazing results. This year will see the business continue to build excitement by achieving long term visions, with a new cellar door opened just last month and further development of export markets.
3) The business needs to have the capacity to communicate. We all know relationships play a vital part of any communication. Tim describes all stakeholders as friends, and treats them that way. Building genuine, fruitful relationships is key, “a business is only as good as its relationships”, he says. Tim puts great effort into “sharing our genuine excitement about our work here in such a way that the excitement becomes contagious”. He does stress however that relationships are always a two-way street and states the importance of keeping up your end of the bargain, “you must share in an authentic way. The best result is always the win/win”.
We currently live in a world where many products are marketed to make a quick buck and authenticity is thrown out the window. The 24 hour news cycle churns and social media keeps all up to date in an instant. A long term well thought out approach continues to reward many, just as it has Tim Kirk and his family from Clonakilla. Weaving strong values into your business strategy can give clarity and focus. When did you last revisit your values and consider their impact on your business decisions?
**Image courtesy of Clonakilla**
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