p Galafrey Wines CEO Kim Tyrer says the Grow Zone Mentoring Program was a game changer for the family-owned business.
p It won't be long until the grapes are picked for the 2014 vintage and Galafrey Wines CEO Kim Tyrer is expecting a good season.
By KEN WILSON
THIS year's vintage will have special significance for young Mt Barker wine maker Kim Tyrer, Galafrey Wines.
It will her first complete year as CEO of a business started by her late father, Ian, in 1977 and will celebrate the company's 37st vintage.
Kim took over running Galafrey Wines, with her mother Linda, after Ian's untimely death in 2003 and Kim admits it was almost a personal baptism of fire for her.
"When dad died, everybody was saying, 'what will happen?'" she said.
"So much of the business was reliant on dad.
"Dad taught me a lot but I had self doubts about my ability to carry on the business.
"And I didn't have a dad to fall back on for advice when I was wondering what to do next."
Linda backed her daughter's inherent ability to make wine and the pair, along with Kim's partner Nigel Rowe, have ensured the 12ha (30ac) vineyard now stands proudly among WA's top-rated wineries.
But Kim admits she was not happy with aspects of the business as she moved to put her own personality into the winery.
"I didn't have the option to go back to an education course so I applied to the Grow Zone Mentoring Program," she said.
The drivers behind the program, first trialled in 2009, are the Rural Business Development Corporation (RBDC) and the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA).
Basically the idea is to match an industry high achiever with a business leader and develop a plan that will turn a vision into a reality.
Kim made a successful application in 2010 and was matched to a mentor, Smart Processing director Andrew Hanna.
Last year she completed the first phase, a three year business plan involving regular discussions with Mr Hanna. Now she regards she is into the second phase, where the family-owned business takes over.
"I applied to the program because I wanted to be in control of the business and not let the business be in control of me," Kim said.
"I wanted to steer the business my way because I couldn't run it like my dad.
"It didn't involve any big changes, just little ones, like ergonomic changes for example, to make it easier for me to handle barrels and equipment.
"The focus was to streamline the business to focus on it being a family business with more emphasis on casual staff and contracting, to complement the time we invested."
With Mr Hanna as a mentor, with a lot of experience in accounting and business systems, it soon became self evident that increasing cash flow would be vital to surviving in a very competitive industry.
The marketing approach changed to emphasise Galafrey Wines as a dry-grown vineyard (no irrigation), making it one of only a handful of vineyards in WA to produce grapes in this manner.
"We produce smaller berries but they are enhanced with colour and flavour," Kim said.
"It's a uniqueness that gives us a point of difference in the market and we're able to promote quality because you have to have good grapes to make great wine."
And Kim believes the wines she makes are improving in quality – a reflection of the skills passed to her by her father and her intuitive sense of creating a balance pleasing to the palate.
"A good palate is very important," she said. "All my skills are based on what I have learnt.
"I was born and bred here and I know this vineyard."
According to Kim, the Grow Zone Mentoring Program has equipped her with business confidence and skills to plan.
"It changed my whole attitude towards business," she said. "I know have more knowledge and with the help of mum and Nigel, we're in better financial control and we've honed the marketing.
"The program makes you look at things differently and changing your perspective on how to go about making decisions."
"Andrew has an accounting back ground and he came with a fresh outlook and he certainly enjoyed learning about the wine industry.
"His input has been a game changer for us and I think we would be struggling now if we hadn't been involved in the mentoring program."
One of the exciting aspects of the program is goal-setting and working towards the goals.
Kim would like to split business sales equally in thirds, selling direct, wholesale (to re-sellers) and exporting (mainly to China).
The winery is well on the way with 20 per cent direct sales, 60pc wholesale and 20pc export.
Grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Muller Rhurgau. The latter is a new grape variety Kim describes as a light, delicate, fruity white wine.
With such a variety, Kim and her "team" are poised to ensure Galafrey Wines reaches new heights.
"Dad started it up from nothing and we're taking it to the next level," Kim said.
"But we won't get it all done in our lifetimes."
CELLAR DOOR NOTE: The name Galafrey comes from the Dr Who television series. Gallifrey is the home planet of the time lords. The spelling was changed to avoid any litigation. When Galafrey is broken into two - Gala is Greek for joyous and Frey- a Nordic god of happiness, harvest, love and peace. More information: www.galafreywines.com.au