Working with your family can be challenging, but incredibly rewarding. After all, who can you trust more than those people closest to you? In this podcast, you’ll meet two successful business operators who have taken their family businesses to the next level.
Penelope Sattler is the General Manager of her family’s golf course — Barnbougle Golf, which has been voted as the Best Australian Golf Resort. Penelope really likes her family and says business rewards are even sweeter when shared with them.
Georgia Beattie got her start in her dad’s winemaking business before studying entrepreneurship and taking on the CEO role at Startup Victoria a few years ago. She’s now running her own business which is bringing startup skills and mentality to big corporate players. Georgia says one of the key benefits of working with family is the transparency and trust in management.
Disclaimer: Transcripts may contain a few typos. Similar sounding words can lead to them being deciphered wrongly and hence transcribed likewise.
Serpil Senelmis: For WeTeachMe this is the Masters Series, where industry professionals share their secrets to business success. I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded. I’ve always thought I peaked too early because I ran my family’s kebab caravan, long before food trucks became a thing. I found it exciting working in the family business. But of course, it’s not without its difficulties. Georgia Beattie is a former CEO of Startup Victoria, and now runs corporate venturing in Australia. But the story begins in the family wine business.
Georgia Beattie: I’d really taken a business into another direction and so dad’s really good being hands-on with things. So he loved the manufacturing side and the production side. We bought a lot of wine. So those sort of big petrol tankers you see on the road, we had 40 of those setting up to the factory a day full of wine. So he would sort of come in and my brother who’s now-familiar has been both on a few people over in London, he would sort of come in and be the wine quality persons. I think that’s the thing with family business. It’s emotional noise. You need to do it.
Serpil Senelmis: We’ll hear from Georgia soon. But first Penelope Sattler. She’s the general manager of her family’s golf course, on the spectacular north coast of Tasmania. In this fireside chat with WeTeachMe’s Wayne Lewis, Penelope says while there are some challenges working with siblings and parents, she really likes her family and is really proud of the achievement together.
Penelope Sattler: We work in golf, and I actually studied Hotel Management at University. So I did a Bachelor of International Hotel Management. I worked overseas for a little while and then moved back to Hobart in Tasmania and was working there. My dad gave me a call and said that they’re building another golf course and could I be part of the opening team and probably move into the general management role when that opened, and I said I’d love to. So that was how that began.
Wayne Lewis: It wasn’t your dad’s passion to run a golf course, in the first instance, did that start off as a farm?
Penelope Sattler: That’s exactly right. Barnbougle is actually a farming property. So we have beef and potatoes. And the land that was turned into the golf course is actually non used coastal land basically, none of us are golfers, dad wasn’t a golfer either. But he was approached by someone to have a look at developing the coastal land into a golf course. And then we had a few Americans that were in golf architecture come and have a look. And they said that they thought that it could be one of the best golf courses in the world. So he said that was probably an opportunity that he couldn’t turn down. So decided that he’d make the golf and see what he could do. So it’s not a traditional golf course in the sense that there’s memberships and that it’s, you have to be very wealthy or from particular family or something to play. It’s very open to everybody. very easygoing, we need numbers and we try to be more a hospitality resort rather than a really strict golf resort. So that’s how, yeah, we’ve probably changed the golf industry a little bit like that.
Wayne Lewis: And if you go back to those days of when your dad was making that decision, whether to sell that land or to develop that land, was that a difficult process?
Penelope Sattler: Yeah, I think it was. He leased the land originally but was also part of the group that put the funds together for the golf course. And then over time, it kind of fell over and additional funding was needed. And he basically picked it up and underwrote it and went from there, essentially. So from what began is probably just leasing the piece of land for a really good golf course he ended up probably saying that there was maybe something more that he could do as well. And he had hospitality in his blood. He’d been in it for a very long time before he was in farming. So I think he thought that he could apply the hospitality knowledge That he had to the golf concept and went from there.
Wayne Lewis: So your dad was a big inspiration, did you pick up some tips on the farm in terms of the business acumen as well?
Penelope Sattler: I think I decided because I didn’t really know what to do. And I found that there were so many other courses that I kind of looked at medicine or law or something like that. And I didn’t want to be necessarily a doctor at the end or a lawyer like I was so unclear about what I wanted to do. Whereas International Hotel Management was more an international business degree. And there was six months study at Union and actually a six-month placement somewhere in the world. So it was very much. I don’t know, it felt more like a modern university where you weren’t actually kind of stuck studying all year round, and then you waste three months holiday you kind of work and study at the same time. So I suppose you got it done a little bit quicker. Got to travel a little bit internationally. And yeah, it was fairly open-ended at the end with kind of a business degree, I suppose.
Wayne Lewis: Was there any pressure to go into the family business? Was it an expectation?
Penelope Sattler: I don’t think so. I mean, obviously, they wanted us to be part of it. But for me, it was really about being closest to and being around the person that I found the most inspiring in business that I knew. So probably a mentor, I guess, was actually my father. Sounds a little bit silly, but just meant that I could be around somebody every day that could teach me so much and actually was willing to teach me so much not hold back on what they’re willing to share, because they didn’t really want me to know if, if I asked him if he could share it, he would share it because I was family. And it was worth me knowing.
Wayne Lewis: What’s your current role today?
Penelope Sattler 5:35
I’m the general manager. So I oversee the golf courses and the resort. And basically, just the kind of day to day running in strategic planning of the property.
Wayne Lewis: You were talking about 150 employees as well. That must be quite a challenging aspect of your role. Yeah, that’s the most challenging aspects of managing 150 people?
Penelope Sattler: Managing 150 people. There’s a lot of personalities and everybody has a good day or a bad day. That kind of thing. So I suppose just getting people to work together, because offering a really good hospitality experience, you need to be pretty united in your goal. And one person can let the whole team down and ruin all the guests’ experience or stay while they’re there. So every employee needs to be aware of how we want the guests to feel while they’re there. Really, I just have to make sure that they’re happy and getting along together and that kind of thing so they can present themselves in the way that we would want.
Wayne Lewis: And with it being a family business, then Are there any challenges the dynamics within the family?
Penelope Sattler: Yeah, it’s definitely not easy all the time. I, we are lucky because we get along really well. But I’m one of four children and we all have some role that we play within the company. And I think that’s difficult as well. But yeah, we get along really well. And we’re pretty clear with our communications definitely been times where we’ve conflicted on things and I suppose the hard thing about being in family is that it’s very emotional when it comes to something like that you probably more expressive than you would be if it was just with a management team that you worked with every day, but you’d naturally live with them. So it can be difficult sometimes, but it’s good.
Wayne Lewis: Yeah. And do you ever set aside certain times, you know, this is definitely family time where we need to completely detach from work?
Penelope Sattler: We try, but it always comes back to business. I think if it’s dinner, there’s a discussion and even if you’re out somewhere else, you monitoring what they’re doing or the service they’re providing and discussing it. Whether you could do something better or take something from that as well. So yeah, I don’t think you really turn off maybe overseas. If we’re traveling together, we might but that’s…
Wayne Lewis: So what are some of the best things about working within a family business?
Penelope Sattler: I don’t know. I really like my family. So I suppose that’s probably a good thing. But all the achievement and all the success that comes you all share, and I think that’s just such a huge thing because you get to use say Christmas or something like that, and you can celebrate the year that you’ve had. And it’s really important to celebrate the little wins as well. But yeah, I think just really people that are fully invested in what you’re doing and what they’re doing and being able to celebrate together, it’s yes. really cool.
Wayne Lewis: If you think about future generations of the film and business then you’ve got those discussions?
Penelope Sattler: Yeah, not so much because none of us have children yet. But I think definitely, we kind of see ourselves as just the guardians of what’s there at the moment to look after and hopefully improve and grow in our lifetime, and then pass it on to the next generation for them to do the same thing. And hopefully, it’s something that will last for years and years to come not be busted apart next generation or this generation or something like that through conflict or something. So very aware of kind of succession planning and I think that needs to take place to make sure that it’s something that will be around for a long time.
Wayne Lewis: Can we have a round of applause for Penelope Sattler. Thank you very much.
Serpil Senelmis: It sounds like Penelope has a really realistic understanding of just how hard it can be to keep a family business going and prospering. I hope it continues well into the next generation too. Thanks, Penelope. In just a moment. We’ll go corporate venturing with Georgia Beattie.
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Serpil Senelmis: Thanks Ad Guy. Georgia Beattie had spent two years as CEO of Startup Victoria between launching her own businesses. But it was working in the family wine business where she can’t hurt entrepreneurial teeth and underwent a bit of child labor in the interests of family business success. In this fireside chat with WeTeachMe’s Wayne Lewis, Georgia says together her family all play to their strengths and when the going got tough and play to their weaknesses as well.
Georgia Beattie: I guess the family business so my father was making wine at the time in the Yarra Valley and also importing French oak wine barrels and selling those to a lot of the large wineries in Australia. And he also had a passion for wine so my brother and I grew up with child labor on the vineyard picking grapes.
Wayne Lewis: And drinking at the age of seven?
Georgia Beattie: I didn’t say that you said that.
Wayne Lewis: Hahaha
Georgia Beattie: And all the things that in a family business, you just got to fill the gaps because they need to be done. It’s not can you do it, or it’s not about trying, it’s just about getting it done. And so that gave me an understanding of why and how to run a business and also understand the landscape of wine in Australia. And so I actually went and studied entrepreneurship over in the States. And when you study entrepreneurship, you sort of need to have a context to apply it to, and have a bit of an understanding of an industry that you’re wanting to start a business in. And so I came back from Boston, and I was actually at the Laneway Music Festival, and they wouldn’t save me a glass of wine. And I asked them why. And they said, oh, look, wine can’t be served outdoors because of the glass. Beer and spirits come in a single-serve, but wine will have to pour it at such a piss. So you can’t have one. You can have a beer, you can have spirits. And so, being that 23-year-old uni student is like, well, clearly I need to solve this really big human problem. And so I started a business that made a single set glass of wine. So I went home from that music festival and got a plastic wine glass and poured wine into it and got my housemate iron and I end on some foil onto the top and ruined behind. But it wasn’t mine so it was fine. But that was my prototype. And so then I went and raised money and built a manufacturing line and had a big manufacturing plant here in Melbourne. But markets were all overseas and right the way through that I was still sort of straddling that family business. And my brother and father were in my business as well. So all the lines were blurred.
Wayne Lewis: Are they still involved today or hows?
Georgia Beattie: Well, I sold the company in early 2016. Because it grew very quickly over those six years, and sort of turned into a bit of a very different company to the company my father has now. And because I’d studied entrepreneurship was all about exits and all these things.
Wayne Lewis: Having the plan?
Georgia Beattie: Yeah, we’re having a business plan. I actually wrote a business plan. But I mean, we grown to the point where we had offices in Japan and Korea, Taiwan and China. And we sort of need to probably inject a whole hate more working capital into the business like a good sort of $30 million, which I would have had to go to the market for. So it was whether I wanted to stay in that business or sell and I just had an offer out of the blue from Europe to the business, I wanted the airlines in the hotel minibars that we served in China. So I ended up taking that offer. And it was an exhausting business. I had no idea what I was getting into and neither did dad. And it was really interesting hearing Penny’s before about two really nice environment to grow and learn and have that transparency. And if you haven’t got sort of your traditional management structure where there are secrets and other people’s careers that are more of a priority. It’s about getting the job done in the most efficient way. That’s also the healthiest way and so there weren’t lines, I’d really taken a business into another direction. And so while we had that, dad’s really good paying hands-on with things, so the manufacturing side and the production side. We bought a lot of wine to those sort of big petrol tankers. You see on the road, we had 40 of those sitting up to the factory a day full of wine. So he would sort of come in there, my brother, who’s now similarly, if Heston Blumenthal and a few people over in London, he would sort of come in and be the wine quality person. So everyone would just sort of play to their strengths and that if they had to play to their weaknesses because we needed to fill some gaps, but I think that’s the thing with family business, it’s that there are no lines, it’s emotionally you need to do it.
Wayne Lewis: And some of your strengths then, forming partnerships was a big one for you. And obviously, you talk about overseas and the manufacturing process and resourcing those type of things. Can you shed a little bit of light around your skillset there and what was important to your business at that time?
Georgia Beattie: Yeah, when when you’re an entrepreneur you sort of need to be on the forward facing element of whatever it is that next growth phases. And so for me, I had this manufacturing line that was belting out wine glasses and at that point, we were serving to all the AFL, the stadiums, and the festivals and things. And then I thought should I need to go and find a market for this wine that’s pumping out of the factory. So I had to go overseas very quickly. And my brother is probably a more detailed well thought out person where I’m sort of like forward run out just like on try things and some work and some wine, I might be fazed by that. So the marketing and the sales and how we positioned ourselves in Asia was a really important thing. And I did spend a little bit of time studying in Beijing. So I sort of understood where why and slotted into the luxury mentality in Asia, and that was relatively new, and sort of a Western culture that was moving in there. So that was a really critical area of the business that I was really happy in what was just so difficult for me to do was so we launched in Japan and the Japanese very particular everything needs to be perfect. And we had this she’ll be right attitude that didn’t go down so well over there. So things that the label was like a millimeter out, it was like the whole container was in those cultural aspects to your market. Right? Yeah. And so I had to come back. And this was sort of filling the gaps and get our quality control from here to up here. And so it’s a start-up. I mean, we were contract packaging for listed wine companies, and they will find it but our Japanese customers were not we needed to change things. And now we’re getting on a plane and coming to inspect things. So I was like, all right.
Wayne Lewis: Easy not to be in Japan, then? Haha
Georgia Beattie: I need to know it was my biggest market and my favorite market. And when you get in there, it’s very hard work and I make you work. But once you’re there, it’s fantastic. And you’ve got these great relationships that are ongoing, but it just takes a little while to get them and Australians are a little bit more casual, where they’re very formal. And so I’ve had lots of learning and genuinely when I learned I learned the hard way. So I had to go into the detail on the factory and do all the reporting and that stuff. I’m awful at which I had to do.
Wayne Lewis: Yeah, you talk about the hard way. What was your biggest fall?
Georgia Beattie: Oh, well, I mean, how long have we got today? I really, to be honest, I probably didn’t learn fast enough with the Japanese, you know, a very expensive mistake was I raise some capital very early on off a business plan. And although I was pitching the business, and I had my vision of where the company was going to go, and I didn’t realize that they were actually wanting to put money into the business to be a supplier to the business. And I wasn’t able to look at it holistically, I wasn’t able to get up in the helicopter and really understand why they were interested in the business because what was being communicated to me is that they really liked the innovation and the potential IP and all the expansion but they actually didn’t have the grand plans and the high growth we’re going to exit this and make it really big intentions that I did. That was really painful. So I outgrew that supplier within eight months and to be honest, the quality of the production they had was, I mean, there’s many nights that I didn’t sleep actually most of them. And so I ended up having to buy them out at a really expensive price because I didn’t really think about how this relationship was going to evolve as the business grew. Yeah.
Wayne Lewis: Was that a catalyst for you? Once you’d sold that to go into it and provide that type of service for the people?
Georgia Beattie: Yeah, absolutely. So although I had my family, it was a bit of a different business. So dad was really good with the wine side and the production, but the stuff that I was expanding, and the IP and things was quite different, and out of his wheelhouse, so I was spending a lot of time in the startup community. So I had great mentors. The thing about startups is everyone shares and so you ask an entrepreneur, or what did you do in this situation? Or can I have a coffee? I’ve got a problem. And they’ll say, yep, and I’ll just give you a complete download of how they solved a situation that was similar trying to help you so being CO it Startup Victoria was a chance for me to give back and also have a bit of a holiday because I lived on a plane for many years. And it was really starting to get my health down a little bit. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease during it and so Crohn’s disease and stress and airplane foods, just a bad combo. So is this like running these fabulous nonprofits at the nucleus of our high growth startup ecosystem was just fantastic. And so I could totally put all the things in place that I wanted to say as an entrepreneur, but now it’s just going gangbusters. You know, now that the government’s actually interested in entrepreneurship, where I had to go to the States to study entrepreneurship because it was a dirty word here in 2008, or whatever it was. So…
Wayne Lewis: I have to Startup Vic, you know, the investment group. So can you talk about that a little bit for us?
Georgia Beattie: Well, what corporate venturing Australia actually is it’s not investment. It is sort of like Startup Vic, but for corporates have been playing in this corporate innovation space this year, and I thought I can go and run ventures within big corporates because you’ve got a business that’s really successful now, but what does horizon two and three look like? And so what I was looking at in the startup community, you’ve got businesses that can go in and shake up a business model, or core customers so quickly, that that corporate doesn’t even know what to do. And so it’s a legitimate threat. And when stock on the market is valued, the likelihood of disruption is part of that valuation, but it doesn’t have a number, which is totally bizarre to me, because disruption does have a number and depending on whether you’re in insurance or property, or marketplaces, whatever it is, it absolutely does have a number. So I’ve been playing in that space. And I thought, right, I’m gonna go do venturing and be an entrepreneur within a corporate. And what I realize is the whole mentality of moving quickly challenging your biases, and being able to leverage the larger group into taking on risk all these things are completely opposite to why you would go and work at a corporate. So the people that are attracted to that space, there’s no upside to trying something and getting it wrong and then potentially getting fired. So this notion of venturing is a very challenging one. So corporates got two options, they build something or they buy something. And so if you buy something, you need to sew it into the organization in order for it to be properly effective, which is a really hard thing to do. Or you build it, and then you need to attract the right talent in there. So all of the Chief Information and innovation officers at the moment, they’re not functioning like the startup community does, where they’re sharing and saying, Hey, we did this at a hackathon. And this was the result. What did you do? instead? It’s very corporate and closed and I’m seeing these leaders reinvent the wheel internally within their organizations. So yet CBA is about bringing that community together.
Wayne Lewis: Awesome. Thank you very much, Georgia Beattie, Corporate Venture Australia round of applause for Georgia, please.
Georgia Beattie: Thank you very much.
Serpil Senelmis: So one of the great advantages of the family business is to have everybody pulling in the same direction with no secrets in the management process. But I bet that isn’t always the case in every family business. Thanks, Georgia and thank you to Penelope as well. Next time on Masters Series, how I built my business. Well, he from two founders about the steps they took to go from a great business idea to successful business outcomes. Until then, I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded, and for WeTeachMe, this is the Masters Series.
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