Shaper: Christine & Tamara Roberts

Show aired on 1st August 2015

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was Boom Boom from John Lee Hooker, a nice robust way to get going this morning here on Jazz Shapers. I’m Elliot Moss, thank you very much for joining me. Jazz Shapers is the place where you can hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul alongside their equivalents in the world of business, I will be joined by Business Shapers, and my two Business Shapers; they are not one but two, are Chris Roberts and Tamara Roberts, a mother and daughter pair. Chris is the co-founder of Ridgeview Wine Estates and Tamara Roberts is the CEO. You’ll be hearing lots from them very shortly. In addition to hearing from them, you’ll be from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business and as well as all of that of course if you can take it, a sumptuous mix of music including a classic from Miles Davis, new music from Daniel Herskedal and this from Noemi Nuti.

That was the delicious Doralice from Noemi Nuti. This is Jazz Shapers and my business shapers today as billed earlier, are Chris Roberts and Tamara Roberts. The mother and daughter dynamic duo who are running Ridgeview Wine Estates and I am so happy you could both join me. Ridgeview Wine Estates now in its 20th year…

Chris Roberts
Yeah.

Elliott Moss
…20th Anniversary. I’m looking at Chris. Chris, you are the co-founder, this was your baby. This is your baby.

Chris Roberts
Yes, it’s still my baby, yes.

Elliott Moss
Let’s just go back for a second. When you set up that business 20 years ago, you came out the back, I believe you’d sold a business a couple of years before you…

Chris Roberts
That’s correct, yes.

Elliott Moss
…you’d done the earn out thing…

Chris Roberts
Yes.

Elliott Moss
…and you and your husband were ready to do something else. Why wine?

Chris Roberts
It had to be completely different from what we were doing previously, because it was computers and software, and we always gave – if you got to your target at the end of the month – it was always champagne. And it just had a little ring about it and Mike was reading about things that we were so close to the Champagne area, right soil, and he thought, ‘It’s about time we did that in England’, basically so that’s what we did.

Elliott Moss
Now you say it very ‘It’s about time we did it’, but actually, I believe Mike went on a few courses?

Chris Roberts
Oh, yes.

Elliott Moss
He didn’t… I love this, so – humble people, you say, ‘Yes, well we sold a business. It went quite well. We thought we’d open another one’ – we didn’t just do that. Actually, we learnt, we mugged up, we became experts, which you did.

Chris Roberts
Yes, and we took, you know, experience. We went and talked to everyone who had experience, in France and anywhere in the world, just to get their take on growing sparkling wine or growing the grapes for sparkling wine.

Elliott Moss
Now, then I believe it got going 25,000 – how many, how many was it in the first crop, as it were that delivered, was it 20… 25,000 bottles, is that right?

Chris Roberts
No. I don’t think it was that many, was it? It was probably about 10.

Tamara Roberts
Yeah, so with the vines they, three years of really not giving you anything. In the fourth year you might get a quarter of a, of a standard crop, the fifth year getting onto 50% and then 75% upwards. So really in that first year, what we had in the ground would have given us 25,000 bottles, but in that first year it would have been about a quarter of that, and then we built up from there.

Chris Roberts
Yes.

Elliott Moss
And how many are you selling now?

Tamara Roberts
We’re… well we’re producing, we’ve bottled 300,000 bottles this year. So it’s been quite a jump.

Elliott Moss
And Tamara, you came into the business last year as the chief exec? It’s a family business…

Tamara Roberts
Yeah.

Elliott Moss
…a proper thing. Your background is as an auditor and a…

Tamara Roberts
Happy days.

Elliott Moss
…happy days. Oh, she’s going, that was a thank you for that mention, PWC I think a fine company. Just in a nutshell before we listen to some fantastic music, that transition from the corporate world into the family business, it sounds like you were pretty connected to it anyway through that time.

Tamara Roberts
I joined in 2004, actually.

Elliott Moss
So, those 10… but in…

Tamara Roberts
10 years, yeah.

Elliott Moss
…those 10 years. But when…

Chris Roberts
Yes.

Tamara Roberts
Yeah.

Elliott Moss
…when you joined from the corporate world…

Tamara Roberts
Yeah.

Elliott Moss
… what was that like?

Tamara Roberts
A bit of a breath of fresh air, really. I enjoyed, I’ve enjoyed all my working life, but actually to come in from my point of view, I like a broad, broad approach to the business. I like to be able to – the excitement of building something up from scratch, putting in the new systems, putting in…seeing how the, the business itself developed is, is such a challenge. It’s, it’s just really exciting and actually, in an environment which encourages you to, to grow and think outside the box, really.

Elliott Moss
Find out lots more from my Business Shapers today, the mother and daughter, Chris and Tamara Roberts. They are the co-founder and the CEO of Ridgeview Wine Estate. Time for some music. This is Milestones from Mr Miles Davis.

Always good to have a bit of Miles Davies, of course and that was Milestones. Chris and Tamara Roberts are with me, they are co-founder and CEO respectively of Ridgeview Wine Estate. Now bottling up 300,000 beautiful, tasty things for us to drink out there in the world. Now the world actually Chris, has got a bit bigger, hasn’t it? It was UK for quite a while. You are out in Sussex. That’s where these gorgeous vineyards are and as you said the soil was kind of similar to the champagne region…

Chris
That’s right.

Elliot Moss
…and the consistency and all the different nutrients and the… I think is it to do with acidity as well?

Chris Roberts
Not really.

Elliot Moss
Oh good there you go! How much do I know about soil? Tell me what it is about the soil!

Chris and Tamara Roberts
Well, we…

Elliot Moss
…not really, Elliot, no.

Chris Roberts
…well it’s the chalk and the clay we’ve got, rather than an acidic soil.

Elliot Moss
But I am saying that, is that important not to have the acidic soil? That’s what I mean… is it…

Chris Roberts
Well actually they are very tolerant.

Elliot Moss
Oh, are they.

Chris Roberts
They are very tolerant things, yes. It’s really the lay of the land and actually to be able to get the roots deep enough and to get enough sunshine round them and the weather. So if you are growing red grapes you need warm weather, warmer weather. So we’ve got a field which is enclosed with woods and things and then the white grapes are on a slope, which faces south, which is pretty well ideal. It’s the sort of thing you want, so it gets the sunshine all the time.

Elliot Moss
But I mean…

Chris Roberts
When we’ve got it.

Elliot Moss
…I was going to… well this is my key point, you know, there isn’t, in the, in the history of wine making, the British wine, as it’s now fairing much better, you’re one great example. It hasn’t done so well because we haven’t got the weather. How have you managed to…tell me the secret? Here it comes.

Chris Roberts
That’s what making sparkling wine does because you don’t want it completely sweet. It has to be a bit acidic otherwise you can’t make sparkling wine. So if it became just like an ordinary drinking wine, it would not be good enough to actually put bubbles in. It’ll go flat. It wouldn’t taste good. So, our climate is ideal in some respects. It is really rather like champagne, because they have very cold winters and they have a very short, you know, a shorter summer. Slightly different to ours, but that’s how it works, you know so. We pick….

Elliot Moss
You pick and you get. Going back a couple of businesses, when I was reading about you, I read that you set up a kind of a nursery, you know, looking after kids thing when you were much, much younger…

Chris Roberts
…Yes.

Elliot Moss
…then you went into, you know, you and your husband went into creating this, this software business as well. Were you born into a family of entrepreneurs? I mean, was this a kind of, was it that or was it the sense that you just had to do, you had to earn money, it was important and you went off and did things. I mean, it’s not very common in, you know, in that generation back then for a mum to get up and do stuff. It’s much more common now that women and the whole equality is a different ball game, but right then, that must have been different.

Chris Roberts
Well the slight difference – well I had three sisters. I was the oldest. My father wanted a son, and I was him.

Elliot Moss
She’s very beautiful by the way, I should add here. So, I don’t know what happened to the son, but there you go!

Chris Roberts
So I really just got used to doing, working hard, doing things, and I enjoy it. I’m not very good at sitting around, and there’s always something interesting to do.

Elliot Moss
And a great role model for you, Tamara.

Tamara Roberts
Oh absolutely, yeah. I mean it’s, all my life, both my umm you know, mum has worked. I remember the nursery back when we were young, and that, I think she put quite correctly that, it went really well until I think my brother and I got a little bit older and started to get a bit fed up of walking back into a house of younger children every day. But that ran for a few years, market stalls. There was always work going on and then starting the computer business from our lounge at home, moving into a shop, moving into a big, you know, a big industrial sort of space. So it’s just been part of my life, completely and given me the opportunity to work within those businesses as much as I can as I got to, got to the right ages to do so, yeah.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me to hear lots more from the mother and daughter; Chris and Tamara Roberts. Latest travel in a couple of minutes. And before that, some words of wisdom for your burgeoning business, sounds like you need a role model to me, as I say I’m not the best thing to do, some advice for your business from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya.

You’re listening to Jazz Shapers and every Saturday morning I get the chance to chat to someone who is shaping the world of business, and they’re called Business Shapers. If you’ve missed any of the previous ones, there are literally hundreds, I think, in iTunes. If you are travelling on British Airways, you can listen over there as well. CityAM is your destination if you’re online and you fancy pootling around and finding out who else is available there. Today my Business Shapers are Chris and Tamara Roberts, and they are… it’s a family business, it’s Ridgeview Estate Wines. I’ve tasted them before, I am sure you have. If you’re listening, you will know what they are. Beautiful, sparkling wines grown in the lovely hills, the rolling hills of Sussex. And I’m with them here, and I’m really happy they can join me. We were talking earlier, Tamara, about the fact that you saw your mum, you know, working from a very young age and in fact you stopped the first business, you’d had enough of those children anyway. I know what goes on and then the second business built from as you said, round the kitchen table, the 300 people and you sell out and all these other fantastic things. What’s it like working with your mum now? What’s it been like over the decade? Is it as you would expect, when you have conflict, how do you manage the conflict?

Tamara Roberts
I’m umm, you know, I’ve enjoyed working with the family. I’m very good, I think, at separating personal from the business side and that’s important to have that line. It can blur at times, but I’m much more open and honest about things. I prefer to sit down with somebody if there’s an issue, or if I sense there’s an issue about anything, I actually sit them down and say, ‘Right. What’s the problem? What’s going on?’ and actually being open, honest and, and, you know, a bit observant about how things are rubbing along I think helps enormously; and, actually I live next door to my mum now as well on the estate so we couldn’t get any closer, really. So, we get… I think we rub along pretty well, I think.

Elliot Moss
Yeah? You’re nodding Chris.

Chris Roberts
Ah yes. Yes we do.

Elliot Moss
Chris, what would you say is your…Tamara’s biggest strengths for you in the business, as you observed her? Not just as the proud mum but as the, as the co-founder of this business?

Chris Roberts
It’s her ability to actually get everyone working to the same tune. So that is a great importance, you know, there’s so many different parts of the business and everything has to work together and it has to sort of move in the same direction. But it’s also seasonal. So it takes a lot of organising. She has got a great ability to actually get people to talk to each other and explain what’s going on and work together. And, and people do cross over and do other people’s jobs, which helps you understand their problems and vice versa.

Elliot Moss
And Tamara, your mum’s greatest strengths apart from obviously being the best mum in the world. I hope you’d say that first! I mean, God, if I…

Tamara Roberts
…of course, of course she is, yeah, of course she is. I mean, she’s been a great role model to me. There’s been no time where my mum hasn’t worked extremely hard and, and I think it’s the unsung hero side of it, really, for my mum is that she, she’s there working and working away in the background and perhaps not taking any of the plaudits that perhaps some of the other members of the family will get from being a bit more in the front line of the business, but she is there basically keeping us all going. I mean, she’s anything from supporting us with the childcare, with people being off, you know, if people are off sick, she’ll stand in. It’s just, you know, almost the biggest unsung, but most important hero we have, really.

Elliot Moss
Wow…there you go. Stay with me for more from my brilliant Business Shapers today. Time for some music, this is Daniel Herskadal and Rainfall.

That was Rainfall from Daniel Herskadal; tuba player, you would have heard him in the background there, I hope, if you have a fine ear, I’m sure you do. We were talking earlier about your qualities. Obviously you set the business up with your husband.

Chris Roberts
Yes.

Elliot Moss
How did that partnership work? Was it, obviously different to this one? But was it easy? Was it honest? How, how… what’s the dynamic? What was…

Chris Roberts
We’ve been working together… in the previous business as well. So we’d been working together for 34/40 years.

Elliot Moss
…and obviously it…

Chris Roberts
It works.

Elliot Moss
…it works.

Chris Roberts
But we’re very different. So we’re not actually competing for the same thing. So Mike was you know, the brains, if you like, the business flair and I was the clearer upper, making it work and doing all the background stuff. But that suits me in a lot of respects, because I’m quite good at it.

Elliot Moss
But in those… I imagine, through that partnership and this is a different partnership, obviously different dynamic, but you would have leant on each other a lot, I’m guessing in, in the business sense. Is that right? Or were there other people outside of the two of you and are now the two of you where you can go and people can listen and give you sage advice? Or does it remain literally within the family? For you?

Chris Roberts
For me?

Elliot Moss
Yeah.

Chris Roberts
It was probably more in the family, because we’ve doing it a long, you know, working together a long time. So it was a matter when things go wrong, the other one would gee the other one up and find a good reason why we should continue and that sort of thing. And ummm, we did have outside people that we had worked with previously and that sort of thing. We built up a good relationship with bank managers and that. I would have said it was basically the two of us.

Elliot Moss
And for you now, Tamara. Is it…do you go to your mum when there’s a proper problem, or do you go to other people as well? Because you’ve worked in that corporate world, and it gives you an incredibly good grounding, because you kind of quote/unquote – know how to do things – when there’s scale involved and when it’s complexity and all those other things. But has it remained between the two of you, really?

Tamara Roberts
Oh yeah. I mean, if there’s anything that’s troubling me. My first port of call will always be to go to mum and then if she, you know, we might agree that actually that’s something that I probably… it’s almost just agreeing a sense check that I sometimes have the, the course of action I want to take in my mind, but I will go to mum and say, ‘Right. This has happened. I think I want to do this’, and she’ll go, ‘I think that’s a very good idea’, and it could be that I need to go to an external people or to get that advice properly, if it’s technical advice that I need in some way or if we feel that you know, we need some external… if we feel we can, you know, cope with it within the family and obviously I’ve got my brother, my sister-in-law and my husband as well all involved in the business too. So, there is quite a wide, you know, array of people with different skills and abilities to talk to. So, but definitely if there’s a more, sort of a more, a larger problem that I want some advice on, then definitely mum would be my first port of call.

Elliot Moss
We will have our final chat with our guests today, Chris and Tamara Roberts. Plus play a track from the great Marquis Hill. That’s after the latest traffic and travel.

That was I Remember Summer from Marquis Hill and Megan McNeill. Chris and Tamara Roberts are my Business Shapers just for a few more minutes. We talked about a bunch of stuff. I just want to think about the future for a bit. The business, it strikes me, Chris, isn’t… it wasn’t set up to make you hundreds of millions of pounds and have an empire; it was set up because there was a love of the thing you were going to create and a pride in that, looking at the thing from its, the very beginning right the way through the process, and I think I read about that right through to the end product and you go, ‘We did that’.

Chris Roberts
Yes.

Elliot Moss
‘We created that’. What’s going to happen for the next few years? Is it more of the same? Or is there, I mean I know you’re now exporting, the last five years or so you’ve been exporting lots of countries. It’s just…

Chris Roberts
Yes.

Elliot Moss
…let’s just do more great stuff like that. Or are there other…?

Chris Roberts
I would change things. They’ll actually bring in new lines and we’ll actually look at what the marketplace is looking it, and we’ve just got to develop with it. We can’t stand still. No one can stand still in business. You have got find things that will sell and that’s how… it’s got to continue.

Elliot Moss
It’s much more competitive now than it ever was. I mean, when, when I was growing up there were two wines. In the Eighties there were, like, ten. In the Nineties it exploded and the two… you know, the last 15, 20 years, but not only that the quality has got better and it’s all got cheaper. So how in that complex place, how do you stand out now? How do you ensure that people are buying your wine rather than someone else’s?

Chris Roberts
It’s very difficult, and it’s one of the, I think the next challenge for us. We’ve been very focused on production and getting the quality right and getting the infrastructure and everything in place to make the best possible quality sparkling wines from our vineyards. And the focus will still be on there, but now, with the, you know, not just the competition internationally from international-wise but domestically as well. I mean, there’s some fantastic other English sparkling wine producers out there now. So we really have to focus on, on exactly that question… ‘What makes us stand out against the rest?’ And I think there’s, you know, we’ve got core brand values with us being the family business and being a very open business as well. Welcoming visitors, journalists and everything to the winery. We have got some very good core brand values already, but it’s really, like you say, is trying to get that message across, not only to our trade partners but to consumers as well.

Elliot Moss
And Chris. It’s obviously, this is a working full stop is a big part of your life and is part of… part of who you are. I can’t imagine you ever thinking of the ‘R’ word.

Chris Roberts
No.

Elliot Moss
No! She flashed me a look then. It was a gentle ‘Elliot, don’t even mention the word retirement!’ because I imagine you won’t. There’s no point, right?

Chris Roberts
No. No point. No point at all because there’s always something new to learn. Even if it varies to what I do. It’ll be something there to do.

Elliot Moss
Is that the key? Is it just because you want to carry on learning? Is everyday like what…

Chris Roberts
Yes…

Elliot Moss
…’Hold on. Help me understand that’. Is that what it is?

Chris Roberts
Yes.

Elliot Moss
… that drives you do you think?

Chris Roberts
Oh, absolutely. Every day you learn something new. It may not be to do with your business or anything. But you always are learning something new.

Elliot Moss
And working with the rest of the family, it is really a proper family business. Is that, does that cause complications? Or is it just more of the same? Because you’re just incredibly nice to each other and sensible people. Is that, is that the rest of them as well? Or are there chinks sometimes?

Tamara Roberts
There could always be chinks every now and then. I mean, we’re all only human at the end of the day. It would be nice that we’re super human and can, and cannot have any sort of irks and those sorts of things against each other. But actually on the whole, everyone has something different to bring to what we do, so… and maximising people’s skills in the areas that they enjoy is my job and if I can get everyone in the family into positions that they really enjoy doing the work, then generally those, those contentious side of it disappears, really.

Elliot Moss
Well look. I wish you both continued success and happiness because it looks like there are two, two happy campers here. The family is happy. The business is going well and thank you so much for spending the time with me today, so I really appreciate it. Just before I let you go, I am going to look at Chris. What’s the song choice for you and why have you chosen it?

Chris Roberts
Django Reinhardt, and it’s St Louie Blues. I chose that because it’s one of the first things I heard that started making me appreciate jazz.

Elliot Moss
Well there you go. It’s a pretty damn good reason. Well here it is and thanks again.

That was St Louie Blues from Django Reinhardt. The song choice of my Business Shapers today Chris and Tamara Roberts. From Chris’s perspective, the co-founder, it was all about learning and working hard and from Tamara’s perspective it was all about being supported, having your strengths understood and really, really benefitting from the family environment. Do join me again, same time, same place. That’s next Saturday, 9.00am here on Jazz FM for another addition of Jazz Shapers. In the meantime, though, you know what I’m going to say, coming up next, It’s Nigel Williams.

Mother & Daughter duo, Christine & Tamara Roberts are the CEO and Founder of family business Ridgeview Wine.

Their first vines were planted in 1995 and wines started to be sold in 2000. Ridgeview Wines specialises in the production of traditional method sparkling wines from the traditional grapes varieties only (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier). They have enjoyed huge success in international competitions; becoming the first producer outside of Champagne to win the coveted Decanter Award for Best Sparkling Wine in 2010.  Despite domestic demand continuing to outstrip international demand, Ridgeview decided to open up export markets five years ago and now 20% of their wines are exported to Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Japan, Australia and growing number of states in the US.

Follow Christine and Tamara on Twitter @RidgeviewWineUK

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“…if you are growing red grapes you need warm weather”

“If there’s anything that’s troubling me, my first port of call will always be to go to mum”

“We have got some very good core brand values already, but it’s really trying to get that message across, not only to our trade partners, but to consumers as well.”

“Obviously, I’ve got my brother, my sister-in-law, and my husband all involved in the business too so there is quite a wide array of people with different skills and abilities to talk to.”

“If it became just like an ordinary drinking wine, it would not be good enough to put bubbles in. It’ll go flat. So our climate is ideal in some respects.”

“I’ve enjoyed working with the family. I’m very good, I think, at separating personal from the business side and it’s important to have that line.”

“We can’t stand still. No one can stand still in business.”

“If I sense there’s an issue about anything, I sit them down and say: ‘Right. What’s the problem? What’s going on?'”

“There’s some fantastic other English sparkling wine producers our there now so we really have to focus on what makes us stand out against the rest.”

“Actually, I live next door to my mum now, so we couldn’t get any closer really. I think we rub along okay.”

“Every day you learn something new. It may not be to do with your business or anything. But you are always learning something new.”