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Lisa McGuigan

02 June 2011

Position: General Manager, Sales & Marketing – Poole’s Rock Wines

What makes for a successful life?
“If I knew the answer to this you would be reading my book or watching me talk about it on Oprah.”

Lisa McGuigan is fourth generation Hunter Valley and fourth generation wine industry.
In 1996, having finished her training in hospitality and been working in the industry for 10 years in 5 star hotels, where she says she learnt the art of management, Lisa returned to her “role modeling” – wine.

Working out of her garage in Sydney and a corner of the McGuigan winery on a niche she’d identified in the industry, Lisa developed the boutique label ‘Hermitage Road’. Named after the road that runs past several McGuigan vineyards in the Pokolbin area of the Hunter, it was not to stick.

The French appellation weighed in to ban the use of the term “Hermitage” outside its origins, causing Lisa a major marketing  hiccup. She took a breath hurdled the obstacle and came up with a new name: Tempus Two.
The development and success of the brand, and following that the opening of the Tempus Two cellar door experience, are the two things Lisa considers representative of what she does best.

Firstly, if Tempus Two was to work and grow, Lisa recognized the need for capital. To secure that, she developed an investment submission for the board of McGuigan Simeon Wines, as it was known then. Undeterred by the reaction of the only board member she knew, her father, Brian McGuigan, who had already flatly rejected the idea, Lisa remained committed to the pitch.

With the pros and cons of a family wine dynasty name attached to her, and with her industry experience limited to hotel wine buyer, Lisa admits her work was cut out for her putting together the proposal.
She came away by a majority with the green light: “It gave me oodles of confidence and the motivation to make it successful.

“Getting a boutique brand off the ground, launching and convincing people to join my dream have been massive, positive parts of my life,” explains Lisa.

In 2000, the pewter wine labels Lisa went on to develop for the flagship Tempus Two wines won a global packaging award, providing the brand with a leg up onto the global stage.

Obsessed with packaging and design, Lisa admits the recognition was “an honour”.
“Certainly the award made the challenge and hard work around using the material in such an innovative way worth it,” she says.
In 2003, the $12 million Tempus Two Winery in Pokolbin opened. For Lisa and the brand’s life cycles it was a turning point.

“To move on from the rented space we had to our own cellar door required us reaching a certain production capacity. The benchmark set by the board was 50,000 cases per annum,” explains Lisa.

Reaching that goal had a second benefit. It gave Lisa and Tempus Two the numbers to look at exporting. Her first international order came from Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket chain: “My dream had always been for Tempus Two to be a champion for brand Australia and go global.”

The journey has taken twists and turns and when Lisa left Tempus Two in 2007 with production at 150,000 cases per annum, many of those who knew her well wondered at her decision.

“Understanding Lisa McGuigan means understanding Tempus Two,” says longtime friend and wine industry expert Fiona Sainty. “Tempus Two gave Lisa the chance to prove herself in her own right. Her marketing modus operandi is to take a product and give it an aura, a life.”

And Lisa would agree: putting herself behind the brand or product has been integral to her success.
“I learnt in my hotel management days, I love being out the front, in the public eye and engaging with customers. I adopted this approach when I began Tempus Two. No one knew the brand and given there were over 5000 Australian wine brands alone, I could see grassroots marketing, hand-selling the wines, was the way to go.

“At 150,000 cases… you’re not hand-selling any more, but I wouldn’t have achieved that height without being out there marketing myself. That’s my benchmark.”

Lisa’s move to her own retail venture Lisa’s Wine Vaults from Tempus Two followed and was achieved through assiduous saving, which she believes has always allowed her choice and opportunity. In fact, she says one of her best financial decisions was to save the money she earned working when she was 16 to invest in her father’s wine company, Wyndham Estate.

From this investment and through saving she was then able to buy an off-the-plan investment property in Sydney in later years. She is quick to admit that real estate has left her bank balance a great deal healthier than working in the wine industry, which is a place she loves for its creativity at the production level more than anything.

“People assume there’s a male versus female mindset in winemaking,” says Lisa, “but I’ve only encountered that in senior management. I think it’s much harder for women to work in a collaborative environment at that senior management level in this industry. It’s a way-more harmonious environment in production.”

Working now for Poole’s Rock Wines has brought Lisa back to boutique wines, and the chance to practice her own successful marketing strategies to generate buyer excitement.

Top achievements
•    Tempus Two and the winery.
•    Having Sir Elton John play to a sell-out crowd of 10,000 people at the Tempus Two winery. One of the reasons I wanted to build the winery was to play host to concerts and events that encouraged enjoyment of my wines within a fabulous environment.
•    Overcoming my fear of public speaking. I undertook a NIDA course to overcome my nerves and learn the ‘art’ of speaking and today one of my favourite things is communicating to audiences and sharing my love of wine in that manner.

Australian wines and the Australian wine industry. 
Speaking at events and communicating my love of wine.
I’m an art lover. Currently, I’m working on a feature installation for my new apartment.

Turning points
“I’ve been blessed to have many mentors throughout my life but the most amazing was the late David Clarke. An astute businessman, he gave me a lot of his time over the years and guided me through many facets of business when I thought I was way out of my depth. He helped me understand the things that challenged me, and I learnt such a huge amount from him. My skill set is more rounded because of those experiences.”