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Let’s talk workplace culture

The majority of employers know the importance of culture in their workplace. This is one reason why a business’s core values and behaviours is of upmost importance.

I recently had the good fortune to chat with Mary Hamilton on radio. We talked about the importance of work culture and the role it plays in Hugh Hamilton Wines.


Who’s Mary Hamilton?

Mary’s the CEO of Hugh Hamilton Wines in South Australia. Hugh Hamilton Wines is Australia’s oldest winery, having planted Australia’s first wine grapes.


Mary is the 6th generation of the Hamilton family to work in the business. Her father, Hugh, has played and still plays an integral role in the business.


How did Hugh Hamilton Wines build a positive work culture?

Mary spoke about the culture stemming from it being a family-operated business. And this is true of many Australian businesses that are family-operated.

When you’re operating a family business, it gets personal. This is particularly so when the business name carries the family name. This is a reflection of Mary’s family, making the culture important. The culture needs to reflect the Hamilton family’s personal values. That’s the driving passion behind the work culture at Hugh Hamilton Wines.

But does this come naturally? Is it generational? Mary’s father, Hugh, has been influential. Hugh’s philosophy? Every bottle of wine carried his name, so he wanted a lot of substance and credibility.


Culture is based on values

Having an inclusive work environment is what makes businesses stand the test of time. This means having employees who want to instil the same values as the business owners.


Mary adds that personal ethics plays an essential part in this. Hugh always told her “make sure we pay our bills on time”. Honesty and trustworthiness are essential to Hugh. If people or customers turned up unannounced, Hugh always found time to see them and Mary learnt a lot from that.

Regardless of whether your family name is part of your business name, you are your business. And your values are integral to your relationship with your customers and employees. If they feel included, this has a positive impact on them wanting to talk with you.


What has Hugh Hamilton Wines done to keep the employee culture strong?

There’s a big emphasis on the people.

Personal relationships were key when Hugh Hamilton Wines was smaller. Mary recalls how terrific the relationships were between her father, step-mother and staff.

Mary felt that the culture lost its way a little as their business grew. What turned that around was bringing in some strong core values. They then aligned their core values with their staff’s values. This made staff feel they were part of the business. Part of the family.


It was important to the Hamilton family that their values were memorable. And they are – air, water, fire and earth. What a great way to name a winery’s core values! Air is about being clever and creative. Fire is about passion and personal (being ‘fired up’). Earth is about being a decent person and being real. And water is all about being compassionate, aware and treating people how you want them to treat you.

Once Hugh Hamilton Wines welded these values into their business, it was transformational.


Mary’s top tips for businesses currently doing it tough

COVID-19 has been tough for so many businesses, so I asked Mary for some tips.

Mary’s advice is to do some homework and dedicate time to working out your business’s values. It’s hard work but it’s valuable. Why are you in business? What do you do it for? Both your employees and customers need to know this. It’s powerful. Having a vision that people can buy into is so important.

Getting together with your people helps with this. And it doesn’t need to be anything elaborate or expensive. It’s about togetherness.

The values of Hugh Hamilton Wines scream positivity. And every business needs some positivity right now.


Why not check out the full interview with Mary Hamilton

Get in touch if you need advice on how to create a great workplace culture for your business. Email me at info@dreamstonehr.com.au.

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