In its 24 years the distillery was sold 4 times, the 3rd after the business failed. They went on to win the best single malt in the world – the first outside Scotland, Ireland and Japan. Grew from 4 FTE to 23 (Patrick Maguire)

australia distilling fte 21-30 podcast sales $3m-$5m aud tasmania Jul 22, 2020

In this episode, I interview Patrick Maguire, the Master Distiller for Sullivans Cove Distillery in Hobart, Tasmania, and the Chairman of the Tasmanian Whisky Producers Association in 2012. Sullivans Cove was one of the first craft distilleries of commercial scale in Australia founded in 1996, sold in 1999, and went into liquidation in 2003 when Patrick and a few investors salvaged it. 

Closing the cellar door in Central Hobart and moving the distillery twenty minutes out of town into an industrial park, they invested heavily in production with a big focus on quality spirit and then marketing. In 2014, they won Best Single Malt Whiskey in the world, the first distillery to do so outside whisky’s traditional homes of Scotland, Ireland, and Japan. A year later, they opened the cellar door and a year after that, the business was sold again to the current owners, and Patrick left the business in late 2019. 

The business grew from a handful of full-time employees to nine, down to just two after liquidation, and now twenty-three. He believes the hardest thing in growing a small business is keeping an eye on cash flow. The advice he would give himself on day one of starting in business is, “Back yourself. Have a plan. Stick to the plan. You’ll go through times where you hate yourself for doing what you’re doing, but it will all work out” Stay tuned for more on Patrick’s inspiring small business growth journey. 

This Cast Covers:

  • His business backstory and how everything led him into the distilling business.
  • The uphill task of getting Australians and the world to buy Tasmanian whisky at a time when it was not so popular.
  • Overcoming the initial production nightmare by moving to a better location and improving on marketing to increase sales.
  • The patience all the partners had to master until the business was cash-flow positive.
  • Educating Australians about whisky and scotch, and the support they got from the Tasmanian state government.
  • Valuable feedback they got from Asian importers, distributors, and retailers about their scotch and how it helped them improve their branding.
  • The value of investing in proper marketing and ensuring that the production and marketing teams are always on the same page.
  • Taking time to allow their spirit to mature and get credibility for their whisky.
  • Getting published in the whisky bible and achieving three liquid gold awards.
  • Learning a lot from how different markets determine what product is worth buying.
  • Becoming the first distillery outside of Scotland, Japan, or Ireland (And the first one in the Southern Hemisphere) to win Best Single Malt.
  • The three reasons why 90% of their sales went overseas.
  • Defying warnings from wholesalers to sell their annual stocks through Dan Murphy’s.
  • Losing 25% to 30% of their margin to get funding to cover their tax bill.
  • The real game-changer that had them bottling every single day.
  • Growing the team from 12 full-time employees to 22 and their casks to their current five warehouses.
  • Their moment of success: Winning different awards, setting things up properly, having a great crew, becoming a top brand, and selling the business.
  • The frustrations they went through trying to sell in the Australian market.
  • The importance of the people a business owner employs and setting up a dynamic within the team.
  • How managing the massive business growth led him farther and farther away from the team.
  • The difference in how a business operates once their brand becomes successful.
  • Having a business plan from the very start and sticking to it.
  • HR Tips: Don’t bring on relatives unless they have some value that they can offer.
  • Having board directors based in the US, UK, and Spain, and the importance of constant and transparent communication.
  • Cash is king: Keeping an eye on cash flow, sticking to the business plan, and not spending beyond your needs

Additional Resources:

“If you haven’t got partners invested in what you’re trying to do then they’re better off not there” – Patrick Maguire

“Marketing is just as important as the product you’re producing/selling” – Patrick Maguire

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