Understanding consumers’ needs and how to address them with the right business focus are among the most important lessons he’s learned. Wanda Augustyn talks to Hidden Valley owner Riaan Stassen.With his considerable business skills acquired as former Capitec Bank CEO and his passionate love of nature, Hidden Valley has received a worthy custodian in Riaan Stassen. And the challenges lying ahead are not that foreign to this retired businessman who once worked for Distillers. Hidden Valley takes up a major part of his time, which means Riaan, a chartered accountant by training, is now busier than before he retired. “That’s one of the challenges of starting new ventures,” he says. “It’s inspiring to create new concepts and experiences for consumers and see people appreciate what they’re experiencing.”
Why are wine-related properties such a desirable investment for successful businesspeople?
It’s not because the industry offers great returns on investment. It’s a passion for the industry and the connection to nature. It’s also the desire to create special experiences for consumers. It’s probably a desire to share special places and wines.
What important lesson did you learn during your time in the banking industry that could be of importance in the wine industry?
Good businesses are all about good people. Find out what the consumer needs and address that with the right business focus.
Is this investment a confirmation of your confidence in South Africa and the Western Cape specifically?
South Africa remains one of the best places in the world to live. The people are special and the enthusiasm for life is real. We have to give the country the best shot we can to be successful. We must believe in the success of South Africa.
What’s your dream for Hidden Valley?
My long-term dream is to create a place where customers can have a world-class experience at a value-for-money level that attracts all South Africans and foreigners, regardless of income. It must be a place where consumers can create great memories.
What is needed in the wine industry to make it successful?
We need to produce world-class wines that suit the styles and preferences of international consumers, while retaining a local, value-for-money relevance. As South African producers we must also build on our unique wine profiles.
How do producers balance financials and the people who work for them?
The industry needs pioneers and visionaries who see opportunities on an international scale. These people must be drawn to the industry and we must invest in their contribution.
What are the biggest challenges in the SA wine industry?
To build a distinctive profile for SA wines that enjoys a position of quality worldwide. It’s important to balance quality and affordability to ensure greater sustainability in the industry.
What do you see as positive about the SA wine industry?
We have enough quality potential in our vineyards. We also have enough local and international investors willing to build on our distinctiveness as wine producers.
What would you like to change about this industry?
I’m still too new to the industry to comment. We could probably all benefit if we could improve the industry logistics for everyone, thereby reducing input costs.
Best wine moment ever?
To see the improvements we made deliver what we envisaged. And when a wine-lover reflects on an experience at Hidden Valley as special and world-class, an experience for their memory book.