The way to the top opened up for Ronald Mkhize, brand ambassador for Graham Beck Wines, when he realised he was engaged in a career, not just doing a job.
Ronald Mkhize’s career started in a humble way at Bootleggers Liquor in Fourways, Johannesburg, where, as a merchandiser, he packed shelves and learned about wine in 2004. Because he was hungry for knowledge, management soon recognised his potential and promoted him to wine consultant. He then moved to Meridian Wine Merchants as sales consultant. A change in structure gave him the opportunity to work as sales representative for Morgenster Wines and Olives.
It wasn’t long after this that Beyers Truter took him under his wing at Beyerskloof and taught him the ins and outs of the wine industry. Today Ronald is a proud regional sales ambassador for Graham Beck Enterprises in Gauteng, where he will look after Gauteng’s emerging markets and take care of Limpopo Province as well.
His biggest lessons learned along the way? “Have the right attitude, learn from other people and try to understand people from different walks of life,” says Mkhize.
What does your job involve?
With customer service as my focus, I will be maintaining existing customer accounts and actively seeking new business to increase the customer base of Graham Beck and Steenberg. Both have great bubblies, in particular, and both companies have an incredible drive to succeed. Added to that, I will be servicing on- and off-licence customers in Gauteng and Limpopo, and promoting Graham Beck and Steenberg wines at wine shows, instore promotions, private wine clubs and through waiter training.
What brought you to where you are now?
I got a lot of advice from people in the wine industry, the most important of which was, look at this as a career, not a job. I then realised I had to work harder and to make sure that I always have the right attitude.
What do you find challenging in the wine industry?
The biggest challenge in the wine industry is to penetrate the black market. The wine industry as a whole is not doing enough to get to know that market. There’s a general lack of understanding of how the black market interacts, buys and behaves. Simply having wine shows is not the answer. You need to follow up every interaction. Certain whisky and beer brands get it right and we should be learning from them.
What gives you hope?
The fact that more young people want to know about wines. I hope that South Africans, especially in the black community, will start to appreciate that South African Méthode Cap Classique is every bit as good as French Champagne.
Most of the decision makers and buyers of the future are growing up in a different environment. The freedom to travel to countries like France, Germany and Italy has given our young people an opportunity to learn more about the food and wine culture. And when they return home, they bring with them a better understanding of wine.
What needs to change in our industry?
We as an industry need to revisit our marketing strategy – especially in the emerging markets. An annual stakeholders’ conference is needed to discuss the challenges we are facing. That conference must involve sales and marketing managers, representatives from various organisations like the MCC, Pinotage and Chenin Blanc associations, plus some passionate veteran winemakers, young winemakers and sommeliers
Three key take-home messages in terms of business success
- Be consistent: This is key to making money in business;
- Stay focused: It takes time for people to know who you are, so keep your focus on your goals; and
- Be creative: Always look for ways to improve yourself and stand out from the competition. Recognise that you don’t know everything and be open to new ideas.
As published in the October 2015 issue of WineLand magazine.