Case study: Wills Domain

Margaret River in Western Australia is Australia’s premium wine region. The region has weather moderated by the Indian Ocean and lots of sunshine.

Unlike other wine regions in the country, the region has experienced consistent weather conditions for around six years ideal for wine grape growing. As a result, the Margaret River area is growing its Wills Domain case studyfine reputation with wineries which are focussed on quality flourishing. One of these is Wills Domain, a family-owned boutique winery.

Wills Domain came to existence 13 years ago, created by the Haunold family who sought to continue their family’s long heritage in winemaking, dating back to the early 1300s. Since its inception the winery has built a solid reputation going from strength to strength with a James Halliday 5 star rating and recently receiving a 16.5/20 by renowned food critic Rob Broadfield, noting the onsite restaurant as 'simply stunning'.

Wills Domain case studyBefore turning to winemaking the property now known as Wills Domain was a contract grower proving premium fruit for Amberley Estate. Since then, despite a difficult economic climate for grape growing and winemakers the business has managed to grow substantially through market diversity and continual focus on betterment.

In order to capitalise on the growing WA tourism market, Wills Domain opened its Cellar Door in 2005 and as a result of its success subsequently opened a restaurant and art gallery alongside the cellar door. This expansion also allowed it to break into the lucrative wedding market given its renowned wines, restaurant and amazing valley view, creating the perfect setting for such a celebration.

To aid its expansion, Wills Domain turned to RSM in 2012 as its growth demanded an entity capable of looking after the business and other family interests. The firm now provides integral business planning and other essential financial advice.

“RSM came highly recommended to us by more than one person, it was mostly such positive word of mouth referral that led us to the firm. After further investigation I also felt the team had the depth of experience and knowledge that Wills Domain needed,” says Managing Director Darren Haunold.

As the business expanded, Wills Domain looked to RSM to provide insight on how to mitigate risk and maximise profit. RSM has helped Wills Domain deal with many of the challenges of such a highly competitive industry.

Darren explains, “there are a lot of factors putting pressure on winemakers. We are essentially farmers so that means we are at the whim of the environment. Seasonal change and ensuring the accuracy of yields and how this will affect financial outcomes is an issue all farmers need to be acutely aware of. Other challenges include increasing pressures on Gross Profit by ever-increasing production costs is another serious concern, finding and more importantly implementing ways to retain your skilled labour in hospitality is another issue".

Simon Brown, Senior Manager, RSM said, “RSM provides Wills Domain with financial advice, business planning, cashflow management, risk management, preparing financial statements and tax returns. This has helped to build the team’s confidence about the business and to understand the company’s finances".

“Working with RSM has really added value. It has helped the team analyse needs and identify growth areas. Small businesses can easily become complacent. Working with RSM has helped to better understand what Wills Domain needs to do to be successful", says Darren.

The future is bright for Wills Domain.Wills Domain case study

“Conditions in the Margaret River region are very consistent. The market continues to accept our regional wines and the market is growing. To add more recently there has also been significant interest from investors both within Australia and overseas. The region has immense potential with Wills Domain primed to take advantage of exports to Asia, the US and the UK as we see the Australian dollar begin to see more reasonable exchange rates. I see resurgence in agriculture and a big shuffle in market share by foreseeable changes in market share of the major wine producers in Australia over the next 5-10 years. This will mean opportunities to grow domestic market share for the savvy brands".

“Bringing RSM on board has allowed Wills Domain to look harder at the business than it ever has. It has helped me to understand some of the mistakes that were made and avoid them in the future. Wills Domain looks to RSM for all aspects of business planning. Representatives even participate in our board meetings meaning management receives essential strategic advice ensuring the right business decisions are made now for the future,” concluded Darren.

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