Harry & Richard Goring
Wiston Estate, Sussex
The Goring family have owned and managed the Wiston Estate land for over 250 years. Its 6,000 acres straddle the chalky slopes of the South Downs and the flat clay soils of the Weald. The vineyard and winemaking business is only on the second generation; it was Harry’s wife, Pip, who arriving from South Africa in 1972 to her new home in Sussex always wanted to plant a vineyard. 34 years later, her dream became reality, with the vineyard first planted in 2006, a winery built and working with award-winning Dermot Sugrue as winemaker. Richard, the eldest of Harry and Pip’s sons, took over the running of the estate in 2011. His wife Kirsty heads up the marketing of Wiston wines – it is very much a family affair.
What is it like working together?
HARRY: I never really did work with my Father. I turned up at The Wiston Estate Office after Cirencester, simply because I thought that was where I was supposed to be. Nothing was said, nothing was planned. We got on well - at a distance, in an old fashioned sort of a way. My Father continued to oversee the well-oiled business he had developed since the war and for a year I sat at a rather rickety card table at the corner of his desk, listening to what went on and taking my dog for walks in the woods. I got to know the place and the people and how it worked. I didn’t “take over” until I heard my Father say to one of his friends who’d asked some obscure question about the Estate workings, “Well you’d better ask Harry because he’s running the place now”. That comment did prompt a long overdue conversation in the evening. That was 1975.
RICHARD: I recently had to give a talk about succession in family businesses and at the end someone asked ‘what’s the best thing I could do as a father?’ I said, ‘Ask my Dad and copy him’. Dad has been incredibly generous in stepping back from managing the Estate and really letting Kirsty and me run with our ideas and hopes for the future. He is very supportive and gives a lot of space but is always happy to listen and give an opinion, if we ask him for it. When things feel overwhelming or as if they are going wrong, he is brilliant at telling me stories of things in the past that didn’t go according to plan but worked out in the end. I also love the way that he has no concerns about simply walking out of a meeting after 1 hour, saying “I think I’m done here”. I’m looking forward to when I can do that.
What have you learnt from your father – how has he inspired you? What has he taught you?
HARRY: I learnt from my Father to listen first and think a while before reacting. Probably something I do for too long. I learnt the importance of good relationships both with employees and people living on the Estate. My Father often gave me his ideas, “What you want to do is.....”, but never reacted if I did the opposite or something different.
RICHARD: Be kind wherever you can be. Listen before you speak. Welcome everyone. Keep your feet on the ground and love those closest to you (particularly your family). Try to avoid hubris. He also said that when he was running things, one often found the problem resolved itself when left a while.