Sowing the seeds of transformation

Monday, 22 March, 2004
Michael Morgan
Anzill Adams is now a leading figure driving transformation in the industry

After getting the right tools for the job at a local business school, Anzill Adams became the only black CEO in the Western Cape Wine Industry last August. Appointed to the prime seat at Louisvale Wine Farms, he is now a leading figure driving transformation in the industry.

For Adams, real transformation is not just about policies or laws, but about changing mindsets and giving people opportunities to develop. He says the time has come for real transformation in the wine industry.

A well known figure in the industry advocating these changes and now at the head of one of the most well-respected and acclaimed Chardonnay producers in the country, Adams sees his role as one which goes beyond the call of duty.

'As one of the few black leaders in the wine industry, I see transformation and the breaking down of barriers as a personal responsibility - I've made it a priority to do as much as I can to spearhead the process and rectify the imbalances of the past,' he says.

And according to Adams there is a lot to be done for real transformation to come to fruition as the industry is beleaguered with hurdles to change. 'The wine industry is one of the biggest industries in the Western Cape, but it has the worst labour record. Too many wine farmers are still not adhering to new labour laws and see workers only as a means to an economic end,' he says.

'A huge proportion of labour in the industry still remains unskilled which means there is no hope of them taking on bigger roles to secure a living income. Personally, I believe that liberation is not just about making economic gains - more importantly it's about emancipating the mind and the spirit.'

But Adams is not about to let these hurdles trip up transformation. As an executive member of the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association, he is playing an active role in ensuring that transformation becomes a key priority for everyone in the industry.

Adams' success and vision, however, would not have come to life had he not first empowered himself with the right tools for the job. Working as a Project Manager on the first Land Reform Programme project in the wine industry in 1997/98, he realised he needed a greater degree of business and management skills to advance his career.

He took on the modular Associate in Management (AIM) programme at the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB), graduating in June 2000, and quickly went on to become the General Manager of Diemersfontein Wine Farm (also then the only black GM). There he started the business and brand from scratch, an achievement he says would not have been possible without his business school skills.

But Adams had his sights set even higher, and signed up for an Executive MBA at the GSB in 2002 from which he will graduate this June. 'I decided I needed more and an Executive MBA appealed to me because it was action learning like the AIM programme. I also meant I could interact with more senior managers and CEOs which was what I was aiming to move up to in my career,' he says.

He has also used his beliefs on transformation as the key motivation for his recent Executive MBA dissertation which deals primarily with converting a company into a learning organisation.

Now he is at the top himself, but he's not about to give in to self-interest. 'I believe people are the most important element of a business. I think I have the ability to identify and manage talent which is also a good way to promote transformation. If you give people the opportunity to develop themselves you can effectively manage yourself out of a job - and that's my objective.'