Cape Town, Day 3

Wednesday, March 8

Delheim Winery, and a gigantic appreciation for all that goes into preserving a family business in South Africa. Gracious hosts, excellent food, awesome scenery, what more could one hope from the Delheim visit! From there we added a second visit to Coca Cola, including a tour of the bottle production facility. How about today? What did you learn about South Africa, business in South Africa, Delheim or Coca Cola? What insights did you gain for yourself?


What a view! I mean, what a view!


29 Responses to “Cape Town, Day 3”

  1. Caley Says:

    I loved the discussion at Delheim. It was so open and honest that it took me aback. I didn’t realize how much money the owners had to spend to combat crime on their property. They were facing some very diverse and costly setbacks that included new regulation, drought issues and distribution barriers. Plus, I was disappointed by the stigma that still exists in South Africa for women in business. Overall, this was by far my favorite business visit.

  2. Phil Says:

    I think the Delheim company visit could be summed up into one word: defeat. It was an absolutely beautiful backdrop with delicious wine, but the family owners’ disposition on government, quotas, and business women was interesting to say the least. The attitude was “that’s just the way it is”, with little motivation to change and disrupt the status quo.

  3. Samantha Frapart Says:

    First things first: Delheim winery was GORGEOUS. I’ve never seen a backdrop quite like it.

    As a marketer, I was pretty impressed with the Sperling family’s understanding of their target market and the importance of anticipating consumer needs. I can’t imagine how challenging it must be to have your ear to the ground for changing consumer preferences when it takes upwards of three years to create a new product.

    I do wish there was more discussion about the challenges of climate change and environmental impacts. I had tried to ask about this, but it seemed to spur what I found a slightly racist monologue about the challenges of having a staff that steals and/or doesn’t show up on time. It would have been nice to see more commitment not only to what the political quota system means for SA businesses, but also to the environment on which they depend.

  4. Sam Says:

    The most interesting observation I had today was the verbal and non-verbal frustration expressed by Victor, and especially by Nora, at their current situation. Whether it was decisions about running the business, or the obvious friction with the two siblings living in Europe, their candor was both refreshing and worrisome. As we started to see in previous days, businesses are not immune to the various “-isms” that South Africa is wrestling with – namely racism and sexism.

  5. John Says:

    Delheim was beautiful, but Coca Cola was the most interesting thing to me. It was a nice compliment to some of the work we’d been doing in other MBA classes (like the Cola Wars case in Strategic Management), and I really enjoyed seeing the way a multi-national corporation operates at such large scales and to hear about the unique in-country challenges.

  6. Linda Says:

    Delheim winery was gorgeous and I always appreciate a good family business story. I wish them the best moving forward and hope they can successfully integrate the BEE requirements.

    Looking back on Coca-Cola after the entire trip, I’m concerned that they’re not providing the right beverages to the people of South Africa. In the US, people are learning that sugary soft drinks should be consumed more like treats and lawmakers are taking note of the dangers of overconsumption, too. From what I saw in other parts of the country, sugary sodas and juices are consumed more than water. For example, in our homestay, Preeta and I were offered only juice and Coke. I didn’t notice them ever drink water. I also saw people in the township drinking large bottles of cola. I personally think Coca-Cola should make bottled water more plentiful than sodas.

  7. Tyler Says:

    One of the most poignant moments in the whole trip for me came during the Q&A with the sister who co-runs Delheim Winery. One of us had asked her whether she foresaw any progress with gender equality in South African business. The sister’s answer was essentially that she didn’t see any hope for that in South Africa – women are equal only inasmuch as men agree to treat them as equals, and South African men just don’t view women as equals, especially in business affairs. That comment has stayed with me.

  8. Bill Quach Says:

    Delheim was the most impactful visit for me. Coming from a family owned industrial business prior to business school and learning about similar struggles faced by this wine manufacturer made me feel less alone. It was great to have an experienced business leader who had completed an MBA speak to us. She seemed to understand our group and provide us with many meaningful insights. I took interest in what they had to say about government intervention and business survival. I feel conflicted about what course of action can provide the most benefit for the those that have been previously ravaged by their government and society.

    The contrast between a lower volume, high quality beverage maker and a high volume Coke factory was astonishing. The contrast between the two locations and workplaces was astonishing as well. MBAs often strive to work for multinational corporations, but after these visits, I question: why?

  9. Garry Ferguson Says:

    Wednesday, 8 March: Our venture to Delheim Winery proved to be incredibly relaxing. The venue was indescribably picturesque as were many areas we happened upon during our time in South Africa. In discussing business matters, politics crept into the discussion once again as it had during our visit to the South Africa Rugby Union. It seems that businesses struggle to balance governmental initiatives that appear to possess some nobility on the surface, but ultimately are merely artificial and unsustainable means of supporting factions of society that certainly need support, but in different, more sustainable ways. More than anything, the support needed among some parts of this society must center around foundational life skills which enable people to earn dignified livings supporting themselves and their families.

  10. Parnali Says:

    Our visit today with Delheim Winery was extremely eye opening. Not only was this the most incredibly beautiful vineyard I had ever visited, but hearing the owners so candidly speak about the many hardships they have faced being based in South Africa, and that too being part of a family business was very telling. I gained immense appreciation for those who operate their businesses within South Africa and have to deal with the many hardships of the city – i.e. high crime rates that require business owners to hire guards that work and protect the property 24/7. Further, listening to the perspective of a family business and how often both of our hosts contemplated quitting the business and/or walking away from their family was very eye-opening.

  11. Alana Says:

    The Delheim visit was the highlight of my trip. I found Nora engaging and honest. I appreciated her comments about running a family business, the BEE initiatives and family succession planning. Nora also showed how an MBA program can enhance management and leadership skills, even after 20 years of work experience. I also enjoyed getting Victor’s perspective on wine making, managing the vineyard and competition. I liked hearing about the challenges and the way they are overcoming them to continue a successful business.

    I noticed Coca-Cola products all over Cape Town. I barely saw Pepsi products, even though we passed by a bottling plant on our way back to the hotel. When our first presenter shared that the location was the only bottler that wasn’t acquired, I was shocked. The bottler seems to have a great system and success strategy. I also found the comments about delivery to the rural areas of the Western Cape interesting. As we traveled to Doringbai and Lutzville, the Coca-Cola products were readily available.

  12. Nick Eyer Says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed our Delheim visit. Aside from being a wine lover, it was valuable to hear about the experiences – particularly the challenges – of running a small/family business in South Africa. It was heartbreaking to hear about the fires and the theft that occurs in the area, and how damaging that could be for a family business. It was generally uncomfortable hearing some about some of the attitudes towards/challenges facing women in South African business, and some of the sense of acceptance of “it is what it is.” Ultimately, it was super rewarding to see the genuine appreciation the family had for our visit and our interest in their winery.

    Coca-Cola was a vastly different experience than Delheim. While they are dealing with much of the same in terms of business problems, economic and political challenges in South Africa, and so forth, the sheer scale of their operations and their public awareness are very different. It was also very, very interesting to hear the Coca-Cola managers’ perspectives on the political requirements, specifically the requirements (and the associated challenges) to have non-whites in place in management in the coming years.

    Later that evening a large group of us attended a 14 course African dinner at Gold. While there were certainly touristy elements of this dinner experience, it also allowed us to get a glimpse into African cuisines and entertainment (dance, song, etc.) culture.

  13. Micah Says:

    Obviously I loved the trip to Delheim (for proof, see my credit card statement from the gift shop). Besides the great wine, I found her discussions on the difficulties of running a family business interesting and honest. The dynamics of ownership between siblings who actually work at the winery and those that merely collect checks was eye-opening for someone who had never had to worry about working with my family. Made me grateful there is no Kaplan family business to worry about.

    The dinner at Gold was a highlight, though clearly for tourists. I could have done without the cruise-ship style entertainment, but the food was among the best I had on the trip.

  14. Caroline Says:

    The Delheim visit was my favorite! I thought it was by far the best business trip on our schedule and I am sure I am not alone. While we had heard about the BEE and some of the other government initiatives, there is nothing like hearing from a business owner about how those directly impact their business. When she explained that they would have to give up 51% of their business to comply with the BEE, I couldn’t imagine being in her shoes. It made sense on a larger scale at that moment while there is a stagnant economy in South Africa- who would want to start a business when all of these requirements are in place and you may have to give up the majority of the business you built from the ground up? Or a business that has been in your family for decades? I loved how she explained how they are working through it by providing better benefits, such as day care, and mentoring their younger employees to be prepared and ready to grow with the business.

  15. Preeta Maitra Says:

    The visit to Delheim was wonderful! It was a gorgeous setting with amazing hospitality by the siblings who run their family business. However, my favorite part of the visit was how honest and open Nora was about the hardships the winery is facing. It was interesting to hear her talk about her experience going to get an executive MBA and then using the skills she gained in her MBA to improve their business. It was also very eye-opening to hear about their experience implementing BEE requirements. I felt like Nora and her brother really do care about improving the lives of their workers and South Africans in general, but they struggle with how to accomplish these things while also keeping their business profitable and growing.

  16. Samantha Toth Says:

    Our visit to Delheim was when we first learned about the government’s “BE” or “black empowerment” initiatives, which among other things incentivize business owners to meet certain quotas for black employment and black ownership in order to qualify for government investment. This was clearly a frustrating topic for the Delheim siblings, as they struggled to meet these quotas but still operate profitably. To me, the entire wine industry in South Africa has overtones of the “plantation economy,” with white landholders who are extracting value and black laborers who earn a subsistence income. However, the Delheim siblings seemed very aware of and concerned about this dynamic, and earnestly committed to improving the circumstances of their employees. The Coca-Cola visit was also interesting, although as a bottler they seemed to operate very similarly to bottlers in the US and other parts of the world. It would have been more interesting to hear from the Coca-Cola corporate office regarding differences in marketing to the South African consumer versus the American consumer.

  17. Renee Weissend Says:

    WOW! The winery! I spend three years in Northern California going to Sonoma and Napa regularly but Delheim winery blew everything I have seen out of the water! It was such a treat to meet the family behind such a magic place. I have always enjoyed wine and going behind the scenes to see where it was made was such a joy. I also enjoyed the commentary on the ups and downs of running a family business and the difficulties companies have with the federal government and their quotas. I wish Delheim wines were sold in the United States as I love their product and their family behind it!

  18. Rooma Chi Says:

    Delheim was my favorite company visit of the trip. Not only did we get to enjoy some great wine with a beautiful view, but it was enlightening to hear how South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment is impacting family businesses. The government’s expectation for a family business to turn over majority share to someone solely because of their race is such a foreign idea to me. I also appreciated the candid discussion of the problems in running a family business such as family tensions and the need for correctly structuring the business.

  19. Kristin Johnson Says:

    I think the big takeaway from both of the visits was that the business owners do not agree with the post-apartheid government regulations. It was interesting to see this at the family-owned winery level as well as at the publicly traded level of Coca-Cola. Besides the undertones of this tension, both visits were excellent. The winery was especially great with the gorgeous views and the amazing food and wine!

  20. Moni Says:

    We descended out of the bus and into the beautiful winery grounds of Delheim winery. We were already awe struck by the view and beautiful weather, when three little resident pups ran out to greet us. It was refreshing to hear from Nora – she was candid and open about the woes of running a family business three generations in. It was also nice to speak with someone that understood our business background as she was completing her executive MBA herself.
    In the afternoon we went to Peninsula Beverages, a coke bottling company. It was interesting to see their bottling process, recycling plan, and the loyal culture where they never layoff people to reduce costs.

  21. Adriana Penalba Says:

    I really enjoyed our trip to Delheim. It was interesting to learn how women are treated in business and the ways in which the government is trying to pay reparations. The wine and food were excellent, and the views were amazing. While a coke bottler is technically not Coca-Cola, I enjoyed the speakers. They were very knowledgable about what they do.

  22. Kavita Says:

    I really appreciated the candidness of the Delheim owner. She openly spoke about the internal struggles that her and her brother had faced in the past, and some of the problems that they still face today. She also told us more about why she decided to go back to ger her MBA, and how that MBA has helped moved the business along.

  23. Baoxin Says:

    The first time I heard about BEE was when I worked for EY preparing South African regulations for a Chinese mining company that intended to invest in South Africa. Hearing local business operators such as Delheim reluctantly dealing with BEE is totally another feeling. Trying to redress the inequalities of Apartheid by giving previously disadvantaged groups economic privileges can involve the majority of South African citizens to its economy. But when severe education imbalance exists and companies are forced to hire unqualified non-white workers, will BEE program still improve the welfare of the majority of the citizens?

  24. Mansi Narula Says:

    The Delheim winery visit was by far my favorite company visit on the trip. I found learning about the family ownership aspect and hearing about how they were implementing CSR into their business model fascinating. It didn’t help that the landscape was just breathtaking. Overall I’m grateful that both hosts at Delheim and Coca Cola were so open with us because it allowed us to understand their business problems and successes.

  25. Swati Seth Says:

    The tour at Delheim cemented how the government and private organizations were working on empowering he black and colored population. hearing some of the initiatives from the owners first hand was helpful. I loved our wine tasting and the perfect backdrop that the winery provided. Later in the day, we went out to Gold’s restaurant and got a chance to taste authentic South African dishes for the first time. The highlight of the evening was a live performance on traditional folk dance and songs by the employees.

  26. Brian Murphy Says:

    Incredible day at Delheim! I thought Nora was incredibly bright and very honest. Again, a business owner who had Black Empowerment at the front of their mind. They were in the tough situation (much like SA Rugby) of needing to find blacks to work at the winery. The government threatened to cut off their water supply if they didn’t comply.

    Coca-Cola was an interesting visit, but since it’s more of a commodity business I found it to be less interesting than the winery.

  27. Lauren Busch Says:

    Delheim winery was beautiful – can’t complain about a company visit that involves wine! While I loved the scenery, the conversation we had with Nora and Victor was definitely the most interesting part of this visit. Nora is smart and ambitious – which made it almost sad to hear her talk about the gender inequalities that exist in the SA business climate. She seemed resigned to it all, like there was no hope of things getting better. It was a moment where I felt incredibly thankful to live in the US where closing the gender gap is becoming a bigger and bigger priority for successful businesses.

  28. Katie Thigpen Says:

    I’ve been to Napa, Sonoma, vineyards in Italy and France…and this one rivaled them all! I really enjoyed seeing how a family business was run (rather than a corporation) and how government pressure on small business can many times create the most stress on a business. This was also the first time I realized that a common theme in South Africa was a deep disdain for government and its policies–I’ll be watching the news closely to follow the effects of this discontent.

  29. Natasha Mayekar Says:

    I really enjoyed visiting Delheim Winery and hearing about Nora’s experiences as a woman in a male-dominated industry. Though she seemed to accept that there were gender issues in place, I really admired her unwavering ambition to move forward with her business. The scenery, food, and wine all summed up to a wonderful experience.

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