Lizzy is the second woman to Chair Berry Bros. & Rudd, Britain’s oldest wine and spirits merchant and 9th oldest family business, and is a leading figure in a still male-dominated industry.
As a third generation Rudd family member, Lizzy has worked her way up the business from a young age to reach the role of Chairman, which she formally took over on December 1st. This includes a number of years spent outside the business pursuing other career options.
Now firmly back in the fold, today Lizzy is working alongside the executive team to leading the business into a new era, breaking down the misconceptions of wine merchants and making it more accessible.
Within the business, she has established the Family Board which sits alongside the Executive Board, and has played an integral part in the work carried out on the restructuring and governance of the Executive Board, and worked on succession planning for the business.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
My name is Lizzy Rudd, and I am the Chairman at Berry Bros. & Rudd and third-generation Rudd family member. Having been involved with the company for over 30 years my role has changed a lot, as has the company. I started my career in the marketing team, where I was responsible for building the global reputation of the firm’s renowned whisky brand, Cutty Sark, and expanding the international side of the business, first within the Asian duty-free market and then with a focus on the Spanish market. After 11 years I decided to take up our company’s long-standing ‘house rule’ (which requires all family members wanting to work within the firm to get experience outside the business) and went off to focus on nutrition and naturopathic medicine. However, my focus was very much on returning at some point to the family business and during this time, in which I earned three diplomas and raised three children, I remained involved as non-executive director. When I returned to the business in 2005, I did so as Deputy Chairman, working closely with our then Chairman, Simon Berry, focused largely on the restructuring and governance of Executive Board and formation of the Family Board.
On the 1st December 2017, I took over as Chairman of Berry Bros. & Rudd, the second female to do so in the company’s history (after my Grandmother, who was strictly non-exec!).
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
No, quite the opposite. Whilst I was exposed to the family business from a young age through my father, John Rudd, I never had any intention of joining it. However, after doing several internships in other companies, the opportunity came up to cover an employee’s maternity leave in the marketing department and thought that it would be interesting to see what the business was about. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up staying for a decade!
When I left the business in 1997, to bring up my young children and study natural health and nutrition, I made the conscious decision to stay actively involved in the business and took on the position as a Non-Executive Director. When the position opened to become Deputy Chairman in 2005 it was too good an opportunity to miss.
Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?
Challenges come in all shapes and sizes and there have been many throughout the course of my career, from navigating my way through Asia and Spain trying to market our brand, to coming back into the business after having been out of it for eight years. The biggest challenge has always been about ensuring that as a family member of the business I am constantly adding value and helping to take it forward, which isn’t always easy when it’s as old as Berry Bros. & Rudd is. As with many family businesses, finding your place in the family business as a family member can be very challenging, especially when there are several generations of family working in the business at the same time, so the smooth generational transition and succession will always be one of the greatest challenges.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?
I firmly believe in the merits of mentoring as a part of every business; no man, or woman, is an island and it is important to ensure that all employees – no matter what age or level- have somebody within the business to whom they can turn to for advice and guidance. Creating a supportive and collaborative culture should be a top priority for any business regardless of sector, size, geography or age.
I personally have a mentor, outside the business, who has helped me enormously to develop myself and when more of the next generation of the Berry and Rudd families join the business, I will have the chance to mentor one of them, which I will be delighted to do. We have a policy here that a Rudd will mentor and Berry and vice versa, which is one of the advantages of being two families rather than one.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
It would be to make the workplace more flexible for working families. There have been some great strides made to this effect in the last ten years, but as we see more senior women rise in the industry, it is particularly important to see flexibility for both men and women put in place to encourage shared childcare so that it isn’t to the detriment of either’s career.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Since joining the business at a young age, I have always been focused on the role that the family members can and should play in keeping the business moving forward. The role of the family in Berry Bros. & Rudd is integral to the running of the business, but it must work in unison with the management team, and inter-generationally. As such, I’d say my main achievement has been the work I’ve done over the last two years on the restructuring and governance of the Executive Board and formation of the Family Board. This has been crucial in providing the overall direction from the family to the business, ensuring family and non-family management are accountable to each other, and creating a forum for clear communication and decision making.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My immediate challenge is that of taking on the new role as Chairman of Berry Bros. & Rudd. As Britain’s 9th oldest family business, it is quite the mantle to take up! Having been successful for the last 300 years, we recognise that for the business to stay ahead in the market we have to keep innovating and listening to our customers. With this in mind, my focus is on leveraging the unique assets that we have, including our heritage, our long-term relationships with customers and producers, and ensuring that Berry Bros. & Rudd becomes better known among more people as the place to buy “best in class wines and spirits”. Whether it’s visiting our shop in St James’s or attending one of our tastings, dinners or wine school events in our historic Cellars, for us it’s all about customer service and providing a great experience, regardless of whether a customer spends £10 on a bottle of wine or a lot more.