Executive Member in Focus, Elaine Ratcliffe

Elaine RatcliffeElaine Ratcliffe

Elaine Ratcliffe is an experienced and versatile General Manager and MBA graduate with over 20 years’ experience in the food & beverage sector, in organisations ranging from small business, not-for-profit, industry organisations and regional bodies to global corporate entities.

With proven ability in planning, developing and delivering strategies, Elaine is a Board Member of the Tourism Industry Council South Australia and SA Tourism Award Judge. In her current role as the General Manager, Barossa Farmers Market, she is inspired by the creativity, hard work and passion of small family farmers and artisan local food producers across South Australia.  

Dealing with over 50 small businesses on a regular basis is not without its challenges. However, Elaine finds it incredibly rewarding to work with farmers and producers, delivering support that helps them to become successful farmers-market stallholders and obtain the business outcomes they are seeking. 

Elaine Ratcliffe’s Career Journey: 

Elaine has spent the last 20 years of her career working in the food, wine and tourism sectors of South Australia.  After moving from the UK in 1995, she wanted to work in an industry that was dynamic and growing and realised the McLaren Vale Wine Region provided just the opportunities she was looking for.  Within a few years, she moved with her partner to Coonawarra, and was managing the administration and cellar door at a new winery being built near Naracoorte.  Six years later she moved to the Barossa to take on the role of managing what was then South Australia’s busiest wine tourism site – Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre.  

After seven years managing the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre, also with the role of Chair of Tourism Barossa, Elaine took long service leave to commence an MBA. After a short return to Jacob’s Creek, and subsequent redundancy as part of a major corporate restructure, Elaine took the opportunity to follow her passion for locally grown food and utilise her experience to move into the role of General Manager of Adelaide Farmers Market.   

Elaine has successfully held a number of Board positions, initially as the Chair of Limestone Coast and later as Chair of Tourism Barossa. This led to her current membership on the board of the Tourism Industry Council of South Australia.  Elaine has also been a judge for the SA Tourism Awards and SA Food Awards for a number of years, which provides a valuable opportunity to keep up to date on industry trends and to see innovation firsthand. 

Last year Elaine moved into the part-time role of General Manager at Barossa Farmers Market.  This allowed her to also embrace the opportunity to become a part-time lecturer on a Bachelor of Business degree at the International College of Hotel Management.  

Elaine Ratcliffe’s Advice for Women in Business: 

The wine industry is a very male dominated industry and although there has been progress to reduce discrimination, unconscious bias was definitely an issue.  

Elaine clearly recalls a conversation with an HR Director within the business telling her there were limited opportunities for future roles in the business where communication and public relations skills (ie soft female skills) were needed.  Her response to this was “I saw my strengths as financial management, leadership and staff management and site management. I was managing multiple large stand-alone sites, a number of budgets and core team of 30-40 staff.   Unfortunately, it didn’t make any difference to his entrenched ideas.” 

Elaine’s advice is to ensure you take opportunities to point out to senior management what you are achieving so that it doesn’t get overlooked. “Entering awards or gaining external recognition can be very useful to demonstrate that your peers have acknowledged your achievements even if others within the organisation can’t see it!”   

Elaine Ratcliffe’s Top Business Book Recommendations: 

Most of Elaine’s reading in recent years has been text books for her MBA studies, and there are two that stand out:

  1. Organisational Behaviour: Core Concepts and Applications by Jack Maxwell Wood,  Rachid Zeffane, Michele Fromholtz, Retha Wiesner, Rachel Morrison, Aharon Factor and Tui McKeown. “As the system of shared beliefs and values that guide and direct the behaviour of members, culture can have a strong influence on day-to-day organisational behaviour and performance”.
  2. Strategy from the Outside In – Profiting from Customer Value by George Day and Christine Moorman. “Superior customer value is the ‘true north’ of an outside-in strategy.  It is a centering concept that keeps that whole organisation focused on what matters.”

Elaine Ratcliffe’s BCD Experience: 

Membership of a BCD group has helped Elaine think more clearly about work problems and to clarify issues to help find solutions. “Bringing problems to the table for a confidential discussion has meant having to clearly articulate the issues, which helps to identify and clarify the core, underlying causes. It has also helped me to understand myself more, to be clear in what I want (and very importantly don’t want) to do in my career in the future.”

For Elaine, talking through different approaches to the challenges and problems faced in business and using a group setting to explore and understand different perspectives, has been valuable in creating perspective to help identify practical solutions to issues.  

“The opportunity to meet other professional women, having networking opportunities with people from a very wide and diverse range of sectors, and hearing about the achievements and areas of expertise of SA business women has also been inspiring.”

Find out more about the Executive peer-mentoring membership and enquire about joining today.

Meet more of our members:

Sally Woolford

Sheree Sullivan

Jo Taskas

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