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Brewing up business success with a Southern Cross University MBA


Media team
18 December 2020
Scott Lyall
Southern Cross University MBA graduate Scott Lyall

As Australia’s most internationally-awarded brewery, Burleigh Brewing employs more than 60 staff to produce their wide range of high-quality craft beers. Burleigh Brewing Chief Operating Officer and Southern Cross University MBA graduate Scott Lyall has helped the iconic Gold Coast business almost double its sales in the past three years.

When the independent family-owned company began to outgrow both its business software and brewery location more than four years ago, wife and husband team Peta and Brennan Fielding – the CEO and brew master – knew they needed another pair of knowledgeable hands and Scott was at the top of their list.

Scott had first worked with the couple more than a decade earlier on a consultancy basis as a part-time virtual CFO on a series of projects, when Peta joked that one day she’d hire him. Scott then went on to work at one of Australia’s largest law firms on the Gold Coast as COO, when he took on studying his Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Southern Cross University.

“As a chartered accountant working as a COO in the legal world, pursuing my MBA was such a value-add to my skillset, being able to look at and address business issues, not just from the financial side, but also from a strategic leadership point of view – it was a significant eye-opener,” he said.

“At the end of my study at Southern Cross I realised I had a lot of energy and wanted to go in a different direction where I could roll up my sleeves and get my teeth into something, take more responsibility and help drive a business forward.

“That’s when Burleigh Brewing needed a project manager to help transform their systems and processes, as they’d grown quite quickly. I jumped right in and was able to apply everything I’d learned in my MBA into that fantastic new environment. My project with the brewery was to run the business side of implementing new systems, encompassing planning, supply chain, forecasting, budgeting, inventory, production management, and financial aspects.

Hi my name is Scott Lyall, Chief Operation Office at Burleigh Brewing. I did an MBA at Southern Cross University.

In 2006 when Peta and Brendan started Burleigh they were the first craft brewery in Queensland there were only 30 breweries in the whole of Australia. Now there are over 750 breweries.

The beer industry itself has changed over time. Craft beer was less than 5% of the market, 10-15 years ago. Now it's over 15% and growing. People want choice, they want quality and craft beer is the result of that. I'm originally a chartered accountant but I was keen to get involved more in the leadership of an organisation and was keen to get the skills and knowledge to take on those more diverse roles so I went to Southern Cross Uni and did my MBA while I was running the business side a Gold Coast law firm.

The great thing about the flexibility of the online course is that you can go on campus here. From my previous professions there were a lot of things I thought I knew but the reality was there were a lot of things I didn't have in my skillset. My MBA gave me those technical names and the detailed knowledge to take the next step in my career. Leadership is a really big part of it, collaboration, being able to put teams together and build a business.

Business are not just financial beasts, they are about people and certainly that's what I got from my MBA that leadership and people aspect, that's really how you grow great businesses. I met Peta and Brendan when I had my own business, I was doing a virtual CFO, and then when I finished my studies I gave Brendan a call and said I'm available for any project work you might have. At the beginning it was just the two of them but as time has gone by, it's got bigger and bigger and we've got over 60 staff.

In my current role, I'm the guy in the back office so everything from the finances, accounting, HR, IT, logistics, overseeing the operations basically to make sure all the guys are supported ad can do their day to day jobs, whether it's brewing or fermenting the beer or in the lab or in the packaging department.

My job is to support those guys and to make sure we are producing and selling those products. If you're thinking about studying an MBA, you're already there. Just do it. You won't look back, you won't regret it. It's a great skillset, whether you go into the corporate world or into a small business like this one. It will always add to you as a person, add to your skillset and add to your life.

“The company had outgrown their systems, and my recent MBA project had been about cloud-based software which used an almost identical skillset and knowledge base to what was needed. We conducted a global search and found a brewery-specific SaaS software application that encompassed the brewing process, managing many different products and all their production intricacies, and I was able to get everything into the new system and get our staff fully trained in how it works.

“We were able to pull out incredibly detailed and usable data, reporting, information and insights, and it was a really great way to introduce me to the detail of the business.”

CEO Peta Fielding then decided it was the perfect timing to add the first full-time multifaceted senior leadership role, offering Scott Lyall the role of Chief Operating Officer to become her right-hand person in running the company.

“The role they created for me encompasses Finance, HR, IT and most of the back-office operations, and I’m thrilled to be continually adding value through analysing the data coming out of the system, and expanding the software to enhance reporting at every level. We also have a newly invigorated sales and marketing function which I can only see expanding as the company continues to grow.”

Now heading into its fifteenth year, Burleigh Brewing is again fast approaching maximum brewing capacity, planning further capital expenditure works worth hundreds of thousands within 18 months.

“We are very stable and profitable and heading up a steep growth curve to the next level and it’s my job to help future-proof the next 10 years of the business,” he said.

“I’m proud of our quality craft beer, brewed with a passion to German-standard purity laws using all-natural ingredients and genuine technical knowledge, and the team here is amazing to work with, just like a family.

“My MBA has taught me that business is like a team sport – it’s all about leadership. Organisational success lives and dies by leadership, everything else – skills, knowledge, empathy, intelligence and the culture of the organisation – all falls out of that. Studying my MBA with Southern Cross is one of the best things I’ve done, to bring together and formalise that knowledge and grow in my skillset to become a business leader.”


Bringing global brewing expertise to the local market

Peta and Brennan brewed in Hawaii, Boston and Japan, achieved a couple of World Beer Cup Gold Medals, before returning to Peta’s Gold Coast home to launch Burleigh Brewing Company in 2006. Their dream was to bring choice in beer to Aussies, who at the time had very little craft beer exposure and industry.

“Fifteen years ago, when they started Burleigh Brewing it was the only independent brewery in Queensland and less than one per cent of beer was brewed by independents in Australia. Now there are 30 in Queensland alone, and 750 across Australia which have over five per cent of the volume of the beer market, with the value of sales around 12 to 14 per cent of the total beer market,” Scott said.

“While there’s still a massive dominance of the big brewers, but for craft beer producers it’s not price that we’re competing on with the big guys, it’s the quality of our beer. When I first stopped in for a beer at Burleigh Brewing almost 15 years ago I loved it and that’s where our business relationship started.”