Sam, you grew up here and returned a decade ago for your previous role with Wesfarmers. Tell us a little more about your background.
I grew up in Coffs, but moved to Sydney after finishing high school. For the following 18 years I raised a family and developed my career with Coles Supermarkets. I held various positions with them and am proud to have been awarded Young Retailer of the Year and a Managing Excellence award too.
When my boys were 9 and 7 respectively, they began to ask about doing Nippers, and I realised they were destined to be near the water. We wanted them to have the same opportunities that I’d had growing up in Coffs Harbour. In 2006, we made the move here as a family. Upon my return to the region, I was fortunate enough to open Moonee Beach Coles. I was subsequently promoted to Regional Manager of Operations on the North Coast. All in all, I was with Coles for 20 years.
Just over a year ago you made the industry change and took up your current position. What inspired the change?
I was coaching and mentoring senior leaders on achieving a work/life balance and realised that as a partner, parent and leader in my workplace, I didn’t have the balance right myself. At the time, the territory I oversaw for Coles was expanding to 20 stores across 3,000 km, and the role was going to involve even more time on the road. My youngest son was in Year 11 at the time, and I wanted to ensure that I was available to support him through his HSC.
I saw this as an opportunity to move into a new industry and broaden my knowledge on different industries and industry cultures. At Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) I have a team consisting of Engineering, Content, Sales and Administration staff. These varied fields make for an exciting team, and it is evident in observing them that we can all support one another to deliver incredible media platforms.
What do you most enjoy about your role?
I really enjoy the diversity of my role. Integrating the three business functions (Engineering, Content and Sales) has revealed to me how culturally different they are to one another. With that said though, everyone works well together as one. This makes for a very engaging dynamic.
I enjoy working with the people of SCA. The organisation’s 50 year history brings a certain richness and provides a wealth of experience too. I find there to be a great sense of pride among the team. Obviously there have been extensive changes in the media over the past five decades. The ever changing landscape of media keeps me passionate about leading the team.
In your role you manage almost 30 staff. What advice would you give to other business owners about the best ways to guide and inspire staff?
Great teams are led by great leaders. I would encourage all people in a senior role to work on their leadership style and embrace a learning attitude towards development programmes that will enhance their leadership and empowerment skills. I would also advise leaders to be open and honest and have fun with their team.
I believe that a great business plan is underpinned by a team working with the same values in mind. For those of us here at SCA, we strive to collaborate, take initiative, maximise creativity, have courage and act with integrity. We all understand the values of our organisation and keep our value system in mind in all of the decisions we make. This shared ethos makes for a cohesive and harmonious team environment.
You’re passionate about supporting women in positions of leadership. Tell us more.
I do believe women can “have it all”, as the saying goes. I raised two sons (now 18 and 21) and have been happily married for the past 22 years, all whilst leading teams of up to 2,200 people and managing all aspects of operations for Coles on the North Coast.
It was through the development programmes of Wesfarmers that I learnt the importance of discovering who I was and realising my “why” in life. Once I was clear on this, I was able to better balance the three most important areas of my life: my husband, my family and my career. My only regret is I didn’t learn this sooner in my career.
Women in leadership roles are there because they are high performers. High performers like to succeed in all areas of their life and as a female, you want to be a total superwoman when it comes to your family and your career. This is simply not achievable without the right balance and support at home and in the workplace.
Technology has changed the way businesses market themselves, with email, apps, videos and social media all coming into play, with traditional advertising mediums still being relevant. How do you advise clients on which direction is best?
Getting a detailed brief from a client that helps us determine the target market and the intended message is absolutely key. From there we can use our expertise to recommend the most appropriate and cost effective strategies and solutions.
We have recently expanded our team to include a social media digital expert. With the ever growing presence and influence of digital and social media, it is another important advertising platform for clients to take into account.
You like to encourage local businesses to “think big”. Can you share three tips to inspire Coffs Coast business owners to think bigger?
- Be bold and brave!
- Don’t be scared to think outside the box and be innovative.
- Always be growing and green, and not ripe and rotten.
I gather your role as GM of Southern Cross Austereo has helped you find a better work/life balance. How do you spend your downtime?
I am passionate about staying fit. I love running marathons, paddle boarding and cycling. For me, being fit helps me have a clear mind and be business “fit” too. I also love to socialise and have fun with my family and friends.
Any specific fitness goals on the horizon?
I always like to have a goal to work toward. The next one is to partake in the Blackmores Running Festival in Sydney in September. I will be participating in the Half Marathon, along with another 15 women from our regular boot camp at Urunga. The SCA team also recently competed in the BCU Triathlon. It’s terrific that my team share my love of fitness.