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Leading business woman, Lyndey Milan’s top tips on owning and running a business

28 April 2014

Lyndey Milan

Lyndey Milan has had a major career in food in Australia, predominantly in print and electronic media. (Lyndey Milan’s Taste of Australia currently screening on 7TWO on Sundays at 1.30pm.) For many years she has successfully owned and run her own businesses. Here, she speaks to Ruby about what she does and why she does it.

I like being my own boss and this means wearing a number of professional hats to ensure the income flows in, especially as I was a single parent for many years.  

I have no one position. For Lyndey Milan Enterprises, I have regular public appearances, MCing, giving cooking dems (demonstrations), involvement in food festivals, contributing to Selector Magazine, cooking on various TV shows, talking on radio, producing cookbooks and really anything to do with food, wine and agriculture.

I am also Creative Director at Flame Media, a television production and distribution company which I established with my partner in life and business, John Caldon, about four years ago.

We’ve produced no less than six TV series, including Lyndey Milan’s Taste of Australi, currently screening on 7TWO on Sundays at 1.30pm.

Additionally I work in not-for-profit as Vice-President of the Royal Agricultural Society, Chair of the Sydney Royal Wine Show and Patron and Co-Founder of Tasting Success, a mentoring programme for female chefs.

I want to make a difference. I have a huge respect and affection for the Australian food and wine industry and I love the thrill that comes with television production. I think it must be very hard to be successful in business if you work in an area you don’t feel strongly about. Enthusiasm for an industry offers incredible motivation.

On ensuring business success

I think the key to Flame Media’s success is in the diverse backgrounds of the senior management team. Each person brings a different skill set and professional experience to the table. The team has a wonderful balance of creative, strategic and financial thinkers on it.

This also means we have broad and varied networks and we nurture and maintain these. I’ve learned from experience that opportunities come from all directions and the more people you have on side the more likely it is that these opportunities will arise. You have to get out there, contribute and be seen. Networking and meeting new people is really the fun side of the job for us.

Networking

My mother could talk to anyone of any age about what they were interested in. This is how I was brought up. I didn’t realise this was networking until later in life. For any profession, networks are crucial. The more people you know and interact with, the greater your understanding of business in general. We don’t all work the same way and there’s a lot to learn from other people’s work practices and insights. It’s amazing what can grow out of a discussion.

Mentors and their importance

I’ve never been mentored formally – but I have had some big influences in my life. My parents brought me up to believe that with hard work I could achieve anything and it was all down to me.

Jean Ford, my crazy, wonderful, history teacher broke rules and pushed boundaries to inspire her students. Jean taught me to work for myself. You don’t have to fit a mould to succeed.

David Bernstein, a boss I had in London in advertising, told me to “think laterally”, and that “you only get one opportunity to make a first impression”. Now it is John I bounce ideas off.

Operationally, what keeps you awake at night?

My workload. There is just so much one person can do – and when most of your work is personality based, it’s hard to offload onto a staff member.

Family and business

It’s been a long time since I was juggling work with small children but I do remember the days well. I tried to involve my kids as much as possible, sharing my life with them in every way I could. My secret now is that John [Caldon, partner] and I have similar attitudes to work and are both very driven. If our professional ethos differed too much I think we would find it a much more challenging dynamic. Moreover, when you work in food and wine, which seems to be everyone’s hobby, it’s hard to get a distinction between work and pleasure.

Top tips

  • It sounds so basic but my number one tip is planning – everything works better when it has been well planned. And take time for attention to detail.
  • Be ambitious. I’m not saying take risks at every turn but sometimes you need to take a leap to reach your goal.
  • Don’t take “no” for an answer. Go and find a different approach for the outcome to which you aspire.

Pitfall

I have to look out for agreeing to do too much. Having work commitments across a number of companies and industries doesn’t help – it’s the one down side of loving your job, you always want to say, yes.

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