EXPERIENCE, learning from the lows and listening to others.

These are three of the key skills a mentor and business leader needs, according to Lisa Wilkinson.

The co-host of Nine's Today Show will deliver a keynote speech on the first day of the Sunshine Coast Business Expo on May 28.

"I'd like people to learn a few lessons from my career, and maybe apply them to their business - and have a few laughs along the way," she said.

Her story is remarkable. She answered a three-line classified ad and became a receptionist at the Sydney offices of Dolly magazine at the age of 19. Two years later, she was editor.

She tripled circulation in four years before being hand-picked by Kerry Packer to edit Cleo. She said being a magazine editor was as much about knowing how to run a business as it was about journalism.

"You need to be a Jack and Jill of all trades. To run a team successfully, it's important you understand how a business works from the ground up.

"I was 21 running a team of 15 people. So I had to dig deep to work out what are people going to respond best to, how can I have authority without looking like a trumped-up little typist?

"But if I stopped and thought about it, I realised I had found my passion in journalism and magazines, and I had some good ideas to take the magazine forward.

"When I came on, circulation was 100,000 and four years later, it had tripled. So there was something in that mix that worked. And then I was head-hunted by Kerry Packer."

She said good mentors needed a certain set of attributes.

"A lot of runs on the board," she said. "You reach a point where you think you've learnt from the highs and the lows. Every time there was a low, I'd come out the back knowing something about what not to do."

She is familiar with our Sunshine Coast, holidaying here at least once a year and coming here on honeymoon with husband Peter FitzSimons in 1992.

"I love the Sunshine Coast," she said.

"The second big family holiday we had when I was 14 was to Noosa and I remember my first glimpse of Hastings St. There were still empty blocks of land, a gorgeous caravan park full of Kombi vans and girls in bikinis.

"We went to the national park and I've got a photo of myself standing on those big rocks.

"We also went to Caloundra...beautiful memories.

"It's changed hugely but it hasn't lost the flavour I saw when I was 14. You haven't gone for major high-rises, which over the years must have been incredibly tempting."

And while the media landscape has changed significantly in the 20-odd years since she got her break at Dolly, she is adamant her story could be replicated today.

"There are opportunities in any sphere of business for young people to realise they have found their passion and work and study hard and learn from those around you who know more than you do. You work your way up. You see it all the time.

"I've never wanted to leave any position when I've got the call to ask if I would be interested (in doing something else).

"But then I think 'it's time to jump off the cliff, get out of the comfort zone'. What's the worse thing that can happen? I've still got a wonderful husband and three beautiful children who'll give me cuddles.

"And I never want to die wondering."

 

Lunch with Lisa Wilkinson

Sustainability Centre, Mooloolaba TAFE

May 28, 12noon

Tickets $79. Go to www.scbizexpo.org.au



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