Jennifer Tretheway is general manager of the infotainment attraction Antarctic Adventure, a facility of 4000 square metres in Hobart featuring 50 interactive exhibits of Antarctic landscape. She has been a marketing consultant for Centrepoint Shopping Centre in Hobart and a sales manager for Myer Grace Bros in Launceston. She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management.
AIM: How did you establish your management career?
Tretheway: I have always been involved in the service industry. I began by setting up a retail outlet in country clothing. My big break came when I moved to Launceston in 1989 and was employed by Myer Grace Bros for four years. I started doing management programs and was promoted to sales manager within four months. I think Myer has one of the most successful retailing programs in the country and they certainly reward you.
AIM: What came next?
Tretheway: I wanted a change, so I went into my own business marketing Centrepoint Shopping Centre, and I did a marketing management program at Macquarie University. I did the weather on Win TV for two years and headed up a shopping program on Southern Cross TV. That has made me extremely diverse: with experience in media, tourism and retailing.
AIM: Do you think Australian management is improving?
Tretheway: I think the quality of management has improved greatly over the past decade because of the higher expectations of business and their customers, and because of downsizing. We now expect management to be multi-skilled. We have to become more efficient, we have to be more effective at time management, and we have to be able to adapt. We also have to be more aggressive. A good manager should be able to manage anything in any industry.
AIM: What are the most common weaknesses in management?
Tretheway: Communication. It might sound fairly basic, but I don’t think we get it right. It is particularly an issue in big business. You can communicate by fax or e-mail, but you still need the personal contact. That one-on-one contact is crucial. It is a core task of management.
AIM: What are the elements of good communication?
Tretheway: Many people don’t put enough time and effort into how to deliver the desired result. And there is no point communicating to staff if you don’t follow up. I also think it has to be done regularly. It is the same in all professions. It does not matter how good you are as a doctor or a lawyer, if you don’t communicate well you are going to lose business.
AIM: Why do managers pay so little attention to it?
Tretheway: A lot of managers see communication as a loss of power, but to me it encourages people to do what they have to do. I do think women are excellent communicators. Not just in business; they have to do it at home. It comes from having a diverse personal life as a homemaker: running budgets and bringing up children.
AIM: Do you have any further comments on women in management?
Tretheway: It has been difficult for females. I have not found it easy, especially at the beginning of my career. I do think that women have to stand up for what they believe in. There are so many women out there with potential.
AIM: Why does that not happen now?
Tretheway: They lack confidence in themselves, and often they are frustrated. You really have to believe in yourself: no one will believe in you more than yourself. You have to be absolutely professional in the way you present yourself and the way you deliver. And, most of all, you have to be the best at what you do.
AIM: You have obviously succeeded at it: what is the key?
Tretheway: I think that overnight success takes about 10 years. When I started my career, I knew I wanted to be successful; I just did not know at what.
AIM: Believing in yourself is easier for some than for others. That is, those who can take the advice are often those who don’t need it.
Tretheway: It is easy to say “believe in yourself”. You have to know how to do it. I read books and listen to motivational experts. But if you believe in yourself you can achieve anything.
AIM: Which books have you found most useful?
Tretheway: One of the most basic is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It is 50 years old, but is still valuable on how to communicate. Another is Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.
AIM: What is the greatest failing of management?
Tretheway: I think that managers should never forget how they got there, and never forget who they are working for – the customer. That can get clouded as people rise up the corporate ladder.
AIM: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Tretheway: One of the most rewarding things for me happened when I was on Southern Cross television talking about business. I later met an 18-year-old girl who said she had seen it and that it had inspired and motivated her. She said: “I wanted to do things but I could not get the confidence to do it.” So, she saved money to go to Queensland, and wrote to me to say how wonderful she felt after finding a position. That to me is the most rewarding thing. It is very tough out there and a lot of kids don’t have the confidence.