An Ace in its Place

Making sure projects run smoothly in a busy agency is all about communicating with people, allowing time for creativity and embracing chaos.

The Being Group’s Operations Manager, Lachlan Rousell, shares why he chose to pursue a career in a difficult, stressful industry and how he thrives on the challenges of the everyday.

Management material

When I look back on my past experience, I realise I’ve worked in a lot of different industries, in a lot of different roles. But the thing I’ve consistently worked my way up into is a managerial role. Management is something I really love, and it just comes naturally.

I grew up in Sydney’s West and filled my days by going to work. My working life began at McDonald’s — as many Australians’ working lives did — at the early age of 14. I ended up staying there for more than five years, and I’ve never been unemployed since.

I think I like management because I enjoy being in a high-pressure environment. I love getting into that flow state, when time disappears and your whole being is consumed with the work.

There’s a phrase I learned at McDonald’s that I’ve carried through my career; aces in their places. Having an ace in its place means making sure people fit their roles. Everyone’s happier when the best person for the job is the one doing the job.

More life experience

Working at McDonald’s gave me so much as a young person, but eventually I reached a point where I pondered if there was more I could achieve. When you become comfortable somewhere, I think it’s normal to second-guess yourself and wonder if you can do anything else.

So, I moved on and got a job in North Sydney in insurance. It was a two-hour commute and my first real taste of a corporate role. While interesting, the distance was killing me — so I applied for an opportunity in Parramatta, which was closer to home at the time. While not the most meaningful chapter in my professional life, it did help me fill a few pages.

My next role was with a non-profit organisation that helped people with disabilities find employment. This was a particularly rewarding moment in my career, because I was able to find what people wanted to do with their lives and then help them achieve it. I was applying my McDonald’s philosophy every day — learning what people’s aces were, then finding perfect places for them.

That job was filled with the most incredible moments. We were helping people to find their first ever jobs — which was just amazing. Sometimes parents would come in, crying with joy, because their child had been given a chance. I loved the human connection of that role. It really cemented the importance of using influence to do good.

After some time and some amazing memories with the non-profit, my priorities shifted. I knew I wanted to live in the city and be closer to friends, so I found a share house with five other people. That was a pivotal moment for me. It changed my outlook on my life and it’s a choice I’ll never regret.

Finding human connections

It sounds like a major change after charitable work, but the next position I held was with Storage King — and I absolutely loved it!

I began as a salesperson, then went on to become Assistant Manager, and eventually Store Manager. I felt privileged to be entrusted with a lot of responsibility; I was given the role of opening a one-of-a-kind facility, and we broke occupancy and sales records month after month. This gave me a sense of accomplishment and made me feel proud to be part of the team.

As with the non-profit, there was a strong sense of human connection. We constantly saw people going through major milestones — people who were getting divorced, people who had lost their homes, people who were buying homes — all temporarily packing their lives into storage. Everybody at either their best or worst.

A position like that fosters empathy and understanding. You want to help make someone’s life easier — and you can do that by doing your job. If the variety of jobs I’ve had has taught me one thing, it’s that professional success is always about people and relationships.

Becoming a Being

When I saw the job at The Being Group advertised, I really wanted it. It was not a nice-to-have. It was a must-have.

I was inspired by the listing because I could see an opportunity to use my skills in a creative environment — something I hadn’t really thought existed out there in the job market.

My mother, Tina, made all the costumes for Wonderland Sydney, an amusement park in Eastern Creek which at one stage was the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. So, she taught me to sew when I was young. And I always ended up in dance groups at school. I knew I was creative, because I liked creative outlets, but had never had a chance to express it professionally. That’s why a job in a creative business appealed to me so profoundly.

My initial interview was supposed to be face-to-face, but the day before I received a call to reschedule it as a virtual meeting. I stuck to my guns and pushed for an in-person interview, because you get a true sense of energy when you’re in the same room.

While preparing, I noticed celebrating with cake seemed to be a big thing at The Being Group. To be sure I made an impact, I brought in a bunch of cupcakes. In one way it was a small thing, but I think things like that say a lot about initiative, research and understanding of the brand. I don’t think it was the cupcakes that got me the job, but they did go down well with the team!

Sharing my authentic self

One of my old employers said to me: “Maybe just show them 10 percent of you.” But when I told Kerry, BEING’s Principal and Co-Founder, she said: “Oh no, show us 100 percent of you!” In that moment I knew I’d made the right choice.

Something I hear a lot at BEING is: “Don’t stop asking questions.” I’ve been in the role more than a year, and still ask questions to this day. Because I didn’t have direct industry experience, BEING gave me a unique chance to learn skills that helped me excel.

In my early twenties, I was diagnosed with ADHD. I see this as a strength. It enables me to quickly switch from one task to another. I can overhear three conversations at once and tell if there’s a challenge developing that I need to jump on. In a weird way, my ADHD is helpful in a role where I need to pivot quickly.

I schedule the “to-dos” of almost 40 people, on more than 90 live projects, on a daily basis. You always plan, of course, but nothing ever goes exactly to plan. That’s the nature of the business.

I do have a passion for resolving problems. We introduced a new project management system around the time I started, and it was part of my job to help everyone transition to the new system. At one stage, we experienced ongoing internet issues that were impacting our productivity. I took on managing the troubleshooting to find a solution. I like to fix anything I can! I even make it my job to tend and water all the plants in the office, so our work environment is a peaceful and positive space.

Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day

With a background in operations, you can work anywhere. I could work in aviation or healthcare or hospitality. But what’s unique about The Being Group is the genuine connection we have with each other.

We really love coming in to work, we love what we’re working on, and we love the people we’re working with. I know that’s rare. If you find a workplace you love, the 9 to 5 grind doesn’t exist. Don’t get me wrong. Like everyone, I do leave work feeling drained sometimes — but in a good way. I can’t see myself leaving this industry any time soon.

I know I want to travel in the future, and if that’s within the business, even better. We have a growing office in London and that’s an opportunity I’m eager to explore.

Sometimes I still feel like I’m that kid at McDonald’s, asking: “Is this it?” There’s so much more out there and I want to experience it all with BEING.

If Lachlan wasn’t the Operations Manager at The Being Group, he’d be serving up delicious dishes at his own restaurant.

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