Ashley Brown has seen it all. From working as a team member at Dairy Farmers, managing Gold Valley Crusta Juices, to eventually becoming State and then National Safety Manager at Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) for the better part of eight years. Throughout this time, he’s seen first-hand the many sides to business, including times of great success, as well as disruption. In his final three years at CCA he watched on as the economy lost buoyancy and increased pressure on businesses, amounting to the eventual closure of CCA South Australia Manufacturing and Crusta Juices.
Ashley remained in a leadership role during this transformation period and actively contributed to making the process easier for the people in his team. Eventually, his own position became redundant and this is where Kiikstart met Ashley. Kiikstart’s Ali Uren helped Ashley and team members navigate through this time and find opportunities beyond redundancy.
During this interview, Ashley’s intuition as a leader shines, as well as his passion for the wellbeing of the people around him. He holds a great depth of knowledge into what it takes to truly lead people by example, as well as what it takes to add value to a workplace beyond a job description.
Ashley, your experience and skillset in business and management is impressive. What part of your career stands out as something that you’re most proud of?
My career in leadership stands out the most, as well as my contribution to CCA in a safety perspective. My passion, drive and leadership style has developed over the past ten years and has put me in good stead to build relationships and network with people.
Whilst it was an emotional time watching CCA SA Manufacturing and Crusta Juice wind down, it was also such an engaging project and not one that you can learn at Uni! From a learning perspective, it was such a unique experience and one that I’ve since been able to add to my toolkit of skills for future. I’m very proud of the way that both CCA and I handled that situation, and the people who were affected.
You’ve recently seen some major changes in your career, what has been a key takeaway from your experience with the restructure of Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA)?
People are the key takeaway from my career, they are so integral to a business.
People really have been at the centre of my career, especially over the past few years through CCA’s transition. That time really opened up my eyes to the importance of understanding staff and really taking considerations into what you say as a leader, your word heavily influences everyone around you.
I also learned that a good leader understands people and takes time to interact with the wider community. Working for a large business like CCA as an Operations Manager I felt an obligation to engage with the wider community through different events and local clubs. It really does make an impact on the work environment and reflects great on a business.
Lastly, I’ve learned that good leaders are authentic and have genuine empathy and lead with understanding and compassion for the needs of their team members and the business.
If you get that right, everything else will follow.
You were faced with change and disruption on quite a large scale at CCA, what would be your advice to other professionals facing similar circumstances?
My advice to others facing disruption, such as redundancy, is to develop an understanding of yourself and your own needs. It’s easy in times of stress or change to forget about yourself.
It’s important to maintain a balance between our personal life, business, health and self-development. As leaders we focus so much on achieving in a business and hitting milestones at work, that we tend to put other things on hold.
Lastly, understand your skill set and how you can actively contribute to the business as they go through that transition. Be an integral part of the team and add a positive contribution where possible.
Have you seen new opportunities arise from the recent changes with CCA, whether this be in business or in life?
It’s been a very interesting journey for me and has resulted in some great opportunities for self-development and, again, finding that balance.
In the middle of last year as everything started to settle down with CCA, I thought I have worked through an incredible amount of change and contributed a great amount of time. I was loyal to the company and I thought about where my career was going and what did I want to achieve next?
I had forgotten about myself. I’d grown as a leader tremendously but hadn’t invested in myself over the ten years. So, I got in touch with a few people and started to build up networks outside of the CCA group. I knew I had to get the balance back and start investing in myself, and my next 5-10 years.
I decided that it was time to create my own opportunities, so I’ve gone back to study since (and re-introduced myself to my family).
What was your experience like with Kiikstart throughout this experience?
I got to know Ali two years ago when she helped with the displacement of employees at CCA South Australia. Ali helped employees get prepared for life outside of CCA with the angle of brand building and up-skilling but with an entrepreneurial mindset at its core. She had the role of preparing employees for the best chance of getting a job post-redundancy in a world that is changing and competitive.
I got to know Ali quite well, she led me through the same process once I had also become redundant. When I met her, I told her to treat me as if she didn’t know a thing about me. At this point, I really wanted to dig deep into my leadership style and begin building my own brand.
Ali has a nice way of engaging you to bring out all of those things that you haven’t recognised in yourself. There’s a process that she takes you through to start drawing out your skills and building your personal brand.
Her sheer enthusiasm and way of keeping you accountable through it all – not many people can do that. Having a brand in today’s world is so important, and her experience allowed me to do that.
The process I went through with Kiikstart was so important. It showed me that in order to build that foundation for your future, you need to put in the work. Eventually, you start to see it all come together, and now I don’t even need to refer to my resume when talking to people, as it has become part of my professional DNA and personal brand.
Safe to say, I couldn’t have come this far without Ali.
What does success look like to you in your career? Is it something that you have already achieved?
To me, success is always in the eye of the beholder. What it really looks like to me now is balance. I used to think that success was achievement within the work environment. But, my experience over the last few years has led me to get to know myself better and to really find that balance between work, family self-development and my own personal life.
Lastly, where do you see yourself in the next five years?
The next five years are about getting a better balance in my life and maintaining that. I want to add value to my next workplace and contribute to a company’s success, but I also want to work toward personal goals. That is what success is from my perspective.
Connect with Ashley here