I recently met 'Real Housewife' Chyka Keebaugh at a sold-out business lunch in Melbourne.
I spoke to the largely female audience about the business lessons from great Aunt Jane that I have drawn on throughout my career and Chyka shared insights into how she and her husband created a $70m dollar international empire from a humble start up operation in Melbourne.
Since 2013 Chyka has shot to fame as a reality TV personality on The Real Housewives of Melbourne. Love it or hate it, everyone knows about The Real Housewives franchise and the images it creates of these 'high society women'. Watching the show with it's glossy emphasis on glamour and drama it is easy to forget the women behind the brand.
Chyka is a smart and remarkable businesswoman who has worked hard to build a successful creative culinary and event business. Chyka is kind, warm and friendly, community minded and witty - a far cry from the image of The Real Housewives.
In today's world of personal brand management, PR consultants, management companies and a myriad of coaches helping leaders, personalities and celebrities manage their businesses, careers, the media and social media platforms, it is interesting to consider how different things were for Jane.
Jane's identity was unknown in her lifetime. Women weren't encouraged to pursue such things and when her novels were published they did not bear her name; they were written by 'A Lady'. Her identity was revealed as soon as she died and the 'brand management' of Jane started in the first biographies and memoirs written by our family in the Victorian era. Jane didn't have access to the army of advisers I have consulted over my twenty year career. She couldn't 'Google' the myriad of online resources, consult business mentors or attend courses to help her write her novels or navigate the publishing world.
On the other hand, Jane lived a private life, uninterrupted by 24/7 media world we now live in. Jane had the luxury of focusing all of her efforts on her craft and the quality of her work. Jane didn't have to worry about being snapped by a smart phone on a quick run to the shops on a 'bad hair' day! Jane wasn't criticised on social media or hounded for her feminist views.
But she was also denied the benefit of talking directly to her audience or consulting industry experts. Jane had to rely on the opinions of her closest friends and family and follow her own instincts.
Regardless of the differences of time, instinct (and learning to trust your instinct) is perhaps the defining ingredient of success. We are now in an age of information overload. There are more opinions, advisers and case studies than any of us could possibly hope to make sense of. There is no full proof decision making process or guaranteed course of action. At the end of the day, it is our instinct that guides us and differentiates the choices we make.
Instinct defines the woman behind the brand, and I greatly enjoyed meeting the woman behind the Real Housewife.