Industry Interviews

Melinda O’Rourke
Chief business development officer

June 27, 2016

Describe your current title and role and how long you have been in this role.

Chief Business Development Officer, Emerald Group Investments Pty Ltd, I have been in the role for 11months since EGI purchased my business, MO Recruit (formerly MO Luxury).

What was your first role, and was it directly linked to your career path?

From a travel and international business perspective it was somewhat linked. I worked with the Department of Foreign Affairs / Attorney General’s Department for a couple of years.

Tell us about your formal background.

I was an annoyingly (to my parents) errant teenager and very keen to work, so I did not complete my HSC, I made it to year 11 and felt it was wasting my time (…youth!!). However I did study for an Advanced Marketing Certificate at TAFE, followed some years later by a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing and then a Masters Degree in General Management at MGSM. A late bloomer perhaps.

As Country Manager for Prada, Australia and New Zealand, General Manager for Chanel Australia and Fashion Manager, Yves Saint Laurent Australia; what has been the most memorable moment in your career thus far?

To be frank it is so very difficult to put it down to one standout as there really have been a multitude of memorable moments.  If I was pushed, I would say meeting Monsieur Saint Laurent and having him be so gracious to spend time talking with me about Australia.  To spend time briefly with he and Monsieur Pierre Berge was pretty incredible.

The challenges you’ve experienced along the way?

Very few actually.  Every challenge has a solution, it’s really the approach taken and whom one chooses to ‘bounce things’ off.  One of my challenges has been knowing when to ask for advice for not wanting to be seen as not knowing. I am getting better yet it’s still a WIP!

When you first began your career, what was your vocational projection and desired outcome? Have you surpassed your level of expected success?

To have a career with a lot of travel and a fashion association, so I think I have certainly followed that.  Success is subjective, for me I feel lucky to have had the opportunities I have and enjoy the additional learnings and development that I experience, almost on a daily basis.  I enjoy delivering to expectations and when I do achieve that, of course that has a sense of success, but there’s always something new around the corner to delivery on.

Do you have a mentor or someone who has influenced you in your career?

I have several unofficial mentors who over the years I have absorbed interesting conversations, presentations and articles from.  I have not been officially mentored but I have sought out leaders that resonate with my values and been a keen student.  My father, now a retired lawyer, has and continues to be an excellent source of sound and pragmatic advice.

A discerning piece of advice for someone interested in following a like-minded professional path in the luxury business market?

Immerse yourself in as much reading and practical experience as you can for this sector. Understand your strengths, skill up on the gaps.  Most personal luxury goods brands are retail businesses so it is really important to have been exposed to retail and if that is the piece missing then look at including that experience.  Senior roles in the luxury sector are tightly held and they turn over rarely, so working your way up is not only excellent for enhancing skills but allowing time for next career step growth.

Define the key qualities you look for when recruiting forthcoming employees in the luxury brand market?

The fundamental qualities are: passion (for industry, products, client experience), attention to detail on everything (communication, presentation) and keenness to learn, patience and a down-to-earth sensibility.

In what terms do you measure success?

For business:  Long term clients; Building new business from referrals; Creating a profitable and sustainable business

Personally: The enduring relationships with family, friends and colleagues

With over 20 years of senior executive expertise in personal luxury goods and services; how important is embracing change?

Crucial.  One must be as relevant as possible all the time and in the past decade the speed of change is of the Formula 1 variety! Whilst inherent luxury is built on heritage the trick is to respect the past and embrace innovation in all forms and with balance (maintain the raison d’être).  Otherwise our fast moving world quite literally moves on.

In your line of work, you contribute to public speaking panels. How do you prepare?

Understanding the topic; understanding who the audience is and thinking about what they want to get out of the presentation or conversation.  If I am giving a keynote – I practice (a lot) towards providing an engaging talk (hopefully).

What is your style philosophy?

Quality over quantity always. I have more of a classic style philosophy, which tends to suit me.  I have some quite wonderful iconic pieces I have acquired along the way and they continue to give back!

Which designers are you following locally?

I am a great fan of what Toni Maticevski continues to deliver, a true artisan.  Christopher Esber has been peaking my interest and am impressed by what Strateas Carlucci are designing as well.  Zimmermann always delivers whimsical and independent collections.  I think there are some really strong Australian brands standing out for their unique style.

As a specialist in luxury, you have an innate understanding of brand equity, positioning and service. How do you feel about the future of luxury in Australia?

The future of luxury in Australia is very bright indeed. We have a strong economy, we live in a safe country and the ultra high net worth and high net worth consumer segment continues to grow.  With that said, our population is 23 Million and with a number of new brand entrants to market the share of wallet for luxury brands will be more competitive.  The consumer however will be in a happy place.

Tell us about your personal interests.

I love to travel – work or pleasure, I just enjoy the privilege of the experiences.  I am a lover of exercise yoga and pilates with my bike (thanks Clover Moore) in tow.

What words do you live by?

Honesty, consistency, trust, compassion, curious (always), discovery

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Quite possibly living between Sydney and Paris and teaching private Pilates classes.

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