Q&A with Rebecca Bell

Rebecca Bell 
Venue Manager, Ballarat and District Trotting Club 

How did you start in the industry and arrive at your current position? 

From the age of 16, I started working casually at a small café in Dunolly, Central Victoria for some pocket money, I was completing my Certificate 2 in Hospitality Operations at school over Year 10/11 to give me extra credit towards my VCE. I had decided I wanted to study nursing so picked all my subjects based on getting into nursing, after a few months of working in Aged Care I decided nursing wasn’t for me.  

I started working at Target Country in Maryborough and enrolled in a Diploma of Hospitality Management and Certificate 3 in Function and Event Management. I decided I needed to work in Hospitality to fully understand what I was getting into, so I dropped in my resume to the Maryborough Highland Society where I was interviewed on the spot and offered casual work as a food/beverage/gaming attendant. I kept both jobs and studied for a while before leaving Target to take on a Duty Supervisor position with the Highland Society. I completed my diploma two years later and was offered the Function Manager position with the Highland Society, I spent eight years with the Highland Society.  

In 2011, I was offered the Venue Manager’s position at Kyneton Bowling Club. This was a big step up and an opportunity for me to progress my career, I was extremely happy to accept but also apprehensive at the same time as I doubted my ability to do the job at 25! The General Manager at the time, Don Hester, was extremely supportive and had 100% confidence in me. 

I still remember the first time I walked into a CCV conference in Melbourne, I was on my own and the room was 97% males. It has definitely changed over the last 12 years.  

Five years on, I applied for a Venue Manager position with Ballarat and District Trotting Club and was successful in obtaining the role. I have been with the club for just over 5.5 years. This role is very different to what I was doing at Kyneton, the team is larger and has numerous areas within the business, however the venue itself is a similar size to what I was used to at Maryborough.  

I can’t see myself working in another industry, I have a passion for sporting clubs and the hospitality/gaming industry as a whole.  

What excites you most about working in the gaming and/or hospitality industry? 

The hospitality industry is an ever-changing industry where no two days are the same, I love the interaction with customers on a day-to-day basis and getting to know “the regulars”.  

I enjoy seeing young staff coming into the industry that have a passion for food and beverage with the eagerness to learn, there is nothing better than mentoring young staff to be the best they can be and showing them the correct technique from the beginning.  

Being able to influence young women to grow and succeed in the industry is such a rewarding feeling, so many walk through the door with little to no confidence and within six months they are training new staff. 

I enjoy a challenge and the industry sure throws plenty of them at you, no more so than the last two years.  

What advice would you give to your younger self starting out in the industry? 

Don’t doubt yourself or give anyone else a reason to doubt you, go headfirst into everything you do giving it 100% regardless of the outcome. Find a mentor that is going to believe in you and give you the opportunity to grow into something bigger and better.  

What do you think is the most significant barrier for women in the industry today, and how do you think this barrier can be overcome? 

The belief that females are “more experienced” in nurturing staff while male counterparts deal with the bigger problems of running a business. Women and men complete the same training and courses; however, women are still perceived as being more compassionate and empathetic resulting in them being overlooked for senior roles.   

I do believe the tables are turning slowly with some boards and senior management now comprising of 50% women, but we need to ensure women have input and aren’t there to simply meet the gender quota.  

I have been extremely lucky at all three clubs I have worked to have male General Managers, CEOs and committees who have been very accepting and supportive of women in senior roles, I wouldn’t be where I am today if they weren’t.  

Who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader, and why/how did this person impact your life? 

My first General Manager, Don Hester, made me the leader I am today. Without his support, encouragement, and confidence in me I would not be sitting here answering these questions today.  

Don was a passionate advocate for the industry both locally and at state level, he always fought hard for what he believed in, whether he was the only one in the room that believed in it or not.  

Don always encouraged me to attend different training courses, conferences and seminars and would say “So long as you walk away with one piece of information or something new, it was well worth going to”. This is a saying I now use often with my staff.  

Don always reiterated it was the 1% that mattered, it is what will differentiate you from the next person/business.  

I like to think I now hold the same values and integrity that Don instilled in me 19 years ago when I walked into the club as a naive 18-year-old, I will be forever grateful to him for giving me a start in an industry that I truly love.