James Ellender – General Manager, Marketing and Strategy
Posted April 2, 2019, by Jenny
Heading up the marketing and strategy team at Belgrave Leisure is enough to keep anyone busy, but not for James Ellender, he also volunteers as a Committee Member of the Aquatic and Recreation Institute (NSW) and is the Alumni representative on the Academic Governance Board at the Australia College of Physical Education.
James has more than 18 years’ industry experience at both the YMCA and Leisureco, working in partnership with Local, State and Federal Governments. He has a strong background in strategy, business planning and project management, having worked in senior strategic and management roles in both operations and marketing, communications and fundraising in not for profits across leisure, disability services and health. Throughout his career, he has developed extensive experience in connecting some of Australia’s most marginalised communities to health and recreational services. Read more about James' career story here.
What does your role involve?
The world of marketing has and continues to evolve at a dramatic rate and as a large organisation which has grown consistently for more than a decade, we are constantly reviewing and refocusing our customer and business strategies with a commitment to finding new ways of increasing customer understanding and lifetime value.
In support of business goals, I lead a team of specialists across the disciplines of marketing, communications and guest experience. This team supports more than 180 assets managed by Belgravia Leisure in the sectors of tourism and holiday parks, health and wellness, aquatics, sports and leisure and hospitality and events.
Ultimately, we are a service to the business, managing our brand, customer channels, campaigns, communications platforms and developing a range of resources for the business to grow both organically and in-store.
Talk us through a day at the office for you
I’m based in Sydney and most of my team (and our corporate office) is based in Melbourne. If I’m in Melbourne or visiting one of our business locations across Australia and New Zealand, it’s an early start down at the airport and then a jam-packed day meeting with key stakeholders and checking in on projects under my auspice. And, if I’m not travelling, I’m usually found in a video meeting with my team or business partners, looking at our performance and using data daily to improve how we service and grow our customer base.
Tell us about your study journey
Whilst I work in marketing today, I studied a Bachelor of Physical and Health Education. All the way through my study I worked full time at my local leisure centre - a great job alongside study and I thoroughly enjoyed the years. ACPE was like a second home for me and I made a lot of great friends and developed a range of skills through education that set me up for any role. Research, critical thinking, leadership, meeting deadlines and influence; all pivotal in leading teams and working within a business environment.
Throughout my post-education period, I have constantly applied myself to a range of post-grad studies. Study tours overseas, short courses through the Australian Marketing Institute and Australian Management Institute, being mentored through formal mentoring programs, having a business coach; all in the view to develop and hone my skills as a business leader.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
A cricket player. I still dream of hitting a fast bowler over their head for a six in a one-day game… maybe a T20 these days!
Name a career highlight
Honestly, the role I’m in today is my career highlight. It’s been a series of significant events over the last decade that have got me here. I’ve had many personal milestones, work challenges, careers shifts’ and even significant lows. But within it I have stayed true to always believing that you have to love what you do and should never feel like going to work is hard. I’ve networked, developed myself and those around me now get to play in an organisation that loves its communities, its people and make an impact every day in the areas of health, wellness, tourism and sport.
Name a career low
I’ve had a few. I think the period that springs to mind is when I moved on from a long-term employer and didn’t find the right fit immediately post that decision. On reflection, I should have been more patient and exercised better judgement. At the time, I ended up working for three organisations in 18 months, all of whom were positive organisations with great purposes, just not the right fit for me. Although, at the end of it all, the last organisation was Belgravia Leisure. So, whilst it was a journey, the end result was right.
What’s the most important career tip someone has given you?
For someone starting out, especially today is that it’s ok to take your time. The networks and reputation you build over the journey ahead is pivotal to your next step and people remember good people a long way down the track.
What career advice do you wish someone had given you after you graduated high school?
I was pretty lucky to have leaders who cared at the early stages of my career and a father who lived his passion as a career. So, I was well guided. I suggest you look out and take note of the leaders around you. Get to know them, listen to them, ask them lots of questions, you will learn a lot more than what you studied. The practical business skills to get you through the lows and to the highs.
What important qualities and skills should people have if they want to become a marketer?
I think you need to be inquisitive, be prepared to listen and learn and never be satisfied with status-quo. The best outcomes come from taking educated risks and also recovering quickly – because mistakes are learnings and in our digital age you can learn very quickly!
What do you think makes a good manager?
Someone who cares about his/her people and leads from the heart – with good business experience to make good judgement calls on the run and understand that sometimes from the heart means doing the right (but challenging) thing by your team.
What’s next for you?
I’m really enjoying my job and feel like I’m just at the start of a long period of both growth in my role and for my team.
Maybe when the next opportunity arises it’s within the Belgravia Group with greater reach or impact, or potentially in the sporting sector.
As long as I’m around good people, working towards a shared vision to make people healthier and happier, I’ll be pretty happy.