SYN Screen and Production Services
4 December 2012 By Conal Thwaite
SYN Screen and Sound Production Services is a new social enterprise run by SYN Media in Melbourne.
The enterprise hires 11 young audio and video producers with a range of skills, who work in small teams on promotional media products such as this conference video for Express Media at National Youth Week 2012, and another for RMIT Village student accommodation.
SYN is best known for its radio station (90.7 SYN FM) run for the benefit of people under 26, listeners and volunteer presenters alike, but the organisation also runs training courses and produces television content.
Increasing the amount of video work undertaken by SYN Media also appeals to Tahlia because it is a further step towards diversification. Today media entities need to produce content for multiple formats.
Tahlia first joined SYN as a student journalist and is now its general manager, with a special interest in social enterprise.
“I knew coming into my job here that it was something I wanted to do,” Tahlia says.
“To establish it the first step I needed was the business plan, and I didn’t know how to do a business plan. I knew we had this relationship with Greatconnections.”
Mary Preen was asked by LV’s Greatconnections to assist Tahlia. Mary has had a long association with both Leadership Victoria and Greatconnections before the two organisations merged recently, and continues to volunteer.
She has qualifications in executive coaching and has run her own strategic planning consultancy business since 2003. Previously she worked for the Department of Education and Training.
With her background in coaching, Mary supported Tahlia to achieve her goals by clarifying exactly what the project entailed, and how they would get there.
It was an exercise in strategic planning.
“I said to Tahlia early on that the way I wanted to work was not so much as, ‘I’m the expert, I have a solution for you’, but more in a way of working together on a project, using an open-ended coaching approach,” Mary says.
“One of Tahlia’s best qualities is that she’s so open to feedback.”
Mary and Tahlia started working on the project in March by first establishing a framework that could be presented to SYN’s board.
They then developed a draft with more details, such as the prices SYN could likely charge for services, what staff resources were available and how to market their product.
Tahlia explained the details of the operations of SYN to Mary who presented Tahlia with further questions, until all the elements of a business plan were complete.
“Mary didn’t come in and do it for me, because I wouldn’t have learnt anything that way,” Tahlia says.
At the same time, SYN was undergoing an overall strategic review, including of the education and training programs. Eventually these documents were aligned into the same format as Tahlia’s business plan, to provide clarity to the board and the organisation overall.
Tahlia and Mary spent four months working together before launching SYN Screen and Sound Production Services. While SYN has done similar work in the past on an ad-hoc basis, it now takes place under the strategic business plan.
As well as continuing in her role as general manager at SYN, Tahlia acts as business manager for the social enterprise, marketing and reviewing potential projects and delivering them to teams of producers. The project is off to a great start.
“We are on the train now,” Tahlia says.
Two weeks ago a team of young workers completed an assignment, and another is booked for a fortnight away.
The biggest challenge remains marketing, while the ultimate goal is to hire another staff member to help run the enterprise.
Mary says it was a joy working with Tahlia and emphasises that while not all volunteering roles involve mentoring, they all require empathy, open-mindedness and a collaborative rather than top-down managerial approach.
Tahlia and Mary are looking forward to sitting down together for a rigorous review of the project in the coming months.