• Alumni
How to get on the career ladder: tips from two Old Millfieldians
Tracy and Ben

 

Sugar connoisseurs, Tracy McDonnell Goad (1996-2001; Day) and Ben Eastick (1984-1988; Keen's Elm), know all about what it takes to develop a successful career.

Tracy is the managing director of Cornish confectionery brand, Buttermilk, based in Padstow since 1964, and Ben is the director of his family’s business, Ragus Sugars, the UK's only remaining independent sugar refinery, known for formulating the world’s oldest branded food product, Lyle’s Golden Syrup.

What do these two OMs look for when hiring new employees, other than a sweet tooth? We asked for their genuine advice, without any sugar coating!

 

Tell us about your business and day-to-day role?

Tracy: I run a growing confectionery business that started in a tiny shop which is still there today! We supply lots of large and small, national and international, retailers. My role is to drive the direction of the business and keep our brilliant team on track with their day-to-day tasks. As the managing director my role is varied - I have overall responsibility for the commercial success of the business, hold the relationships with our key partners and set our strategy, but sometimes I have to be very hands on too (tasting new products is one of my favourite perks of the job!) We make all our own products and have recently moved into plant-based confectionery, which is a growing area for lifestyle and sustainability reasons.

Ben: Ragus is the last remaining independent and family-owned sugar producer in the UK. It was set up in 1880 as an analysis and consulting practice, and went on to formulate Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which is now the world’s oldest branded food product. In 1990, my father and uncle retired, and my cousin, brother and I took over the company at a relatively young age. We have developed the business from a UK-based manufacturer into a full-service global operation, building a new multi-million-pound, state-of-the-art factory in 2013. My cousin runs the factory, while James and I look after the commercial side. 

I saw an opportunity to create a Ragus brand within industry that, if appropriate, could be applied within the retail sector too. The three of us share the purchasing of raw materials which is good for contingency, and I still have a handful of large customers which helps remind me of why we are doing this! We have hired some brilliant managers who have been with us for many years which, as the business has grown, has allowed James and I to focus more on strategy and planning, especially important as retirement is getting closer!

 

How many staff do you employ? 

Tracy: We are a business of 40 all-year-round staff in Cornwall, and we have summer seasonal employment options.

Ben: Around 45. Being industrial means bulk deliveries, which are more automated. We do some smaller packs that are popular with the smaller plant bakers and local breweries, but we are now looking at the impact on efficiency of filling this size in-house.

 

What qualities do you look for during an interview, any advice?

Tracy: The non-negotiables are integrity, willingness to learn and enthusiasm. Make sure you are applying for roles you really want and for the right reasons. Do your research and demonstrate how you can make a contribution to that company.

Ben: I look for people who can think outside the box and are able to be pro-active and run with the ball without having to refer back for advice constantly. Be honest and open and your character will sell itself.

 

What is your top tip for those just embarking on their careers?

Tracy: Don’t be afraid to change course if you have given something a really good go and it is not for you. It is never too late to change. I think small businesses are a good place to figure out what the overlap is between what you are good at and what you enjoy, as you aren’t compartmentalised. Fear isn’t always a good reason to avoid something.

Ben: Have a real passion for what you want to do and you’ll find that, with time, your career will become second nature to you.

 

How did your Millfield experience impact on your career?

Tracy: I loved my time at Millfield. There are so many teachers who played such a big part in my time there who I remember with gratitude and affection. There were a few key turning moments for me; getting to represent England in athletics gave me the confidence and resilience to know I could push myself through hard work and discipline, which is essential to running a business.

Ben: I followed my brother, James, into Keen’s Elm. Being heavily dyslexic at the time, the school was a lifeline for me, as the options for people with dyslexia in those days were pretty limited. On arrival, Millfield seemed like a mini-University as not many schools back then had anything like the facilities Millfield had. Sport had a bigger impact on me than I realised at the time; I ran cross country for the first team and was lucky enough to train with some future Olympians. I still run a couple of times a week as well as going to the gym for core strength. The mind management from playing sport has helped enormously with my dyslexia, my career and, of course, my hobby, motor racing. I am now in my 30th racing season and have been lucky enough to meet some amazingly talented people from within the sport, and some of that rubs off on you over the years.

 

Would you like to take part in our next Q&A blog post and share your achievements and advice? If so, please email us here.