How did you get to this position…what was the pathway and what did you do before?
Previously Director at Wentworth Castle Heritage Trust. I worked for English Heritage as a seasonal custodian during my university vacations and was lucky enough to get a job as a Head Custodian after graduating. From there I took the commercial route to Director/CEO and have had the privilege to work at some amazing sites along the way: Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway, CONKERS and Wollaton Hall and Deer Park to name a few…
What are the challenges in this job?
There is always an enormous amount of work and competing priorities involved with new start-ups – especially something as big and ambitious as Heartlands, which is a £35m regeneration project. As well as setting up a social enterprise to run the project, it has been important to work closely with the project team on the fit out to ensure that it meets the needs of the site once operational and to develop a business plan to ensure that the site is sustainable in the long-term. One of the joys of a new start up is being able to build a team from scratch and I am lucky to have a great SMT to work with (with your help!).
Who has influenced you the most in your career and why?
There have been a number of people who have influenced me in different ways along the way and I am unable to single out one individual. I learned a great deal about balancing conservation and commercialisation from John Coulson, who was my line manager when I worked for English Heritage at the start of my career. Leopold de Rothschild was also an inspirational Chairman at Exbury and the most gracious person I have ever known.
What do you do to switch off?
I practice Reiki and meditation and find watching my chickens strangely therapeutic?
Any Pearls of Wisdom or strategies for success that you would like to share?
The key to success is repeats and referrals – making sure that every visitor has such a great time, that they want to come back again and that they recommend you to all their friends. It’s much more cost effective to generate repeats and referrals than it is to spend money on expensive advertising to attract new business
What do you consider to be the current trends within the visitor attraction industry?
There is inevitably a lot of price sensitivity in the market and increasingly visitors looking for cheap days out and value for money. Some charging attractions are employing aggressive pricing strategies in response to this. However as a free attraction Heartlands will be well placed to benefit from this trend when we opens in Spring 2012.