Thursday, October 15, 2009

Positive vibes - onwards and upwards

It has been a busy and productive week - as well as a week that we are glad to put behind us!

The Trustees meeting on Wednesday - an autumn delight - went well and all of the various budgets and reports were duly endorsed by the Duke and everyone else. Always pleasing but such gatherings are stressful as you can never totally predict the mood or outcome from the meeting and there is always the risk that they can stray off at tangents into unplanned territory which can open up other issues, etc. Thankfully that did not happen on Wednesday and everyone was in good form - I must pay huge credit to Dom (the bean counter) and Roger (the property guru) for all their hard work and support both prior to and during the meeting - they put in a vast amount of work preparing papers for the meeting and it is always a relief to get 'sign-off' - such a relief that we always reward ourselves with a nice lunch and a glass of wine afterwards. This week we headed to Langan's in Stratton Street and had a delicious lunch - but then we all felt uncomfortably stuffed as we travelled back on the train later in the afternoon! Working hard now to get the minutes written and dispatched whilst the meeting is fresh in mind - this also provides closure and peace of mind before we have to focus on the next meeting!

Wrapped around the Trustees meeting have been some other interesting meetings in a busy week. Over at The Compleat Angler Hotel in Marlow on Monday for a Tourism South East BBO Sub-Regional committee meeting and then on Tuesday over to the Williams F1 Conference Centre in Grove to meet with private sector tourism businesses to get them to pledge support to the emerging Destination Management Organisation ("DMO") for Oxfordshire. Slightly disappointing turnout but those present seemed positive and hopefully we can maintain momentum and get this exciting new tourism delivery structure in place for summer 2010.

On Thursday we had our quarterly catch-up meeting with our catering provider, Sodexo Prestige, and it is always useful to focus on their prior performance and on the forward pipeline of activity as this is such a fundamentally important part of our business both for day catering and for conferences + banqueting. They are doing very well in a tough year - the surge in visitor numbers through our annual pass scheme has boosted their day catering revenues whilst strong wedding business has helped to offset a significant drop in conference and banqueting business - but there are signs that this area is beginning to slowly recover. We are an important contract for Sodexo and we are a tough client to please as we expect a 5 star service in every area - but they are working hard and we are making good progress in lifting standards in many areas. Our challenge to them is to lift the day catering standard so that we become a destination for the quality of the food on offer - we are not there yet but we are moving positively in the right direction.

Today we say farewell to the site foreman for Bentley's on the Dam Project as he heads off to his winter sojourn in the Caribbean - tough life! The dam project has slightly overrun timewise (by about 2 weeks) but has come in well under budget which is pleasing - and at least we now know that we are compliant with the Reservoirs Act 1975 and that "1 in 10,000 year flood risk" - phew!

At home it is very tense and exciting as Annabelle enters her last day as a 9 year old - the big "10" arrives tomorrow and she is VERY excited. We have finally relented and she will get her very own Pink iPod tomorrow - with "Annabelle Hoy - Princess of Pop" - on the back! To add to the exitement we are taking Annabelle and 8 friends on a very special birthday trip tomorrow afternoon - we are going to The Sound Cube in Watford where they get the chance to make a record and a supporting dance video. Annabelle has chosen "Toxic by Britney Spears" as her song and they have all been practising hard learning the lyrics - should be a fun day and I must resist muscling in and cutting a Chas 'n Dave number or similar at the same time!! Louisa - Annabelle's sister - and I are in charge of judging the 9 of them and we have created some fun awards which Louisa must assess - she will be Simon Cowell for the day!

Life as ever is entertaining and varied - lots of forward planning for next year but with an eye on closing out this season on a high. We will finish very close to 550k visitors and 100k annual pass holders - amazing numbers that could not have been predicted last January as we sat down to plan some front foor marketing plans for the season! I doubt if there are many businesses that have so radically transformed themselves in such a short time in the current trading climate - the challenge now is to look at the shape and delivery for 2010 to maintain and grow further!

Well done to all the Blenheim team - the support from the Duke and from the Trustees endorses and recognises everyone's hard work and commitment across every sector of the business - we are very fortunate (or should that be "they" are very fortunate) to have such a talented and hard-working team at every level!

Onwards and upwards!

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Anonymous Don Anderson said...

what an excellent year for attendance and annual pass membership! We live in the US and have enjoyed our previous visits to Blenheim Palace, looking forward to more next year. By the way, will there be a summer concert series in 2010? Each time we watch the Jamie Cullum DVD with the beautiful backdrop of Blenheim we want to grab our passports and post haste head your direction.

Enjoy the Christmas and New Year holidays, we'll keep tuned into your interesting and informative BLOG

October 16, 2009 at 7:50 AM  
Anonymous John Hoy said...

Hi Dom

Many thanks for taking the time to post a comment - good to get your feedback. We are working on some summer concerts at the end of June 2010 with Warner Music which we hope will come off - watch the website for info.

We hugely value the support from all of our overseas friends - visit us again soon!

Best wishes


October 19, 2009 at 12:50 AM  

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