Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tussaud's + People

My 5 years with The Tussauds Group - from 1997 to 2002 - were some of the best years of my working life and they certainly were some of the most influential years in terms of shaping my career path.

I initially joined Tussaud's as Head of Operations (and ultimately Head of Retail as well) at Warwick Castle where I learnt a great deal about the running of a highly successful visitor attraction as part of a global multi-site group; and then in early 2000 I was given the chance to go down to Baker Street as General Manager for Madame Tussaud's and the London Planetarium - a huge honour, a big responsibility and a great opportunity.

The Baker Street operation was the cash cow for the business with c.2 million people snaking their way through the building each year - and the infamous queue outside the building!

I learnt so much during my time at both sites and I certainly would not be here today at Blenheim Palace if I had not served my time with Tussaud's - it gave me a point of difference and it added some commercial experience to my farming and land agency roots.

The most value though comes from the people and the connections made with a top organisation - many of whom are still on the radar today and many of whom we still engage with through our work here at Blenheim Palace. They really are a top bunch of very talented people.

We had a reunion/gathering in London on Wednesday evening and it was SO good to see many of them again - too many to mention them all but great to see Mike Jolly (former Chairman and Chief Executive of the Group) and Sarah Montgomery (former General Manager at Warwick Castle) - both will always be a very important part of my career and I owe them both a great deal. Sarah for employing me at Warwick Castle in the first place and Mike for everything through my time with Tussaud's and then for pointing the headhunters in my direction when the Blenheim Palace job was being recruited - I value both for their continued wise counsel and advise.

I was sad to leave Tussaud's in 2002 but Pearson owned the company when I joined in 1997 and then the venture capitalists arrived the following year and the tone and culture inevitably began to change. Despite delivering budget and driving the business forward, it was clear that I was not one of their appointments and when "your face doesn't quite fit" it is time to be pragmatic and move on - which is what I did in early 2002 before joining Blenheim Palace early the following year - the interim period was spent with the National Museum of Science and Industry (Science Museum, etc) but that is for another day.

I have been so lucky in my career and my Tussaud's time will always be some of the best and most valuable years of my life - both for what I learnt and for the people/connections that I made.

People shape our lives and that certainly has been true for me.

Back here at Blenheim we have dispatched the papers out to the Duke and the Trustees ahead of our autumn meeting with them next week - always a huge relief and a huge credit to Dom (bean counter) and Roger (property guru) for all their input and support but I lay awake last night worrying that our wonderful Royal Mail could still screw everything up. We will cross our fingers that all of the packages reach their destinations otherwise next week could be rather interesting!

Time prevents too much of a review of the last week but suffice to say that "Bike Blenheim Palace" was a huge resounding success - this home built event has rapidly (only it's second year) grown into a meaningful part of the cycling calendar. The Brompton Bike World Championships and the Time Trials were all fully subscribed; the new Sportif and Cyclocross events went well and overall we had around 7,500 people on site. Lots of people worked their socks-off in delivering the event but particular praise and credit must go to Paul Orsi (our Head Forester turned Rural Enterprises Manager turned Event Supremo) and his brilliant Rural Team for all their hard work and dedication around the event - the success is down to them with huge support from Operations, Retail, Catering, Marketing and everyone else!

Again people shape what we do and what we deliver - we have an exceptional team here at Blenheim Palace and they should be very proud at what is being achieved day-to-day and year-on-year.

Have a very good weekend

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