John McCollum: Chief Executive, Drumbo Park Greyhound Stadium
Greyhound stadium’s a racing cert
Fantastic! We have enjoyed a great response since opening at the end of July and our operators are kept very busy with people calling to make reservations. One of the most pleasing aspects is that we seem to appeal to a broad range of visitors across all age groups and equally across the gender divide.
Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
To be honest after the years of planning and development that has gone into Drumbo Park, to be finally up and running feels very new and exciting! We are compiling our calendar for 2009 and are confident of hosting the three biggest greyhound meetings here, namely the Ulster Gold Cup, the Ulster Derby and the National Sprint, which would be a great coup for Drumbo Park.
What are the long-term prospects for your company?
We believe the long-term prospects are very good. Prior to opening we carried out research which indicated that there would be room in the hospitality and entertainment sector for Drumbo Park. In the Republic, greyhound racing was very successfully transformed a number of years ago into a sociable as well as a sporting occasion and this has showed no signs of slowing. We are confident that Drumbo Park has the facilities and entertainment to replicate this in Northern Ireland and can provide a new, exciting and affordable night out.
What are the biggest challenges facing your organisation?
The biggest challenge for us is to provide a great experience that people will want to come back and share with their friends again and again. With such a large organisation and many different facets within this (for example the bars, the restaurant or the betting facilities) it is vital that each of these areas are performing effectively. To achieve this we have secured excellent staff in each area which ensures that every aspect of the business runs smoothly individually and gel together into a great experience.
Could the Government help you to do business better?
Yes, very much so. Unlike our southern counterparts we receive no Government funding and have to seek corporate partners for financial support. In the Republic, the Irish Greyhound Board is a semi-state body which means the government provides funding for greyhound racing infrastructural development and prize money. In Britain the British Greyhound Board also receives some financial support from bookmakers which is poured back into greyhound racing but none of this is given to Northern Ireland. Clearly Northern Ireland greyhound racing is being overlooked and this is an issue that we will be raising with the Government here and urging them to bring racing in Northern Ireland onto a par with our close counterparts.
Why would someone work for you?
I believe that we are creating a fun and unique experience at Drumbo Park. We want to give customers a great night out and to create this friendly, fun environment we try to foster this feeling among our staff. I’d like to think that Drumbo Park is a fun place to work and there’s nothing else quite like it in Northern Ireland.
Your views on the economy, please.
Obviously the current credit crunch has been well documented and this is having an affect across the business climate as a whole. However, we have found that people still want entertainment and to go out and enjoy themselves, provided they are getting value for money. I believe that businesses need to be proactive and to run very efficiently, perhaps more cautiously than they previously may have been. However, there should not be any reduction in the level of service provided and customers should not be made to suffer as part of cost cutting measures.
The business climate — good or bad?
To be honest the hospitality sector remains buoyant. As I indicated this does not seem to have been as badly affected by the credit crunch as people are still going out and enjoying themselves. Hopefully we are over the worst and the credit crunch has bottomed out but we’ll have to remain vigilant in our business operations.
What ambitions do you have on a personal level?
I always find myself getting caught up in new business projects as I’m enthusiastic but the most important thing to me is looking after and providing for my family — hopefully I’ll learn to spend some more time with them! I also would like to work more with charities to raise money and awareness for some very worthwhile causes.
What do you get up to in your spare time?
Not very much at the minute! When I do have spare time I enjoy going to the gym with my wife or going cycling or swimming with my sons. I also enjoy playing golf but find this frustrating as well. And if I’m feeling very stressed I sometimes go and watch Lisburn Distillery for my troubles!