I trained at EY and have some fond memories. In the five years I was there I gained a lot of experience. My first industry role was with HTV group [now ITV Wales and West]. It was a good place to work and a really busy environment, but there was a lot of change in the television industry at that time and we were eventually bought out by United News & Media. It was the first time I’d worked in industry and I had some responsibility managing teams.
My financial controller role at First Choice saw me put in place a team of people to make sure there was enough resource at the processing centres to cope with the transaction volumes. And also deal with certain issues that arose as a result of things not being put in place at the outset – there was a lot of backlog. I was managing about 70 people.
I then stepped up to the FD role at a family run business, ski school operation International Academy, to get more experience and continue to work in the travel sector. There were some different challenges – sometimes the FD is the person that maybe needs to stop things from happening, rather than the entrepreneur who tries to make lots of things happen.
I saw the FD role advertised at the Welsh Rugby Union and I applied but I didn’t think I’d get an interview, let alone the job. I started working there, in at the deep end. The business had lots of debt at the time – Welsh Rugby Union 100% owns the stadium in Cardiff [the Millennium, now known as the Principality Stadium] – so there were challenges. Because cash was key it was a bit of a fire-fighting environment, but steadily things started to improve, the business became profitable and cash flow pressures began to ease.
That was probably my first experience working for a company where you’re constantly looking at cash on a daily basis and understanding that without it, finance falls through.
I took a bit of a career break to go travelling and was then approached by the chairman at Glamorgan Cricket Club, who wanted me to work as their finance and commercial director. This was at the time when their new stadium was being rebuilt. There were lots of challenges and a requirement to recruit more staff. It was almost like starting again in terms of the business. The club had been established for years but it felt like a new era. So again, there were cash flow pressures due to the stadium build, and challenges putting in processes and staff.
I spent just under three years in the role and in that period we delivered an Ashes test match at the SWALEC stadium in 2009, for which we got shortlisted as UK Venue of the Year at the Sports Industry Awards. I became CEO in September 2009 and was in that role for four years. That was the first time I’d moved away from an out-and-out finance role, so was involved in all aspects of the business – from the playing side to operations.
You’re never fully prepared for these roles, but certainly the grounding I had got from my time at EY and the others jobs I’d had since, helped. Because I’d performed roles at the bottom of the ladder all the way up, I got a chance to appreciate different perspectives. If you’ve done the work yourself, rather than never being at the coalface, then you understand and empathise with people doing that role.
After seven years, and having worked for 22 years back to back, I decided I wanted to work as a consultant and set up my own business in October 2013. I had some previous dealings with the chief executive of the Football Association of Wales, Jonathan Ford, during my time at Glamorgan but not a lot. I sent a few letters to various people just to let them know what I was doing and one of them was to Jonathan, who responded saying “I might have a project for you”. What was meant to be a few weeks’ work back in 2013 ended up being a four-year project.
The future, with regards to Europe, will be interesting in terms of movement and visas. The UEFA Champions League is played across Europe, as is the European Football Championships, so the question of Brexit will have to be addressed, but it’s no different from somebody looking to go on holiday. There are a lot of football fans and Euro 2020 in particular is being played in 13 cities around Europe, and fans will have to travel from the EU to the UK and vice versa. It’s maybe not top of the to-do list at the moment, but it will have to be looked at, as fans will have to move at short notice.