Paul Michael, Commercial Director at Ricoh Arena, offers insight into the unique role of driving profitability at the venue alongside overseeing the running of the on-site DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, and how he hasn’t let mild dyslexia hold him back.
Working at Ricoh Arena, for me, epitomises everything that is great about working in the hospitality and events sector.
If you speak to any manager working in the hotel sector, they will probably tell you that “no two days are the same” – but the best way of describing working at Ricoh Arena would be to take a hotel and multiply this by ten.
Alongside identifying growth opportunities, my role as Commercial Director includes building relationships with the hundreds of event organisers to try and enhance their events year on-year; and it’s this importance placed on feedback as a venue which means more than three quarters of event organisers are repeat customers.
A particularly important part of my job is to also engage with regional and event industry stakeholders to understand how the venue is perceived among different groups, as this feedback ultimately helps us to adapt and grow our client base.
An example of this is by using my role at Hilton, I recently attended the Stadium Business Summit, where I was able to share amongst stadium and arena professionals the benefits of having a venue-based hotel on a global level.
An advantage of Ricoh Arena’s fast-paced working environment is that it has created some of the best working memories of my career, to date.
After 20 years working in hotels across the UK, I began my journey at Ricoh Arena when the 121-bedroom DoubleTree by Hilton opened its hotel at the venue in 2016. In the hotel’s first year of trading, our hotel was ranked first by Hilton for most improved customer experience in the UK & Ireland – beating off hundreds of other hotels to take the top accolade.
We still have the same team that launched the hotel in situ, which makes life juggling the hotel general manager role and commercial director role a challenging but enjoyable one, and helps the hotel to maximise the benefits from the 1200-plus events that are held at Ricoh Arena, close to the heart of Birmingham every year.
When I reflect upon my career to date there is one key moment that really stands out to me, and that was being diagnosed with a mild form of dyslexia – after nearly 20 years in the hotel industry.
It came about when a previous boss gave me some feedback on my work and suggested that I get tested for the condition.
When I write I am usually always two or three words ahead of myself, which impacts my writing, but to combat it, I have reminders on my desks so that before I send off an email or I’m writing a report, I ensure I check it three times to help compensate for this.
Being diagnosed with mild dyslexia really served to motivate me further, and is a story I am passionate about sharing with others, as it is proof to others that any type of condition or disorder shouldn’t stand in the way of what you want to achieve.
Technology is a buzz word for a lot of people when they are asked to predict what the future will hold for the events industry. And whilst that is true to some extent with the advent of 5G – which is generating a lot of excitement amongst event organisers when they visit the Vodafone Business Lounge at Ricoh Arena – I believe an equal priority to this will be sustainability.
Sustainability wasn’t at the heart of the public’s conscience five years ago but now it is a topic that we need to be tackling at pace. How far can we go at eradicating the use of every day plastic items at mass-attended events? Can we be the first venue to operate a fully biodegradable eco cup? It’s these sorts of challenges that we are looking into and exploring with event organisers who are no longer driven purely on cost, but by the level of experience.
As an events venue we are being brave at leading the way in 5G technology by demonstrating its possibilities to event organisers, and it is this same ethos and adaptability towards other areas such as sustainability and people’s food choices that will see the venue at the front end of the industry curve by the time we reach 2030.
About Ricoh Arena
Ricoh Arena is one of the UK’s most versatile venues for live sport, music, conferences and exhibitions, putting the Midlands on the map as a leading destination for events.
The venue boasts a 32,000-seater stadium bowl alongside the 6,000 square metre Ericsson Indoor Arena and 80 versatile suites for meetings. There is also an onsite 121-bedroom DoubleTree by Hilton hotel and Grosvenor casino.
The Coventry-based venue is within a two-hour car journey of 75 per cent of the UK, and is twenty minutes away from Birmingham Airport.