WE SPEAK WITH STEVE CRAWFORD, CENTRE DIRECTOR FOR COLLEGE COURT CONFERENCE CENTRE, LEICESTER’S NEWEST £17.5M VENUE, AND TALK AWARDS, CAREERS AND RECENT BUSINESS SUCCESSES.
What attracted you to the position of Centre Director at College Court?
Throughout my working life I have always been driven by the challenge and excitement of a new role. College Court has tested my many years of experience as it is a brand new conference centre that in addition to working with the project team creating the new facility I was also building a brand new team. Both gave me immense pride and satisfaction but at the end of the day it is the people in an organisation that make the real difference and it is wonderful to see the business open and getting great feedback from the customers.
What were your first career moves and ambitions?
Even at quite a young age I was clear in my mind that I wanted a job with people and was fortunate to secure a position in a hotel. As part of a family owned group, there were two hotels and a ballroom which at the time was the largest banqueting suite in Wales. I gained excellent experience in all departments and the company sponsored me through college. An opportunity then arose at Queens’ College , Cambridge. This was my first experience of working in a commercial environment within a University which I love and am now working in my 6th University.
Who were the main influencers on your early career path?
Lee Bollom was my first manager and was a great inspiration and support to me. We worked together for approx. 5 years and I moved from the hotels to Cambridge as I developed my career under Lee’s guidance. Lee said to me one day that it was time I moved on as he couldn’t teach me anymore and wanted to see my career develop. A great man who was very giving of his time and knowledge and a great hotelier. I miss him a lot.
What is the best piece of business advice you have ever been given?
Be truthful and honest with all the people you work with and the customer. You can be the greatest strategic thinker in the world but if people don’t trust you it’s not worth anything.
How have you kept yourself motivated through the tough recession and how did it affect you?
I have had the pleasure of working in some wonderful places and while any good business will always review its operation to ensure it is efficient and providing first class service it is also a case of keeping your nerve and the faith in the team and product
Are you now seeing growth in business tourism?
After a slow start of bringing College Court to market the business is really picking up and without any complacency the order book going forward is looking very healthy. It is wonderful that for such a young business , just 1 year old, we have already built up a strong repeat customer base. We also need to be creative and inventive as today’s customer is spoilt for choice.
We hear that you are already an award winning venue?
College Court is a Grade II listedbuilding and has already won 8 awards for the building which is amazing. I was delighted that two of our chefs were finalists in a recent competition organised by Conference Centres of Excellence of which we are members. I am also extremely proud that College Court has reached the finals of Hotel of the Year and Business Tourism organized by Leicestershire Promotions. There are some first class venues that we are competing against that have many years of business behind them and so to have been shortlisted is already a great achievement.
What are your recipes for future success with College Court?
Be alert to opportunities and create your own. Keep a clear vision on the business and keep it fresh. Don’t over complicate and continue to invest in the team and facilities. Always remember that the customer is the heart and cornerstone of everything we do and you need a great team to deliver all of the above. And we do at College Court.
And finally, if you could pass one law what would it be?
To be tougher on litter, graffiti and vandalism! It is a pointless crime that nobody benefits from and if not checked can send a neighbourhood into a downward spiral.