|Michael Cunnah - Strategic Advisor at iSportconnect|
|Profile of the week|
Monday, 31 January 2011 20:43
There was a time when it seemed every headline about Wembley was negative. How do you keep motivated in that situation? How do you keep your staff motivated?
I had a very committed team at Wembley. We were all passionate about Wembley and never doubted what we were doing, even when the media did. I learned that morale could only be maintained within the team by keeping everyone informed and up to date with events. I learned that if a member of the Wembley team was kept in the dark they could not do their job properly and they would feel uncomfortable.
Keeping all team members informed of latest developments was a key task. It allowed everyone in the team to keep a balanced view despite the uncertainty, to reassure third party organisations and potential customers about the future, and to explain to their friends and family what was really happening at Wembley. It was important that we were all able to explain why everyone shouldn’t really believe everything they read in the newspapers.
We developed effective communication channels within the company and periodically got everyone in the company into one (very large) room to talk about what we were doing. This developed into a very valuable information exchange as so many people participated in the discussion and everyone that did so, usually identified something that we had to deal with.
The Club Wembley vision has been remarkably successful financially. It has, though, attracted some media criticism. Does that bother you? Is corporate involvement just something the general public and media needs to learn to accept?
High quality stadia are expensive and can only be afforded by generating the majority of the income from the minority who buy the “posh” seats. One way of looking at this is that the minority are subsidising the majority. I was often asked if corporate seats somehow reduced the seats available to “real fans”. I can assure you that the people who bought the more expensive seats are real fans as well. They may have more money than the rest, but the ones that I met didn’t lack passion for the game.
What drew you to the role at Aston Villa? Did the fact that you had studied at Aston University play a sentimental part?
No, Aston Villa is a great club with a great tradition – I was delighted to join such a club.
What was different working for a club compared to the FA/Wembley?
The FA / Wembley are responsible for the England teams but, of course, everyone identifies with these national teams. When you are working at a club you are committed to just one team and the feeling of togetherness is much greater. It is you versus everyone else!
Match days are very special both at The FA / Wembley and at club level as they are exciting “real-time” events. However, success on the pitch is even more vital to everyone’s well being at club level. If you think fans take defeat badly you should see how management take it!
You grew up a devoted fan of Sunderland. Does that stay the same even as you work for different clubs and organisations?
Sunderland AFC is in my DNA and always will be because of where I was born, however when you work at a club it becomes your total priority. Any other way would be unprofessional.
What will you do next?
Who knows! In this fast moving world it is not so much about predicting the future but more about taking advantage of opportunities as they arise. I am currently involved in a number of exciting start-up companies, such as iSportconnect, that hold great promise. The challenge is to ensure that these companies fulfil their potential and become successful on a sustained basis.
What do you find most useful and interesting about the concept of iSportconnect?
We are who we know and we are now defined by the quality of our networks. Our database of contacts determines our ability to get things done and to create value in business. Keeping up to date with what happens within each sport and commercial developments in the market place is vital. iSportconnect offers a one-stop and effective way of developing networks and scanning the sports horizon for meaningful information and opportunities.
iSportconnect is still developing and its potential is really exciting.