H&E North meets Jacky Isaac, the Group Operations Director at the award-winning Ricoh Arena.
Tell us about your career background.
I joined Arena Coventry Limited (ACL) as HR Director in 2008, was appointed Managing Director of the IEC Experience Ltd in April 2012 and was CEO at the Ricoh Arena until the purchase of the venue in late 2014 by Wasps Holdings. I am now Group Operations Director.
Prior to joining ACL, I had worked for 20 years in operations and HR including as a consultant with a varied portfolio of clients such as Manchester United, the NEC Group and Middlesbrough Football Club.
I have also worked at a senior level within the Sports, Leisure and Hospitality Division of Compass Group UK, now Levy Restaurants, with responsibility for all aspects of delivery of variable labour and also was Head of Human Resources at Delaware North.
How has the venue performed over the past year?
The Ricoh Arena has made great progress in realising its vision to become the top class multipurpose venue it is today. The level of creativity and hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make the most of the flexible events spaces is one of the reasons we are seeing a strong increase in the number of events held at the venue.
The last 12 months has hosted 583 conferences, 60 sporting events, 58 exhibitions, 50 banquets, 13 weddings, six Christmas party nights and seven concerts – contributing to a total of 777 events, an increase of 82 events on the previous year.
The entertainment side of our business has attracted over 100,000 people to the venue in recent months with 17 artists across four stages. This has included performances from Jess Glynne, Bruce Springsteen, Robbie Williams and Rihanna.
In a competitive market place, what should venues be doing to ensure events return to them year after year?
To guarantee a high standard of service for visiting event organisers, each event should be assigned a dedicated contact from the venue’s event management team to make sure the event is brought to life and runs smoothly on the day.
The Ricoh Arena also places great emphasis on feedback from event organisers, and after finding that its customers were receiving differing levels of service from third party companies, the venue decided to bring all necessary event services in-house to create Arena Event Services. This offers the services required to design, organise, install manage and run a successful event.
What’s next for the arena?
Looking to the future, the Ricoh Arena in partnership with Ericsson and Dell EMC is aiming to become the most digitally-connected venue in the UK. The venue is upgrading its Wi-Fi to enable event organisers to stream specific, uninterrupted content to thousands of people at the same time. Also with the development of a Ricoh Arena app, organisers and exhibitors will be given access to technology that will enhance their environment for doing business.
The Arena is sponsoring Coventry’s City of Culture bid. How significant would winning the bid be for the venue and the wider region?
If successful, the bid is expected to bring up to £150 million into the city. The venue has agreed a financial investment to back the bid, as well as promoting the bid at various events hosted at the Ricoh Arena. We are committed to promoting the region to the wider business and leisure audiences and the bid will only further strengthen the messages about Coventry being a great city to live, work and do business in.
What’s been the career highlight for you at the Ricoh Arena?
It’s difficult to highlight just one but the 2012 Olympics has to be on the list as well as the arrival of [Premiership Rugby team] Wasps.
What do you love about working in your industry?
Most of all I love the people, the teams I work with the clients and customers. It’s a much used adage that if you enjoy your work, you will never have to work another day in your life.