JLife talks to Manchester Central CEO Shaun Hinds about the venue’s role in the community and his recent win at the Northern Leadership Awards.
Shaun Hinds, CEO of Manchester Central, one of the UK’s largest event venues, has been named the Top 50 City Region Leader for Greater Manchester, in recognition of his commitment to the Greater Manchester business community and the impact the venue has had in boosting the recovery of the region. Shaun was surprised to have won the award: “It was an incredible surprise, but all of a sudden there was a great sense of pride as well. I run a very important venue here in Manchester, but in the big scheme of the business community we’re only a relatively small cog. For a long time, I’ve felt that we’re a bigger cog than people realise.”
It’s due to a number of different aspects of Shaun’s work that he thinks he was recognised by this award: “Its an accumulation of a number of things that we do which over time, and in terms of value, have contributed quite greatly. We’ve been talking a lot about the value of events to the local Manchester economy and I’ve been quite active in pushing to get events up and running again. What we do is we bring people together, which stimulates business on a number of different levels. At an exhibition or a tradeshow, you actually have some companies who are doing part of their year’s trade at that particular show. The conference arena sees academics or politicians come together and discuss topics that lead to business decisions being made in the community. And, of course, there’s the immediate impact of the more people we bring to the city, the more bars, restaurants, hotels and tourism benefit as well.”
Shaun takes great care to ensure that Manchester Central is working with and positively impacting the local business community: “There’s a number of ways we do that. We have quite an extensive supply chain. When we’re running events, we’re buying a lot of materials to make those events happen. And we have a very diligent procurement process, which makes sure we deliver that value to local suppliers as much as we can.
“Then there is the affect on the local jobs market. Staffing is a big challenge for most hospitality companies at the moment. When we run a banquet for 1,000 people, we will have 150 people running that event and we’re hiring from the local community. And because we’re a large and consistent venue, we’re able to offer people regular shifts and a number of different job opportunities over the course of a week, or a month, or even a year.”
With so many events-based businesses crumbling because of the pandemic, Shaun had his work cut out keeping Manchester Central afloat: “It involved great skill on my part,” he joked. “In all seriousness though, it was a number of factors that helped us get through. First and foremost, we had a strong business anyway. Pre-COVID we had record year after record year, so we did have cash reserves. Secondly, we’re actually owned by the local authority, so we’ve got very supportive shareholders. What that meant was that we were able to make all of the right decisions around how we looked after our teams and retained our core employees even though we didn’t have any revenue. We were able to undertake certain activities which enabled us to provide work for some of the people employed by us, such as being a Nightingale Hospital. We were actually the most utilised Nightingale of all of them. Thirdly, when events were allowed to be put on again, we jumped into that straight away, while still adhering to the laws and restrictions in place.”
The venue is now seeing demand return to pre-COVID levels and even surpassing that number: “Right now for this year, I would actually say we are ahead of pre-pandemic demand levels. March to July 2022 have been the busiest months we’ve ever had in our history. While there’s certainly a few challenges ahead, I’m very encouraged by what we’re seeing. And I think in the next few years the events we’re holding will be bigger, better, and more appealing to a wider audience. Naturally, people will come back to events because they value that in-person experience. That’s good for the industry, which in turn is good for the economy here in Manchester because it means we can continue to do what we do, bring more people into Manchester, stimulate more investment, create more jobs, and deliver more revenue into the local economy. Everybody wins!”