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Intereview with – Jonathan Rounce, Chief Executive of Petersham Group, The Leisure Consultancy

Who are you and what is your current job role? Jonathan Rounce, Chief Executive of Petersham Group, specialist leisure and hospitality consultants, as our website illustrates. That involves a 50:25:25 split between undertaking a wide range of client assignments, seeking new business and administration. How did you get to this position…what was the pathway and what did you do before? I set the business up in 2002 as a one man band, having worked in a variety of progressively senior development, operations and consultancy roles, but always in the hospitality or leisure sectors. Since then we have grown and expanded and now operate internationally. The last 12 months has seen Petersham Group projects undertaken in Malaysia, Estonia, Sweden, Portugal, Mauritius and Kenya. Oh yes, and in the UK too! What are the challenges in this job? Clients! No two clients are the same and it sometimes takes a while to find out what they want (what they really, really want). They may say they want X, but time often shows they may actually want, or need, Y. Equally no two projects are the same. All that helps to keep us on our toes and makes the job challenging but very interesting. One day we may be preparing the business plan or a feasibility study for a new visitor attraction, the next might involve preparing the business case to support a contentious planning application for a new farm shop in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Who has influenced you the most in your career and why? When I left Hotel School I tried to get onto the Hilton Hotels scholarship scheme and go off to Cornell University in the USA, but was unsuccessful. My contact at Hilton (the European Financial Comptroller) suggested I qualify as a chartered accountant instead. I took that advice and as a result it has opened countless doors and enabled me to progress and diversify as I have. What do you do to switch off? I head for the kitchen and cook. Cooking has always been a passion of mine and stems from my early life as the son of an hotelier, living in a busy 92-room hotel, and then formal training at Westminster Hotel School in the days when it was very much a vocational course and spent largely in the kitchens. Any Pearls of Wisdom or strategies for success that you would like to share? One of my clients maintains that the Golden Rule in business is: “He who has the gold makes the rules”. He is probably right! But I would urge everyone in search of success to focus on the customer, continue to take the customer journey and talk to customers. Listen and learn from customer feedback. Avoid complacency. Don’t just rely on surveys and indirect feedback. “Current Questions” – What do you consider to be the current trends within the visitor attraction industry? I think the pop-up attraction and temporary exhibition markets, following in the footsteps of pop-up restaurants, offer huge opportunities and will grow more and more in the next 5-10 years. They can achieve huge footfall in very short, concentrated periods.


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