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How I became a Business Improvement District Manager

1st July 2019

The post: Managing Director, Belfast One Business Improvement District

The post holder: Clare Maguire

No two days are ever the same for Clare Maguire in her role working as managing director for a Business Improvement District (BID) company.

Give a brief outline of your career to date.

Since April 2016 I have been employed as the managing director of Belfast One. I am responsible for the overall management of the BID company, which promotes Belfast city centre to increase footfall for business, retail and hospitality; delivers projects that enhance the city centre for visitors; and provides support to our 800 levy payers. In the last 10 years I have worked as a planner for a private company specialising in renewable energy, a facilities manager at a major tourist attraction, and a project manager for Belfast City Centre Management.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Geography was my favourite subject at school. I enjoyed the variety and the fact that we got to go on field trips and get out of the classroom sometimes.

Did you go on to further/ higher education, if so what did you study and where?

I went to the University of Glasgow, where I studied for an MA in Geography, graduating with a 2:1 in 2006. Then in 2008, to increase my employability, I went to Queen’s University Belfast to study for an MSc in Environmental Planning. I graduated with a 1st in 2009.

How did you get into your area of work?

In 2014 I wanted to make a change in my career and I also wanted to move to Belfast from Fermanagh. I came across an advertisement for what looked like a very interesting job with Belfast City Centre Management – the role of BID Development Manager. I did some research and thought it was something I would find challenging and enjoy, so I applied and was successful. I started that role in October 2014. The BID development was successful and when Belfast One BID company was subsequently set up in early 2016, I was successful in getting the role of managing director.

Is this what you always wanted to do?

I have to say no! I didn’t know what a BID was until I applied for the job at BCCM so it was a steep learning curve! I’m one of those people who could never really pin-point exactly what I wanted to do.

Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?

Project management experience has been very helpful in my role. Within Belfast One we run several projects and part of my role is to make sure these are all running effectively, on budget, and delivering for the needs of our members.

Are there alternative routes into the job?

Yes, I’m sure there are other BID managers who have started off in another role within the BID team and worked their way up to the manager position.

What are the main personal skills your job requires?

Good communication skills are a must and being organised really helps. We have some 800 members from all different types of business and so the whole team needs to communicate with these businesses and make sure the BID is delivering what they want.

What does a typical day entail?

I manage a number of projects within the BID so a typical day will usually involve at least one project meeting with stakeholders or partners. This can be a strategy planning meeting to talk about the next Belfast Restaurant Week, planning our next Belfast One Street Style fashion event or discussing which movies will make the big screen for our Summer Cinema at Belfast City Hall.

There is also the day to day budget management as well as overseeing the rest of my team and attending board meetings. Like many other managing directors, I also spend time responding to and initiating email correspondence to ensure activity is undertaken. One of the best things about my job is that no two days are the same so it’s always interesting and always challenging.

What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?

The best thing about this job is the fact that what we do can have really positive impacts for our businesses. In February this year we ran Belfast City Centre Restaurant Week and 37 participating restaurants reported spend of £151,000 in just seven days. We are planning another restaurant week in September of this year.

One of the most challenging aspects is the fact that we have a wide variety of businesses within the BID (hospitality, professional services, retail etc.) and it can be difficult to make sure the projects we are running are relevant to every business.

Why is what you do important?

It’s important for the future of our city centre. There are so many challenges for the high street, and I believe the BID gives businesses the opportunity to respond to at least some of those challenges in a proactive way.

What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?

BIDs are a small but growing industry in Northern Ireland, so I would try to get experience working for one of the BIDs in some capacity, either here or in England (where there are some 250 BIDs).

If you weren’t doing this what would you like to do?

Maybe a teacher – just for the school holidays!

If you could go back, what is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?

Don’t try to do everything at once!

Describe your ideal day off.

My ideal day off would involve heading away somewhere with my husband and our two year old daughter – she has lots of energy so the more active the better!

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