The Post: Director of Sales and Marketing, Down Royal Racecourse
The Post Holder: Claire Rutherford
No two days are ever the same for Sales and Marketing Director, Claire Rutherford.
Give a brief outline of your career to date.
My career began in Downtown Radio/Cool FM where I spent nine years working in a variety of roles before taking up the job as Agency Account Manager with responsibility for a number of large advertising and sponsorship clients.
From there I took up roles as an Account Director in two marketing agencies specialising in retail, in particular shopping centre clients. These roles offered me the right mix of sales and marketing experience and expertise which enabled me to secure my current role as Director of Sales and Marketing at Down Royal Racecourse.
What was your favourite subject at school?
I really enjoyed all three of my A-level subjects – Geography, Biology and Economics but Geography was my favourite right through school.
Did you go on to further/ higher education, if so, what did you study and where?
I attended Queen’s University Belfast where I studied for a BSC in Economics with Business Economics.
How did you get into your area of work?
My career has evolved in a way I could never have imagined. On leaving university, I applied for a number of jobs, landed a support role and went from there. I have learnt so much on my career path and I would definitely say, see your early jobs as part of the journey, not the destination.
Is this what you always wanted to do?
My job is perfect for me and I am loving my new role at Down Royal, however the job has only come about thanks to the knowledge and experience my career path has given me. I was never really sure what I wanted to be but having completed my school work experience at an accountancy firm, I was at least convinced what job I definitely did not want to pursue.
Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?
Not as such – I believe that experience is more valuable than qualifications. Most marketing and sales roles will ask for a degree at entry level, but for me the most important qualities are gained from experience.
What are the main personal skills your Job requires?
A role in sales and marketing, I believe, requires three key skills -problem solving, persistence and approachability. Dealing with people from diverse business backgrounds is a huge part of my job at Down Royal, and I am as much at ease in the boardroom as I am around the race track. Flexibility to adapt to situations as they arise has also proven to be a very beneficial skillset in my new role.
What does a typical day entail?
My job is so diverse, and I love the fact that no two days at Down Royal are ever the same which keeps my job fresh and exciting. I can go from a briefing meeting or photo shoot with our agency partners, to reporting on sales performance to our board, from a meeting with sponsors, to being out on-site liaising with our contracted suppliers.
What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?
Handling the public perception of the recent change in management at Down Royal has been a complex situation to handle and provided me with several issues and challenges. The new team took over at the racecourse just three months ago with zero sales, sponsorships and memberships, as well as an overall perception that the racecourse was closed. We had to hit the ground running taking up some tough challenges along the way.
Thankfully we have very quickly turned a negative into a positive, getting the message out there that Down Royal is very much open for business as usual. We are absolutely thrilled that our first three race meetings have been fully sponsored and our pre-booked ticket sales have been ahead of previous years. This has made the challenges all the more rewarding.
Why is what you do important?
My role is so important to the future of Down Royal Racecourse as without the support of sponsors, strong attendance figures and additional corporate events, racing would just not be viable. Every sponsor and event we secure helps ensure the world-class level of racing Down Royal has become synonymous for.
What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?
Never turn down an opportunity to gain new experiences in either a new role or within your existing one. Always take up a challenge as it will enable you to develop your skill set and help with your career progression – and you never know, you might be taken on a whole new journey.
If you weren’t doing this what would you like to do?
Can I say professional Gin Taster?!
What is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?
Never doubt your own worth, and also find the kettle and offer to make the coffee.
Describe your ideal day off.
I have a busy working and family life, so my ideal day off would be very laid back – ideally a long walk followed by some time spent relaxing in the sunshine with a glass of wine thrown in for good measure.
And finally, what’s the key to any successful Job search? Keep an open mind, sometimes you have to take a side step to ultimately move forward.