Role: Managing Director
Company: Pioneer Group
Track Record: Johnny competed in two Olympic Games before becoming involved in the music industry. In his current role, he organises campaigns and events to assist organisations in getting their message across.
What does your job entail?
As a business we work with councils, clubs, national governing bodies, sponsors and individuals to deliver events and campaigns which help them to get their message across to the public. We cover all aspects of event and campaign delivery, from creating the concept through to making sure that everything runs smoothly at an event on the day.
The size of events we have worked on has ranged from world championship size events through to smaller local events.
How did you get into this line of work?
I was lucky enough to compete in two Olympic Games — Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992 — and have always been involved in sport. I also worked in the music industry for 20 years, with artists including U2 and Coldplay, and have always enjoyed providing entertainment opportunities for people. We have developed the sports aspect of the business and the experiences from the music industry and the sports industry complement each other very well.
What have been the biggest challenges in developing the Decathlon Northern Ireland Triathlon Series?
As the series comprises six events spread across Northern Ireland, there has needed to be a lot of close communication required with each race. All of the organisers and sponsors have been very positive and have been pulling in the same direction to help deliver strong events and a strong message for both the sport of triathlon and Northern Ireland as a tourist destination.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
To see happy smiling faces at our events, seeing positive people doing positive things is hugely rewarding.
How have you tried to make the series of triathlons appeal to all backgrounds and ages?
As a sport, triathlon is very inclusive, with the age group categories making up a major part of each race. It is a sport that attracts people from a broad range of backgrounds and we have tried to encourage competitors of both sexes and from all backgrounds in our campaign.
How has your background and previous work experience helped you with setting up Pioneer Group and indeed events such as the Triathlon Series?
The two key elements in what we do is planning and being able to think on your feet. Spending many years in international sport and in the music industry has helped me develop this skill set. Understanding the needs of the athletes and the stakeholders is key and having a clear focus on the delivery aim of the event or campaign is a skill that I developed as an Olympic athlete, where focus and planning is everything. Being able to adjust to any given situation is an intuitive skill which develops from finding yourself in high pressure situations.
What do you feel are the key ingredients to the success of triathlon as a sport in Northern Ireland?
Dedicated athletes, dedicated coaches, supportive friends and family, well organised clubs, youth development, public funding, commercial sponsors and a clear development plan from Triathlon Ireland are all of high and equal importance.
What sort of personality, skills or training are needed for the job you do?
Focus, belief, ambition and determination. The job entails a lot of detailed forward planning and communication, together with an ability to be patient and calm.
Understanding the needs of clients and stakeholders is essential in order to deliver the intended outcome.
What are your aspirations for your business — do you have any plans to expand? What’s in the pipeline?
We have a lot of new and exciting events planned for the coming year. Our aspiration is to grow the business whilst continuing to deliver high quality results and to get more people involved in the various forms of sport and entertainment that we love.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
When I was going to retire after my first Olympics an older man said “you’ll be a long time retired” and I kept going for another four years, which was the correct decision. Experience is invaluable in any walk of life.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Trying to catch up with my family, taking part in various sports and listening to and watching great music.
Who or what has inspired you most in your life/career?
I have been inspired by people who follow their own beliefs and through their positive energy help make the world a more interesting place — Muhammad Ali, Bob Marley and Nelson Mandela are three such inspirational individuals.