The Mosaic team have been a busy bunch over the last month and since my last blog, visiting our client locations, new locations and inviting our colleagues from overseas to a UK study tour showcasing our varied partnerships and BIDs across the UK, in addition to attending industry exhibitions and events in the UK & Ireland.
Going to all these various events and meeting people, you have some time to think and reflect and for me one of the most satisfying elements of this work is to see people develop over time and how this impacts on the place they work in. From individual staff to Boards who develop their knowledge and leadership to ensure that their business plan becomes a reality. We work with many locations that have exceptional leaders and have thus become trailblazers in aspects of place management. Whilst we don’t have the monopoly on good place management organisations there is great interest in it from around the world in this.
We have had the pleasure of hosting our international colleagues from Singapore who have been in the UK to look at exemplary BID organisations, to inspire them in their own efforts ahead of setting up their BID and in particular looking at the leadership within these organisations.
We have a long term relationship with Rugby, having taken them through 3 BID ballots. It started as a National Pilot in 2003. With one of the highest levy’s in the UK it has needed more than any other to demonstrate capability and return. Two renewal ballots with significantly higher turnouts and yes majorities are testament to its success. Rugby First is built on providing a safe and clean environment with highly trained rangers. The leadership here comes from a team who are steeped in operational expertise and security management. With a deep understanding and passion for the work, the level of detail and good practice evident in their work is second to none.
A very different type of operation can be seen down the M6 at the Colmore Business District (CBD). Now in its second term in an area dominated by commercial rather than retail operations, it has concentrated its effort on longer term public realm projects. The Snow Hill project, developed and led by CBD is an ambitious £10m scheme to renovate a key transport node. With their confidence and credibility enhanced by successfully delivering some smaller schemes this project will provide a very different environment, creating more usable, interesting and attractive public spaces that are activated, and add vitality. It creates a more valuable area in terms of the end user experience, and of course in terms of return for the property owners. The property background, drive and determination of the Chair in collaboration with the Executive Director and Project Managers who are tenacious to say the least, as well as embracing and putting into action, the lessons learned from previous ventures. This will ensure a level of delivery that will not only get some rightly deserved accolades but also attract further significant investment.
We also took our international colleagues to Camden, where advocacy, lobbying and influence have been the major focus of the leadership of the Camden Collective organization. With a charismatic, highly experienced and politically astute Director at the helm, it has concentrated on the creation of creative business start ups as well as lobbying successfully to retain the soul and character of Camden by ensuring appropriate development in a pressurized and demanding London market. So influential has the place management organization become that they were subject to the threat of a multi million pound lawsuit for an opinion piece it had written!
Our final visit was to the Heart of London whose ambition is nothing less than to be a ‘World Class Destination’. Heart of London was the first place to introduce Property owner BIDs in the UK, alongside its occupier BIDs, allowing for the ability to develop a cohesive longer term strategy. A highly influential and senior level board steers the work of an experienced and long serving executive team. This level of leadership, knowledge and stability will allow it to achieve its stated aim, to compete with the best in the world.
There is a lot of discussion about leadership. It is clear that there is no ‘silver bullet’ Effective leadership requires different skill sets at different times, and it will be dependent on the varying needs of an organization at any given time. The skill is not necessarily in identifying an individual or model but understanding the cycle of things, for example knowing perhaps when to have a more transformational set up that inspires and leads to a more transactional one that provides order and delivers. Setting up new place organisations requires conventional skills at the table, financial, marketing, human resources but it also requires people with experience, passion, integrity, tenacity and courage.
There are some lessons that can be drawn from the places we visited, where success is clearly demonstrated and they are regarded as leaders in their field. Some may be surprising, others not but what they provide is food for thought:
- Experienced and well remunerated delivery teams.
- Passionate and pro-active Chairs
- Robust financial management but also the courage to be creative and take risks
- Boards that are selected not elected. Does this perhaps make them less transparent and less accountable, or more focused and successful in delivery?
- Interestingly, each of the locations have actively stopped referring to themselves as BIDs – Rugby First, Camden Unlimited, Colmore Business District & the Heart of London Business Alliance. They see themselves as Place Management organisations in a much wider context with ambitions beyond their business plan.
The reality, even if obvious is that no two place organisations are the same and that leadership has many faces. We at The Mosaic Partnership will be delving deeper over the coming year on various themes around leadership so please look out.
As always, another busy month… It was great to connect with many of you at various events we attended and I hope you, like us are looking forward to Christmas, which still for many of us is an incredibly important part of the year personally and/or professionally.