Bringing business events to the forest, Dan Elliot looks after Center Parc’s corporate bookings
My alarm goes off at 6.45am most days, depending on where I’m heading for the day. Sometimes it can be a lot earlier if I have an important client meeting that is taking place far from my base, or if I’m heading over to Longleat Forest in Wiltshire to give our clients a tour.
Before I leave the house, I always need to have a cup of coffee to get me ready for the day. I have a quick skim through my emails and make a few mental notes of what I need to talk about, and with whom, the minute I get in the car. Some mornings I am lucky that my wife and children are awake and I get to say goodbye to them before I leave.
As national sales manager, my job role includes managing the outbound sales team for all locations at Center Parcs where we facilitate conferences and events. Our priority is always to ensure that as a team we are available for our agency partners and direct clients when they would like to take a look at our facilities in the forest. Hosting clients for FAM trips and showcase events is a really important part of my role as we are such a unique offering to our corporate clients; they really value the benefit of coming to see what we can offer in person.
Our agency partners are equally as important, so making sure that my team and I are out on the road going to see them and sharing all the latest updates of what is new in the forest is a prime focus for us.
My typical day starts with checking in with the team. When you are out working on the road it is so important to touch base with the team and chat with them, especially when the days are short and the weather isn’t great! We have lots of repeat clients and new clients that enquire with us about bringing their event to the forest and we make it a priority to call and thank them for thinking of us, while also arranging a convenient time for them to come back and visit us to talk through their event.
While on location at the various Center Parc villages, I make sure to take a walk around the forest to see what is new. The company is continually investing in the business and its locations, with something new being built on a daily basis and in my role it is important I am aware of this – plus taking that time to walk around and engage with the surroundings is key as it mirrors the clients’ experience of when they arrive.
Most days we have clients coming in to take a look around the forest; with our purpose built conference venue ‘The Venue’ (Sherwood Forest) being just one acre among 400 there is a lot of space to get out and see. For clients to really sample what it’s like to bring an event to us we always take them around a Center Parcs village to explore – it’s also great for the step count and a good way to get ready for lunch!
My favourite thing about my job is the forest. This is an amazing job and I love it. I get to phone clients and talk to them about coming in to take a look around some of the most beautiful parts of the UK and discuss how we can make their conference or event a major success, while at the same time ensuring it is fun and their delegates get to sample what a short break at Center Parcs is like. I’ve taken my wife to one of our Aqua Sana Spas for the day and she said how peaceful and tranquil the forest was, and how I was so lucky to be able to come here every day for work. Just being able to be in such a stunning location is my favourite thing about my job. I also love witnessing delegates at the end of their event leaving and saying it was the best event they have been to and that they are going to bring their family back for a short break.
The biggest challenge that comes with the job is ensuring that every client looking to hold an event in the forest is able to set time aside to come and have a site visit with us. It is so important to see how their event could look in the forest and what the benefits are of coming to us. We have had large bookings come to us in the past with event programmes that didn’t build in any free time for delegates to explore or experience our fantastic team building activities – we actively encourage our clients to factor this in as it is a great opportunity for them to get out and sample everything there is on offer here at Center Parcs and to really take their event experience to the next level.
My proudest moment since joining Center Parcs was retaining a huge customer booking that has now turned into multiple bookings throughout the year. Our customer came to us with a large booking in 2012 and we remained in contact with them as an ongoing relationship. They now hold six events a year at Woburn Forest, with plans to increase this number even further in the near future.
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that wellness and wellbeing are crucial, not only to you as a person but the people around you. Day-to-day life can be stressful and there are challenges along the way, but it’s important to ensure you look after yourself. Working in the forest (an environment which has been proven to boost self-esteem and reduce stress) has not only helped my personal wellness, but that of my team, my clients and their delegates. Now more than ever people’s wellbeing is a priority and it is something that I think about and consider every day with my team and my clients.
The most valuable piece of advice I would give is to work hard and play harder. I have had a truly amazing life to date and worked in some of the most beautiful parts of the world, but all of it came down to hard work. Hitting sales targets, looking after my customers, making memories and sharing best practices. I have always been dedicated and passionate about these values and it has meant my employers have always rewarded me, which I appreciate.
Happiness to me is is being on holiday with my family. Despite many exotic trips, when I ask my three-year-old daughter where she would like to go next, her answer is always the same… Center Parcs!