MD HOLDS INTERVIEW
(Saturday 18th June 2005)
Wanderers' Managing Director Steve Hayes has taken further steps to break down communication barriers at the Club by holding an interview on Wednesday 15th June where he invited representatives from the Bucks Free Press, chairboys.co.uk and the Wycombe Wanderers Founders' Trust. The Wanderers own media department were also on hand to record the event for inclusion on the official website.
In an interview lasting more than one and half hours, Hayes spoke candidly about many aspects of his involvement with Wycombe and his plans and ambitions for the future.
The interview has since been reported by both the Bucks Free Press and to varying degrees of accuracy by the Wanderers official website. Chairboys.co.uk will take its own look at the interview over the next week or so, starting with this summary of the key points.
Hayes, who joined the Wanderers Board following the conversion to a plc in the summer of 2004, explained that the purpose of the meeting was to answer a number of questions that have come from supporters as well as explaining his personal five year plan at the Club. He revealed that he had wanted to own a football club from an early age and that his 25% stake in Wycombe Wanderers was sufficient for him to have the operational control that he desired.
'Things are changing' has become the slogan of the Club since Hayes became the MD of the Club in April and he said that people would continue to see changes during the forthcoming season. However, he added "It won't happen over night and when it comes to criticism I think that justifiably we should take it. Over the past few weeks I've spoken to quite a few supporters who had complaints. I have spoken to them but they are all like minded people once we have explained to them what we are trying to achieve. They are not ogres, they are not people who just set out to be negative about this Club and just want to criticise everybody, I just don't believe that. They have got genuine complaints and we need to overcome those complaints and we need to give them proper service." The service side of his plans centre around implementing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to help gather data on supporters and monitor their trends, as well as developing the right team off the pitch to provide and manage the necessary services for the Club. More importantly for many fans the 'on the pitch' the target is to reach the Championship within five years and to clear the debts of the Club within six. Hayes was keen that the message got out to as many people as possible, adding "What we'd like to do is to send out a news letter to all of our supporters to make sure that everybody knows what we are trying to do at this Club."
Hayes believes the Championship is a realistic target within the time scales, saying "Five years is a decent enough time. I think there is scope there for a few blips. Clearly if we got promotion this year, we've got four years to get into the Championship which is acheivable. I think the thing is, behind the scenes what we are looking to do is get every single thing in place." And Hayes insisted that the plans were not reliant on London Wasps staying and added, "I want to get a real good partnership with Wasps if they are here but it will not be to the detriment of the football by any stretch of the imagination." Hayes also stressed it was not just where Wycombe were in the League at the end of the five years, "It's not all about football, it's about the infrastructure and what goes on behind the scenes and bringing the right people in and dealing with things properly. There's a great deal I feel we need to move forward at the Club and where I'd like to be in five years is to say that if I've given everything I possibly can to this Club and pushed it in the right direction and if after five years I can't bring the people in and push the fanbase up even after having a call-centre and really understanding our supporters, then my view would be to then decide to call it a day and let somebody else have a go. But that doesn't mean that I would take my investment out."
With Wanderers seemingly on the brink of administration just 12 months previous it has been the financing of the changes that have sent alarm bells ringing in some quarters. Hayes was the only new major investor from the Club's initial share offer and his £250,000 stake in the Club currently represents the maximum 25% allowed within the plc. Hayes has also put extra money into the Club in the form of loan notes and other financial benefits to the Football Club but is reluctant to go into exact figures, commenting "My investment is committed. I can afford to do it, so it is a commitment. If I walk away from here with egg on my face and it's been a waste of time in effect, that's down to me and I can take that on the chin." And Hayes also says he is not looking to get the loan notes back and explained that he was hoping to attract wealthy investors to the Club during the five year period, commenting, "There are enough people that have contacted me who are looking to put money in because they trust what I'm about to do." Their new investment would enable Hayes' loan notes to be converted to shares and therefore he would still remain within the 25% threshold. As a safeguard against his loans being withdrawn Hayes revealed that he has a solictor's agreement with the other main shareholders, Ivor Beeks and Brian Kane, that prevents this happening without their agreement.
Hayes is aware that he may be seen as the saviour of the Club by some people but wants to avoid over publicity, prefering to leave the job in hand to the people he has put in charge. He commented "I don't want to be seen to be as the big 'I am' coming in and putting the pressure on people and on expectations." He has already employed an General Manager, Operations Manager and additonal management to cover an improved catering set-up. Hayes also intends to bring in a new Sales and Marketing team as well as a Public Relations person to help improve the public image and communication channels of the Club. Those changes are also tied in with modernisation of such things as IT equipment, phone systems, accounting software and intelligent till systems.
With so many changes in the pipeline Hayes has told fans to try to not to worry and concluded the interview by saying "There needs to more trust within the Club, we are not trying to sell it down the river, we are not trying to sell out to Wasps. We are looking to hold our own and we want to be successful but it's not just going to happen overnight and it's not just going to be down to somebody like me, it's down to everybody. In actual fact my role is quite a small role, let's not try and build it up to something that it's not. If I can inspire a few people, then great, if I can lead some people, then great, but it is them who are actually going to do the work. It is you people, people out there, people out on the pitch, these are the people who are going to do it, it's not just down to me."
More from the interview about Customer Relationship Management
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