EP’s Unusual Hospitality Stories
Martin Guntrip, Club Director of The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, also known as the All England Club, went from making aces on the hallowed green grass of Wimbledon to eventually coming to run the stadium. The former tennis pro today takes experiences from his time on the turf to running the day-to-day operations of The Championship, Wimbledon.
With an upbringing in the sport and many years spent in the business world, Martin is able to take lessons form both to ensure continued success for the oldest tennis tournament in the world.
As a young man Martin Guntrip was on an American tennis scholarship before turning professional. He played at Wimbledon during the early 1980s and was ranked 9th in the UK. However, he father told him to eventually get a ‘real job’ and so Martin, at a relatively young age, put down the racket and joined the business world. He worked in a range of businesses before joining the senior team at Wimbledon.
“I could have probably played a little longer, but I don’t regret the decision in a professional capacity at all. I got to travel the world and play at the US Open and The Australian Open. In the world of sport unless you are at the very top of your game, you lose more than you win and how you deal with that is essential.” This is just one lesson from sport that Martin applies to the world of business. “When you play you walk out onto the court or pitch and no matter what else is going on, you are focused on trying to win that game.”
Today when you meets Martin, at The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, also known as the All England Club, you discover a relaxed but hard-working individual who clearly loves what he does and is always looking towards the future whilst preserving the historical greatness of Wimbledon.
Martin emphasis the strong sense of community that sport holds, something which businesses require if they wish to have an effective culture. “I remember travelling around and a family of another player would put you up. You would do the same when players came to the UK. It wasn’t just about playing but about the treatment of others and strong behaviour. At Wimbledon we echo this approach, the ball boys and ball girls are local kids and that provides a strong sense of identity.”
When Martin did enter business following his sporting career, he worked in the commercial world of printing and office supplies. “Back then in sport you didn’t have a coach, trainer or mentors, you had to learn lots and quickly. I’ve taken these lessons and ensured that as a business we are always moving forward and trying to improve.”
Martin alludes to experiences at sporting locations such as Ascot where in the Royal Enclosure there is an incredible sense of identity. “Everyone from the cameraman to the person collecting the rubbish is dressed accordingly for the location. It’s innovative but you are always aware of the brand. I find a similair experience at Goodwood Revival. This is crucial for any forward-thinking business, you must experience and learn from other successful operations.”
This is a fine example of who Marin Guntrip is. An attention to detail to rival a leading hotelier and a focus towards the customer experience that a Maître d’ would be envious of.
He is always reviewing the offer because he knows he has a broad range of customers with different requirements and exploring other offers and best practice.
“We have those avid sports fans who may leave their seat for only ten minutes of nine hours of tennis action and others who would like to wine and dine all day or others who would like Afternoon Tea.” Martin is immensely proud of their 98.5% overall satisfaction score and constantly reviews the price of popular choices such as strawberries and cream to ensure it’s at the right level, given the seemingly always constant grumblings of high prices in the media.
Looking towards the future the business has recently acquired the golf course across the road from the All England Club for around £65m. It’s part of Wimbledon’s ambitions of trebling its space and Martin is confident the expansion will much a very positive impact.
It’s a positive time for Martin and the club and he has ensured the renowned stadium continues to be recognisable as one of the best. With a former player at the helm, they are in safe hands.