The Business catches up with Mike Davies, new managing director of the Dragons to chat about rugby and business...

The Business: What does your new role at the Dragons entail?

Mike Davies: I’m managing director in charge of the overall operation for the Dragons, covering marketing, finance, commercial and operations. I work with our key stakeholders, commercial and business partners to develop a sustainable business and the delivery of our business plan.

TB: Are you a rugby fan?

MD: First and foremost, I’m Welsh and passionately follow Wales and always look forward to every match, watching it live at the Principality Stadium or with family and friends at home or in the local rugby club. I also attended Dragons matches before getting the new role and love the buzz at Rodney Parade. As with anything that grabs my attention, I always look to improve my knowledge and love nothing more than a conversation about the sport, but I’m no coach! Rugby folk have generally told me that being a rugby man doesn’t really matter for this role. I’m here to get the Dragons’ region performing as a sustainable business we can all be proud of and rugby experience doesn’t come in to it. That said, it does help if you enjoy it, so it’s fortunate that I’m hugely interested in the game.

TB: How important is it for Newport to have a team like the Dragons based here?

MD: Hugely important. Rugby is the psyche of our nation and that’s no different in Newport and Gwent. It is a great city and deserves the best in terms of sport. We are all equally proud of the city’s sports teams, the history of Newport RFC and our awesome velodrome, which is a great facility.

TB: And how important is it for that team to play in the heart of the city?

MD: Very important. The access to Rodney Parade – either by walking, car, bus or train – is great and it’s a pleasure to do our very own ‘Wembley walk’ across the Usk and into the ground. The atmosphere and vibrancy of the city really builds around the ground on match days. When attending the games, you can also take full use of the shopping and leisure facilities on offer around the ground and make the most of the occasion before and after the match. I normally would attend a match with my son and my wife would shop in Friars Walk, before the drive home.

TB: How does the business of running a sports team differ from other businesses?

MD: They are remarkably similar in terms of leadership and taking accountability for your performance and that of your teams. This is a people business, in that we need to create the right thriving environment for our teams both on and off the field and ensure that helps them deliver the best version of themselves. We then must look after our customers, be it sponsors and our supporters, without whom we would not have a business. It’s their love and commitment for the Dragons that really make everything worthwhile.

TB: What three things would you like to see for the Dragons over the next five years?

MD: 1. Success on the pitch. 2. Sustainable business. Driving revenues that helps us invest in playing and coaching squads. 3. Ground development that captures the imagination of all our partners and our local residents to complement the already impressive development along the bank of the river Usk.

TB: How can businesses get involved and support the Dragons in any way they can?

MD: We need to ‘earn the right’ to create the desire for other businesses to want to support us and understand that any relationship will be two-way. Its important that all businesses support each other in any way they can and to develop a ‘win together’ mentality. I never turn down an opportunity to meet local businesses to share ideas and discuss how we are approaching and overcoming business challenges. Clearly there is the traditional method of sponsorship of our team and our inventory and we have many businesses already realising great value for doing this. We are also very active in the community and support many initiatives around education, support and rugby. Businesses are very interested in exploring their own obligations for CSR with us and we have a strong track record for creating bespoke solutions for anybody through our community programmes as well as the affinity and the reach rugby provides in Wales.

TB: What brought you to the Dragons?

MD: I have always been a Welsh Rugby Union supporter and believed that I could offer something to the game, specifically about the business side. I had strong opinions on the supporter experience and how we could be better set up to be more people focussed, customer centric and sharper commercially. I entered a recruitment procedure that ‘Apple would be proud of’ and after several stages was offered the role of MD.

TB: What qualities do you think you bring to the job?

MD: I have a successful back ground of senior leader roles for a long time in my working life becoming a store manager at the early age of 22. I have done many jobs which have required various skill sets to deliver results consistently over several years. I have only been able to do this by developing teams around and them me. I have come from a retail background within an ever-changing business landscape that has led to major changes in the way customers choose to shop. This has really honed my skills in leading and landing change. Clearly customers are in the ‘driving seat’ and I’ve always tried to make decisions with customers at the heart of them. Never get complacent! Keep learning and evolving.

TB: What about the plans for redeveloping Rodney Parade?

MD: We’ve been clear about our desire to want to develop our ground and we are exploring all ideas. Commercial revenues need to change, and we will need regular cash flow to ensure we are a sustainable business capable of competing and leading in rugby. We have a fantastic facility in Rodney Parade that we would love to see visited more and used more often.

TB: When things go well with a sports team, fans and the community get right behind them – how do you cope when things aren’t going as well?

MD: Learn from it, adapt and move on! We can’t dwell too much on the past, but we can really learn from it. I have been reminded on several occasions already from supporters who’ve been ‘promised it all before’ but this doesn’t stop me from listening to understand and feel their passion and desire to win. This inspires us everyday to go out and win. We intend to keep communicating our ambitions with our supporters, so people are aware of the long game and quickly deal with any immediate concerns.

TB: How well do you think you work with the community and is this something you want to see more of?

MD: We work well within the local community and through a variety of initiatives our team is highly active. We have some great partnerships which we value a great deal, from multi-national blue chips to local businesses, public sector organisations and charitable groups.

Without the high level of support we receive from these partners we simply couldn’t deliver our programmes to the high standards that we achieve.

There are more than 70 clubs in our region who we look to support in partnership with the WRU and testament to the relationships we’ve built through our community programmes is in my first week in the job at Judgement Day back in April we had nearly 2,000 children from rugby clubs throughout Gwent supporting us in a huge guard of honour on Principality Stadium pitch.

All of whom enjoyed the plaudits of families, coaches and teachers. I can personally testify Cwmbran rugby club children were in fine voice walking to the Principality and these are the moments that make me proud to be involved in such an inclusive sport.

TB: How can business people make more use of the facilities on offer to them at Rodney Parade?

MD: Don’t hesitate to drop me or the team a line at Rodney Parade on and we would love to meet up and discuss what we can offer you, your teams and your customers.

TB: If you are entertaining clients in Newport, where would you take them?

MD: I’m a coffee shop fan and love the informality of the surroundings and there aren’t many better places than sitting in Hortons (no I haven’t been sponsored for saying this) along the Usk, especially in the sunshine looking at the state of the art developments across the river, the university, Friars Walk and the Riverfront. This alone tells a story of leading investment, learning and developing with the times.

TB: What advice would you give anyone wanting to get involved in the business of sport?

MD: Make yourself known! If you think you can add value, you probably can. It always helps if you’ve got genuine passion for sport because it so much more productive enjoying what you’re are doing.