Getting to know… Jennie-May Smith

Ruddington Grange’s General Manager is quickly gaining a reputation for fixing businesses in need... We’re prepared to bet Jennie-May Smith is incredible at crosswords. Ruddington Grange’s General Manager likes nothing better than to solve a problem. Her knack for coming up with solutions has seen her develop a reputation as something of a fixer, and it’s why she has ended up in the chair at this Nottinghamshire club. Whether it was delivering a café out of liquidation or turning around the fortunes of an underused golf centre, the skills she has picked up along the way are being put to full use at Ruddington Grange. We sat down with Jennie-May to discuss her love of finding answers and her philosophy of management… How did you get into golf club management? I have a hospitality background – I trained as a chef – and worked in Michelin restaurants. I loved the hands-on aspects but I was endlessly attracted to what went on behind the scenes and understanding the business. Everything is precise in a Michelin environment. Not just the food on the plate, but also the management, and I loved that. Everything is costed to the penny and everything has a specification so there’s absolutely no ambiguity. I found myself drawn more into understanding how each cog of the business functioned harmoniously to produce what the customer sees. An opportunity arose through an old employer to join a team of investors and we bought our first café out of liquidation. I took the business knowledge I’d learned from the restaurants – and a love of fixing things – to buy a business and we turned it around into a profit in year one. It was the best feeling in the world. We went on to design and build a second site, and that was that. I loved it! By year two, we had two venues and 45 full-time staff. It was just non-stop. When I felt like the future growth of the business was restricted, I decided to sell my shares. I’d thrown myself into these businesses and not had a day off for three years. I decided to take a year-long career break to decide what project was next, that ended up lasting three months! On my first day off I decided to clear out the garage and I found a set of golf clubs I’d been given. I hadn’t played for years. I was going to take them to the tip but thought, ‘I’m going to have one last hit’, and decided I’d go to the driving range to see if I still liked it. If not, I’d stop at the tip on the way home. The next day I went to the driving range three times. I got absolutely hooked! I started going to Brailsford regularly and, being business minded, I was looking around and wondering, why was nobody there?Eventually I met the owner and found out that the business was in a bad way. It was right...
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