Published: 00:01, 09 December 2017
If you have been taken on a corporate day out to the rugby at Twickenham Stadium, there is a good chance you would have enjoyed your day out with the services of Hospitality Finder.
In fact, a jolly watching the cricket at the Oval – known as the Kia Oval these days for corporate reasons – or the races at Cheltenham are also likely to have been arranged with this Maidstone-based company.
Its managing director Mike Dunderdale has grown the firm from an idea into a business forecast to grow turnover to £14 million this year.
This has been achieved with the help of some household names, who lead proceedings at its “ultra-exclusive” gatherings.
Rugby World Cup winners Mike Tindall and Lawrence Dallaglio were the first to join the business in 2014, giving analysis at big sporting events and posing for pictures with guests.
Horseracing legend Sir AP McCoy joined the company as its ambassador for the Cheltenham Festival earlier this year.
In the last fortnight, the company has also secured the services of England cricketers Darren Gough and Kevin Pietersen to entertain guest hosting VIP gatherings at the cricket.
“It adds huge credibility to our business,” said Mr Dunderdale. “We have got a good reputation in the industry but these names add to it.
“Their standing within the sporting community is the stamp of approval our customers like to see when booking and attending events.”
The company receives about 1,200 inquiries a month, which it forecasts to reach more than 2,000 next year.
Employing about 35 people, it has doubled the size of its sales team this year, selling hospitality at prestigious events like the British Grand Prix, Wimbledon, the Henley Royal Regatta and the Ryder Cup, as well as Premier League football clubs, on comedy tours and West End shows.
The company started after Mr Dunderdale had already been working in hospitality for about eight years, previously working across the pond in Atlanta as well as in the UK and Ireland.
He set up the business with his friend Stuart Hennell, who is also a director at Maidstone-based Watchfinder, the luxury second-hand watch seller.
“Their standing within the sporting community is the stamp of approval our customers like to see when booking and attending events...” - Mike Dunderdale, Hospitality Finder
The pair launched the company in 2004 at offices in Kent House in Maidstone.
Today the business is based in Ascot House, in the same offices as Watchfinder’s service centre. It is sponsor of Maidstone Rugby Club and its luxury packages have been attended by Jack Whitehall, Lee Dixon, Sir Clive Woodward, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jude Law.
Mr Dunderdale said: “It was paramount to create an experience that no one else provided and this meant being close to customers throughout their journey, from inquiry to booking to attending the event and then post event feedback.
“Just as we focus on client retention, our service helps our clients do the same by providing environments to benefit from face to face time with their new and existing customers whilst being entertained at these high profiled events.”
How do you persuade sporting celebrities to be ambassadors for the company?
“We have strong links with all the governing bodies of all the different sports, which gives them confidence. We bought Lawrence Dallaglio’s business and he came on board as a brand ambassador then. Many of them have tried our events before they have joined. Lawrence is a good friend of Darren Gough, who has been coming to our Green Room for the last four or five years and seen how we operate. AP McCoy is a good friend of Mike Tindall through his horseracing background and he experienced some of our events as well.”
What are the likes of Mike Tindall and Lawrence Dallaglio like to work with?
“They are great. They are not only very nice and approachable but they know what our business is all about, which is client retention. They are intelligent guys who understand what we are trying to do with the business. Mike and Lawrence are both leaders in their own right. I’ve got to know AP McCoy, Darren Gough and Kevin Pietersen through various events and they are in a very similar vein.”
Have the celebrities been the key in accelerating your turnover growth?
“We have huge retention of customers. We do a lot of repeat business. What’s helping us to increase turnover is clients doing more and more events as well as many new customers coming on board. Our celebrities help with new customers who have not heard of us. It gives them more confidence.”
What is your style of management?
“I’m fortunate enough to have a very strong team of managers in place who look after the various departments. I have the utmost confidence that they will deliver and run their department in a very good and professional manner.”
Born: 27/4/75 at Pembury Hospital
School: Sutton Valence School
Family: Has two boys, Oliver, nine, and Joshua, seven, with his partner Victoria
First job: Quantity surveyor after leaving University of Westminster
First wage: £16,000 a year
Salary now: Undisclosed
Favourite book: Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed, which was recommended to him by
Sir Clive Woodward
Music: “I should say Ed Sheeran but I’m more of an Elton John fan.”
Film: The Usual Suspects
Car: Range Rover Sport
Last holiday: South of France
Charity: Dallaglio Foundation
Mike Dunderdale gets up at 6am and arrives at the office by 7am.
He said: “I get most of my work done between 7am and 9am before everyone else gets in.”
After that he has meetings all day until about 6pm.
He will then head to the gym and typically gets home at about 8pm.
In his downtime he likes to spend as much time as possible with his two boys, taking them to football and golf.