Interview: Helena Pettit, Managing Director, Grandstand Group

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We caught up with Helena Pettit, Managing Director of Grandstand Group who shares insights into the UK based sports focused event management company as well as you her career and valuable advice to those looking to develop their sports business careers.

Tell us about Grandstand Group and your role as Managing Director of the Group?

I am the Managing Director for Grandstand Group; which is made up of the following businesses:

  • Grandstand Media Ltd – Large scale event organisation business which most notably runs Horse of the Year Show and the British Show jumping National Championships.
  • Grandstand Stoneleigh Events Ltd – Manage the NAEC Stoneleigh, the 800 acre venue in Warwickshire boasting over 22,000 meters of indoor exhibition, conference and meeting space and over 800 acres of outdoor space including an abundance of free parking.  We also deliver the on-site catering for the venue and an on-site hotel.  As well as this the company runs its own Winter Fair and is under licence to deliver two large agricultural events - Pig & Poultry and Grassland and Muck - for The Royal Agricultural Society of England.
  • Grandstand Event Management Ltd – Zinc Management our Global B2B Event management agency sits within this company, we also deliver an online entry system for two equestrian clients and manage the Horse of the Year Show merchandising through this company.

Outside of my day to day management duties across the group, my main responsibilities are the long term sustainability and growth for the Group.  We have made changes over the years, the most notable of which being the acquisition of Grandstand Stoneleigh Events to the Group in 2013.  As my background is diverse across sales, commercial marketing and operations I am comfortable in stepping into any area of the business if required.  I enjoy the variety of the businesses and no one day is ever the same.

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The 800 acre NAEC Stoneleigh venue of Grandstand Stoneleigh in Warwickshire, UK.


Can you share insight into your career and how you came to your current role?

My career has been focussed around Commercial Marketing, commercial income drivers in Sport, B2B & B2C engagement and large scale operations.  I have worked for some very well established brands and Agencies including Moet & Chandon, SMP Ltd, WEMS, Colourways to name a few and I was a fellow Director in a Sports Marketing agency BWP Sport. I worked hard, learnt what I could at every company I worked for and used the knowledge and skills to move across to another role.  I paid privately to take diplomas and courses around my work to increase my theoretical knowledge, met a lot of people along my journey and took opportunities when they presented themselves. This led me to believe that if you work hard and strive to be better, opportunities will open up for you.  I met the owners of Grandstand in 2001 when I worked for Wembley and in 2005 they asked me to go and work for them to help grow one of the businesses.  3 years later they recommended me for the MD role.

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What advice would you give to people looking to break into the Sports Industry today?

I don’t think that any of these suggestions will be new, however, getting into the industry you want to work in will take perseverance and hard work.  There are internship opportunities at many of the large associations and agencies.  Some of these are graduate internships, but not all of them.  Work hard if you have an internship and treat it as an extended interview – if you are essential to the business they will create a role for you, or you may be in the position to fill any gaps.  Volunteer for Sports events and use the experience on your CV.  Networking can be invaluable, so establish yourself with a solid network of contacts.  Look for a role where you will gain skills that are transferable to the sports industry.  And get involved in the sports that you are interested in outside of work as this will gain you knowledge of the sector.

What is your advice to building success in a leadership role within Sports Business?

Across all industries I believe you are only as good as the team you are leading.  A great team will inspire a leader to do better and a great leader will impart the knowledge and experience required for the team to progress, learn and be better themselves.  I have always found that it is key to enjoy, understand and believe in the company you work for, the team you work with and the product/service that you are delivering. 

Finally, what single piece of advice has most influenced your professional growth?

If I had to pick a single piece of advice it would be to treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. You will not see the best of others if they do not see the best of you.

To learn more about Grandstand Media and its development as a global business read: ‘The biggest events management company you have never hear of.’  Here.  


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