BTCC CAREERS: HEAD OF HOSPITALITY FOR TEAM BMW
Hospitality plays a huge role in the British Touring Car Championship, it’s an area of the championship with a range of diverse responsibilities. Due to this, it’s obvious why fans are intrigued by the people who undertake these roles. In the latest BTCC Careers article, btcc.net talked to Steph Crouch about her key responsibilities, what her role entails and her route to become Head of Hospitality for Team BMW.
Name: Steph Crouch
Job Title: Head of Hospitality for Team BMW/WSR and Co-Founder of Vital Events
Years in the Role: 12
Favourite Circuit: Silverstone – it was my local circuit, and the first circuit I ever worked at.
How did you get the position?
I had a friend, who’s Dad was a Director of Vauxhall, Ian Coomber. Their family took me along to the BTCC, and as soon as I realised that I could get a job around racing, that was my goal! My mum was a trained chef, so hospitality was always in my blood. I made some enquiries, and secured a job looking after the TOCA team for a few years, before West Surrey Racing (WSR) asked if I’d like to look after all things hospitality for them. In the last few years, I’ve also co-founded Vital Events, and now look after some of the support series too.
What are your main responsibilities, both on event and pre/post-event?
With Vital Events, I liaise with the paddock coordinators to find out our positioning, organise power requirements, co-ordinate our staff and liaise with our head chef on numbers that we will be looking after for the weekend, as well as speaking with the championships and also the teams that we look after by feeding them in their garages as well.
At the track, I oversee the build of the hospitality unit and kitchen, and then do the bit I love most, look after the guests! Post event, I look after all the financials too, and then start work on the next round.
With West Surrey Racing, I’m very lucky that the pre-event work is all looked after before I get there – so at the track is where my role begins. We have a meeting about table plans, usually over dinner on a Saturday evening, or over coffee early on a Sunday morning. I then welcome all the guests, making sure they know all the do’s and don’ts of being at a racetrack. Having three cars, we will get 60 grid walk tickets per round – I allocate these to the guests, and take them out on the grid before the races and, with drivers individual sponsors, it can be a job to get the right people at the right car at the right time, as we have the JEP Photographers meeting me by the cars, so organisation is key! During the races, I manage capacity and ensure the guests are safe in our garage, making sure the mechanics can still work around them. Then I often host the Q&A with our drivers for the guests, which is quite daunting, especially in 2019 between race two and three at Brands Hatch for the finale!
What drew you to this field?
My parents were always huge motorsport fans and, as my dad owned a company that manufactured car paint, I was around garages from a very young age, so knowing I could find a role within motorsport that merged two things I was passionate about – cars and food, it seemed the ideal job!
What have you found to be more valuable in your career, your education or experience?
100% experience for me. I know there are Event Management degrees out there which is certainly a good avenue to go down, but I was fortunate to find jobs without having a degree, and then knowing the industry and working hard is how I have managed to get to where I am today.
What skills have you found vital to do your job?
Treat people how you want to be treated is how I’ve always tried to live my life. Also, staying calm under pressure is important, because in motorsport the unexpected can always happen and the guests look to me to update them when there are delays or changes on a raceday. Having tweet alerts on from the BTCC has helped me tremendously! Organisation and an eye for detail is always important too. Having a boss like Dick Bennetts means I always have to be on top of my game! He wants things to be spot on, and I want to do him proud. I’m very lucky that within WSR, I’m surrounded by incredible people, and I think that always pushes you to be the best version of yourself.
Do you have a favourite moment of your career in the BTCC? Can you tell us it?
Each year I’m asked back by West Surrey Racing and each time I win a new contract with Vital Events. Those moments definitely make all the hard work worth it.
Also to be a small part of the team when we’ve won the championships is a fantastic feeling that I’ll never forget – 2014 when it was absolutely hammering it down and we were soaked to the bone waiting to have our team picture on the podium is a moment I’ll never forget!
What advice do you have for someone new to the industry?
Don’t be afraid of hard work! You have to be happy to muck in and be part of the team to succeed. I have friends outside the industry that think motorsport is all glamour – when I’m picking up flooring at Knockhill in the dark and it’s pouring down, it certainly doesn’t feel glamorous!
What advice do you have for someone who aspires to work in a similar position to yourself?
Same as above really – work hard, muck in and try not to upset people, motorsport is a small industry!
Due to the COVID-19 situation it is not yet known when and where hospitality services will recommence in the BTCC, but you can be sure that Steph and all of the hospitality staff will be ready to go as soon as it is safe to do so…