Sand Hill Road announces new leadership team

12 November, 2020 by Vanessa Cavasinni

With Dan Viney stepping down as CEO, Sand Hill Road have announced a dual leadership team of Bianca Dawson as COO and Matthew Rogers as CFO.

While Viney has stepped down from the CEO role, he will be joining the board of directors alongside chairman Andrew Larke and the four original directors of Andy and Matt Mullins, Doug Maskiell and Tom Birch.

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Both Dawson and Rogers have worked for Sand Hill Road for the last three years and have a wealth of prior experience as well. Prior to her ops role, Dawson was the national HR and training manager for The Publican Group, and for several years was the director of Veludo, one of St Kilda’s most renowned live music venues. Rogers has held CFO roles for companies all over the world, including Al-Arab News Channel in Bahrain, and the middle-east and African division of global communications firm Grayling.

“We couldn’t ask for two more equipped, more ready leaders than Bianca and Matt. We’re certainly very confident and comfortable – they’ve been leading us through the last three months and doing an exceptional job, so we’re really excited,” stated Andy Mullins.

“And we’re particularly excited that other female members of industry can see true leadership reflecting themselves, rather than just lots of men in a room. We think Bianca has a brilliant personality and she’s got quite a bit of experience with other groups around the country and we’re really happy for her.”

For their parts, both Dawson and Rogers are pleased to take on the dual leadership, and continue working with the board to steer Sand Hill Road through the current crisis and beyond.

“I’m so excited. For me personally, the combination of mine and Matt’s skill sets really complement each other and work perfectly together. We feel really confident in that dual leadership structure. I’ve loved working for the company for the last three years, so to take on this role is an absolute honour and I couldn’t think of anyone better to do it with than with Matt,” stated Dawson.

Rogers agreed: “I’ve worked with Bianca for a long time, and it’s been great to grow the company the way we have over the last few years, ad we’ve really flowed naturally in our work together. It’s been a really easy changeover process.”

The current focus

The duo has been working very closely with the board of directors for the last three months to ensure that the group has been checking in and supporting its staff throughout Melbourne’s prolonged lockdown. Now with the city opening up, the shift has been to ensuring they can get as many people working as possible.

“We’ve certainly invested in our people and we’re trying to ensure that we’re giving our staff as much work as we possibly can. So the big focus for us is trying maximise these very, very tight restrictions that we’re currently on. Now we’re starting to work towards 22 November, and then what will come from that. So from an ops perspective it’s about getting the venues back up and running as quickly as we can, and get in as many guests as we can under the restrictions we’ve got,” explained Dawson.

For several months, cash flow has been a major concern for venues across the country, but Rogers says Sand Hill Road is in a good position, thanks to the support of its partners.

“Our biggest partner, CBA, has been great to us through this period and really supported us through the process. Our suppliers have also been great to us as well. So it’s really been that support around us that’s helped us maintain a really good position through this process. Now we’re in a really good position to come out the other side and really thrive.”

And while the end of JobKeeper and a return to full rents in the new year will be the ultimate test, the CFO believes the group will be able to weather those eventualities as well.

Post-pandemic

Both the management team and the board of Sand Hill Road are already turning their focus to post-pandemic, and how they can grow the business.

“We didn’t want to waste a day of the pandemic, so the executive team has been working with the board, and we’ve been really determined to come out better as a group, with better systems, better service, better-looking venues – so we didn’t want to waste a moment of that time. We’re absolutely fired up to keep going,” stated Mullins.

Once the group’s current venues are back to acceptable trading levels, focus will return to the construction of Waterside Hotel, which was demolished in January, but then was put on hold in mid-April. The venue is going to be another large-format project, with its size to sit somewhere between Garden State Hotel and The Espy.

The other major focus will be in the group’s culture and continued investment in staff.

“There is absolutely no doubt that the hospitality industry is one that is certainly marred with quite a lot of mental health issues, and post-COVID we are really committed to investing in our staff and making sure we’re working on getting people back to the best that they can possibly be. There’s a real culture piece coming out of COVID,  in terms of what we need to do to really care for the people that are at the forefront for us,” stated Dawson.

“In terms of learning and development, we’re seeing a lot of transition in staff in terms of people making the decision to switch industries. For those that have managed to hold out, we want to make sure we’re investing in their training and development so they continue to see hospitality as a lifelong career.”