Centre Manager in Training Programme

Jack Gilbertson Centre Manager

Hi, I’m Jack and I’ve been with the company now for a little over 4 years.


Whilst studying for my degree I mostly worked bars and night clubs, going from a team member to eventually an Assistant Manager. After finishing university, I wanted to get away from the 5am closes and try to build my career, I saw a job advert for Hollywood Bowl in Manchester, a site which I had visited regularly with a few friends and always had a good time, so I went for it, joining as an Assistant Manager.


During my time at Manchester, I worked with three centre managers, each of whom placed a real emphasis on personal development. This was amazing for me as I was really exposed to everything my Centre Manager was doing which led to me being promoted to Deputy Manager around a year into my time with the company.


Of course, lockdown came and what followed was an incredibly troublesome time. During the initial lockdown, my Centre Manager left the business for another career therefore I was responsible for communicating any new information to our furloughed team. As for everyone, this was an incredibly difficult time, made even more frustrating by the additional lockdown measures imposed in Manchester, leading to us preparing to reopen, only to have to close down again, five times.


But eventually as restrictions lifted, we were able to open to a completely different environment to the one we closed. It was certainly a strange experience, but one that really pushed my skills. I ran Manchester in a temporary capacity for many months during the search for a new full time centre manager, and when that finally completed, I was offered the permanent Centre Manager role 250 miles away in Yeovil. So, I packed up my car and drove the 5 hours down to my new home (on the hottest day of the year, I would not recommend it).


Running a centre like Yeovil is a completely different set of challenges to running Manchester. But I’ve been fortunate to have such an incredible team surrounding me and making me look good. I’m incredibly proud of the results we have been able to achieve, and that’s a testament to the incredible support I received and the skills I developed whilst on the CMIT programme.



1.    Describe in your own words what the CMIT programme is all about? 

The Centre Manager in Training programme is a yearlong course which develops you from a strong Assistant / Deputy Manager to being able and confident in running your own successful centre. The course itself is intensive, with the opportunity to travel to a lot of different centres, as well as the Hemel support office, to pick up experience, skills and knowledge in all areas of our diverse and complex business.


Along the way, you meet and are supported by everyone in the business, from the CEO, finance teams, internal audit teams and beyond. You have free access to everyone, all of whom are keen to help you learn and develop your personal skills. You’ll be tested along the way to put into practice the skills and techniques you learn at the various workshops, all of which have very real practical applications towards your career and goals.


But above all, the course is fun! Over my year in the CMIT programme, I met incredible people, made amazing friends, and learnt a great deal which has helped me develop myself and further my career. You get real exposure to some incredible people working in the business, helping you not only in practical skills, but in learning their thought process. Giving you invaluable insight into a near £200,000,000 per year business.


2.    What was your favourite thing about the programme?

Definitely the people you meet a long the way. My course included 11 people, all of whom have become great friends, as well as great sources of ideas and inspiration. Throughout the course, and even now that it’s over, we all keep in touch and regularly talk through our ideas or any support that we need. Having a great group of people, all of us with our individual strengths and areas of expertise, it’s amazing to have that access to such a diverse group of people. We all know that anything that pops up, one of us will have the answer.

But in addition to our group, over the course we met so many different people in the company, some of whom were people who may ordinarily work in the background, others we’ve met before but only in passing, and then some for the first time. It was amazing to really get the time to discuss real life situations with them and pick their brains for ideas or improvements. It also really helped to re-enforce the strong community culture of this company. I feel so confident now to just be able to reach out to anyone, at any level in the business, if I need their help.


3.    What support did you receive whilst on the programme? 

The thing I think we were all really impressed with during this course, was how available everyone was. Our courses were commonly held by heads of departments, including several board executives, and not once did we feel like we were an imposition to their incredibly busy schedules. Quite the opposite in fact, everyone seemed so eager to listen to us, answer our questions, and pass on their knowledge. It was amazing to sit in a room with these people and learn what they had to teach, but then to be able to follow up afterwards with additional questions, and we were always heard out and replied to. 


We were also never truly left on our own. Along the course you have regularly scheduled catch up sessions with your regional support manager, who checks in on your progression and fills in any gaps in your learning. But in addition to those meetings, you will also meet with your human resources business partner, who will check in with your wellbeing and personal development. There is a real emphasis on maintaining a work life balance throughout an intensive course, and at no point do you feel overwhelmed. 


4.    What skills did you gain on the course?

The CMIT course is designed to build on your existing skills to make you better prepared to run a successful centre in the future. Our centres are complicated businesses, with a variety of revenue streams, each with its’ own nuanced needs and focuses. So, across the programme you’ll spend time with an expert in each area of the business to really get that understanding of how things run, and how you can improve them. 


You also spend time developing yourself, through workshops devoted to soft skills, like leadership and time management. Really designed to make you a more efficient and effective leader in our business. Finally, there are courses that really develop your entrepreneurial and business brain, pushing yield management, commerciality, and marketing. 

The course is really designed to cover everything you need to learn, and to push the skills you need to develop to succeed as a Centre Manager. 


5.    How do you think these skills will help you in your career?

One of the biggest skills that you can learn from this course is the importance of a holistic approach. It’s very easy to get bogged down and focus on one facet of the business, without considering how it influences everything else. This approach of considering the larger implications of your actions has really pushed me into analysing decisions much more thoroughly, and ensuring the solutions proposed don’t cause complications somewhere down the line. 


Working on our group project towards the end of the programme really is a crash course in the complexities of running an ambitious scaled project, which requires decisive team operations and commitment. The skills I developed over this project have already led to great successes when taken back to my day-to-day role in centre, and I believe caused a much more effective and harmonious management team.


6.    What was your favourite workshop you attended and why?

Financial and Commercial no doubt. I love numbers but sitting down with one of the finance team and really deep diving into the financials that make up our business, analysis spend against revenue and comparing our centre controllables versus budget was really interesting and insightful. 
It certainly made me much more financially aware and helped deliver a more profitable centre.


7.    What advice would you give to anyone considering applying for the CMIT programme?

Do it! The course is hard work, and not something to be taken lightly. But along the way, you are introduced to some incredibly smart people, all of whom are committed to teaching you and developing your personal skills. The course is structured to give you the time needed to really apply the lessons taught and to further your education by practically applying those skills in real world scenarios. It’s real on the job training that is both relevant for your career, but also to you as an individual. I have no regrets at all about completing the course and actively encourage anyone who is looking to further their career to apply.


8.    What is next for you in your career at Hollywood Bowl Group?

One thing this course really did cement for me, was my love of this company and the internal development schemes it has. I think most Centre Managers share the goal of having the best centre across our wide array of benchmarked metrics. This is something I personal am really looking to push as it really stretches those skills I’ve learnt and developed over my time with the company. One hopes in time to build on, towards larger and more complex centres, with the end result of being accepted onto our next level development programme, the Senior Leadership Development Programme, to join a support role and help the next wave of development candidates the way those before helped me.

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