Case Study with Danny Spears
Q: How does it feel to have won the Support Services Manager of the Year award?
A: It came as quite a shock, I certainly wasn’t expecting it! I really appreciated it though and felt a great sense of achievement when my name was called. I have been at Parkwood for seven years now and have worked my way up so it was really nice to get that recognition.
Q: Can you tell me about how you first came to work for Parkwood?
A: After finishing school I went on to sixth form where I felt there was a lot of pressure to go to Uni; that was what was expected of me. I had my UCAS application completed and was almost at the point of applying but still wasn't sure it was right for me. It was during that point that I spoke with a training provider visiting the sixth form and had a chat with them, just because I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to go to Uni and they put me in contact with a local apprenticeship provider.
I had a couple of meetings with them and an initial interview and really liked what they had to say. Everything about learning on the job, gaining a significant amount of experience and not ending up with a huge loan to repay sounded like exactly what I was looking for. It seemed like the right thing to do and looking back I’m really glad I chose that route rather than going to Uni.
The training provider arranged my interview with Parkwood and as part of that I got to meet another apprentice who had progressed to Management Accounts from Purchase Ledger, which was really nice as they had been through it already and had progressed in the way I wanted to.
Q: What attracted you to Parkwood Leisure in particular?
A: Besides the good feedback I had received regarding Parkwood, I really liked the fact that it was a leisure company. When I applied I was playing football every weekend and going to the gym and swimming in my spare time so it really felt fitting with what was going on in my life at that time and like I would be working for a good cause. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in sport or leisure.
Q: What do you remember of your first days in the role? What was it like being a new apprentice in the business?
I turned up for my first day excited to be working in the purchase ledger department but I ended up spending my first week working with the HR team instead! They had been in need of some extra help and although it doesn’t sound the best for someone interested in finance, it actually was really useful and a good way for me to get to meet lots of the staff as I was speaking to managers and on reception quite a lot. Overall it left me in good stead for when I started in Purchase Ledger a week later.
Looking back at those first days I have nothing but positive memories, everyone was so inviting and friendly and it just seemed like a nice place to work. Everything passed in a bit of a blur as it was my first proper job and there was always something new to learn or something to do. I remember being very keen and I probably pestered a few colleagues by asking lots of questions and always trying to help!
Alongside my core responsibilities, I also got involved in the company three peak challenge and also joined the health and safety committee as soon as I could. Essentially I just wanted to take every opportunity I could to get involved in the company more and help to make a difference.
Q:What skills did the apprentice programme teach you and how has the programme benefitted you throughout your career?
A: It has given me so much experience. Everyone seems to be pushed to go to Uni these days and I suppose in some senses it is good to have that life and learn from that but I really do think there is only so much you can learn from books and on paper. I’ve learnt so much more, I think, from having the experience the apprenticeship has given me and being put in situations that I otherwise wouldn’t have been put in and with Parkwood being such a diverse company I am positive I will continue to gain more experiences and develop myself further in the future.
Q: What career development opportunities have been available to you at Parkwood?
I’ve progressed a huge amount, particularly since joining the management accounts team where I was able to start to get involved in management, dealing with some HR issues and getting involved in helping new members of the team, which has been really good for my development. I have also benefitted from having lots of interactions with all of the managers and directors, which has helped me to build a good reputation and working relationship with them.
Q: Can you tell me a little about your current role and responsibilities?
A: My current role is as the Senior Management Accountant. I am responsible for managing the Management Accounts team that we have, which includes three Management Accountants and two assistants. As a team, it’s our job to ensure that the management accounts are produced accurately and on time each month and this includes producing individual P&L’s for the sites, along with ensuring that the balance sheets are reconciled. It’s also my job to keep track of any risks or benefits that are developing and to keep the senior management team apprised of what is going on so that they can make important business decisions.
As the Senior Management Accountant I try to make sure we complete everything correctly and in line with any deadlines we are given, while also making sure that we maintain a good relationship with all of the centres around the country. I encourage my team to always be patient and understand everyone’s point of view before making any decisions, as we are primarily here to help the operational staff who are working very hard at the centres.
Q: Would you recommend the Parkwood Apprenticeship programme to others?
A: Definitely! Looking back I would absolutely do the same thing again and I am so glad that I chose to do the apprenticeship rather than go to Uni as I have learned so much and really progressed and hope to continue to do so in the future. If you are into sports or leisure in any way, then Parkwood apprenticeships are a fantastic way to learn on the job and not end up with a huge Uni debt! I cannot recommend it enough.
To find out more about our fantastic apprenticeship programme, click here.