Sacha Lord, Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester & Founder of Parklife Festival and Warehouse Project, is one of AMAGAZINE’s 10 Most Influential Mancunians. Here he talks about his career journey and the future of our city.
“People who get out there to start a business because it’s what they really enjoy doing and to give it 100% are the people who are going to make the money.”
What does Manchester need in terms of new talent coming through?
I’m not a big advocate of university; I didn’t go to university myself because I didn’t get any grades at A-Level, so nobody would have me. I’m a strong believer in experience. When I interview people for The Warehouse Project and Parklife, nine times out of ten I don’t even read their CV – I just want a conversation with that person and to know what they’ve done in the field that they’re applying for.
I think there’s a definite new, entrepreneurial spirit coming in Manchester at the moment. There are some amazing things happening like The White Hotel in Salford and Hidden – both of which were put together by groups with very little budget. People aren’t scared of cocking up which is really good. When I go around to do talks at universities and schools, they say to me ‘Give me some advice’ and my advice is always the same: don’t be scared to fail. Throw at it and get it and when you’re twenty, twenty-five, thirty, you can afford for it to go wrong because you can have another go at it. I think people are really grasping that.
What are the essential qualities that people must have to be a part of your business?
They have to be pleasant and trustworthy. They’ve got to be prepared for me to pull pranks on them left, right and centre, which I’m always doing! We have an open office – 27 people just shout across the office and talk to each other and it’s quite often that everybody goes out to socialise together outside of the office and I think that says a lot. It’s a really corny but we’re like one big family. In my industry, it’s very common that people move from job to job and the people that I’ve got in the office don’t do that – they’ve been with me for years.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career?
The biggest challenge was probably winning the council over. When somebody walks in to the Town Hall and says they want to put a rave on in a car park for three and a half months every year – it does raise eyebrows. We’re lucky in Manchester because the council are very supportive of music, culture and leisure, and they always have been because they really understand how much money it brings in to the night time economy. When you think about people having a meal beforehand, getting a taxi, buying new outfits or booking hotel rooms – all those things add up and that’s what Parklife generates in the city
What would you say to people who feel they haven’t ‘made it’ yet?
People have different views on what it means to have ‘made it’. Unfortunately, lots of people think making it is when you have large amounts of money, but actually that’s not the right answer. I think anybody that’s going out there thinking ‘I want to make a million pounds’ – the chances are, they won’t make that. People who get out there to start a business because it’s what they really enjoy doing and to give it 100% are the people who are going to make the money. Life is really is short; so you might as well enjoy it and if you’re doing something that you really don’t wake up in the morning and get excited about, then take a breather. Do something else.
What would you say makes Manchester a great place to live and work in 2018?
It sounds really corny this, but I think what makes Greater Manchester better than a lot of other cities is the people. I do spend a bit of time down in London, but I think people in Manchester are more approachable, more down to earth, and I think we saw that last year after the tragedy at the arena. There seems to be that spirit in Manchester that I don’t really see in other cities.
Why do you think so many businesses have chosen Manchester as the location for their central hub?
We’re the second city in the country definitely and in terms of having a head office for a business it’s a lot cheaper than having it in the capital. If you do need to go to the capital, it’s only two hours on the train and it’s going to be even quicker shortly with the HS2 that’s going to be built. I think Manchester is flourishing at the moment; there are so many exciting things that are happening, especially in the leisure sector, there are so many exciting restaurants.
How do you think the working world has changed from when you started your career compared to now and how have these changed affected your industry?
The big, obvious one is the Internet. When I started putting nights on back in ’94, I had to stand outside clubs, hand out flyers, put posters up at 4, 5, 6 in the morning all around town so the police couldn’t catch me. Now, with the Internet, with Twitter and Instagram, that’s how you get your message across – that is the biggest thing. In terms of social, that’s where all our money is spent – that is the biggest difference that it’s made in my industry.
In what ways would you like to see Manchester businesses giving back to the city?
There are some networks across Greater Manchester that do support charities and the homeless is a big one at the moment. The Mayor has guaranteed that between November and March every single homeless person will have a roof over their heads which is fantastic. I think Manchester businesses actually do a lot of good in the city; quite often it goes without any announcement or pat on the back – it’s just done on the quiet which is the way it should be I think.
Which industries do you think will be booming in Manchester over the next five years?
There’s quite a few impressive social media and branding agencies I’ve seen popping up across the city, like Social Chain and Noir Agency.
‘10 Most Influential Mancunians’ sees some of Manchester’s most inspiring professionals talk about the future of our city and share their career journeys. If you’d like to get involved with 2019’s ‘10 Most Influential Mancunians’, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.