And the winner is….

When my area manager initially contacted me almost a year ago, to say he would like to nominate me for Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year, little did I know what the next six months, or indeed the next eighteen months would hold in store for me.

The first step of the process was to submit my views and opinions in response to several questions set by the judging panel. I felt there were no right or wrong answers to these questions, simply personal opinion, so if I felt strongly about something, I said so and why. Knowing I was up against hundreds of other applicants you can imagine my elation when I discovered I had made it through to the final 48.

The next step of the judging process was then a mystery shopper visit. Still to this day I have no idea when my visit took place, but I must have scored well as I received notification that I had successfully reached the final 24 and would be invited to Doncaster to meet the judges.

Arriving in Bawtry where I would meet, not only the 8 judges but also the other 23 contestants for the first time, adrenaline and butterflies really started to kick in. At this point a deep breath was required, as I really wanted to be myself and not let nerves get in my way. The next morning we were whisked off to the races at Doncaster where we would have a photo-shoot, camera interview and more interaction with the judges over a wonderful lunch.

On the day the final 8 regional champions were to be announced in all betting shops, live on SIS, I took the day off. My phone rang at 11 a.m. that morning with my colleagues screaming and cheering as my picture appeared on screen confirming I had been selected as Regional Champion for Ireland. I couldn’t stop smiling all day; I had reached the final 8 and the reality of the possibility of winning the whole competition finally kicked in.

In November, accompanied by my husband and one of my shop managers and his guest, we arrived at the Jumeriah Carlton hotel in Knightsbridge, London. Here each of the final 8 and their chosen team member would face the judging panel for one last time.

That evening I tried to get a good night’s sleep before the the following day, when guests from across the industry would join us to hear the winner of Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year 2018 announced at the final awards lunch.

When the golden envelope was opened and they called my name out I have never been so proud and the whole table simply erupted. It was very emotional and overwhelming, but I had no time for that as I had to compose myself and head up to collect my trophy and give the first of many interviews to come. My head was swimming and it seemed so surreal and took quite a while for it to completely sink in. Winning was the ultimate recognition of my passion for my job and this industry.

Since lifting the trophy I have had the pleasure of bringing my shop team to Ascot, courtesy of SIS, where we enjoyed the racing and a beautiful lunch and my personal highlight, met the legendary Tony McCoy.  I was a guest at this year’s ICE London at the ExCeL in London, where I wrote a daily blog for the Racing Post.

My next stop was Sheffield where I had a fantastic evening in the company of some wonderful people from across the industry and presented the Racing Post Juvenile trophy followed by an interviewed on RPGTV. The following weekend I attended Shelbourne Park with my family as a guest of Ladbrokes and presented the Easter Cup and then flew over to Cheltenham were I was a guest in the Racing Post box on opening day and the Corals box on day 2. This for me was an experience I’ll never forget.

My next diary dates are Sandown and Punchestown at the end of April and of course Singapore. I’m really looking forward to enjoying the racing at Kranji and sampling all the street food Singapore has to offer.

My advice to any betting shop manager thinking of entering this year is go for it and enjoy every minute.