We recently sat down with the Bulldogs CEO Raelene Castle to talk about the business side of the Bulldogs, their vision, strategies, and their approach to promoting and connecting businesses.

As a corporate leader, Raelene has had plenty of experience working in the top tiers of business, including roles as Director of Netball New Zealand, ANZ Championship INF (International Netball Federation), and as Chair of the New Zealand National Sports Organisations’ leadership group.

The Bulldogs are a club that is well-connected to businesses of all sizes and they are constantly looking for ways to support sponsors and small businesses in the local area. Their philosophy and approach is also backed by their values, corporate culture and strategic plans that continue to drive the club forward.

While strategic planning is very important to larger organisations, Raelene also believes that smaller businesses can benefit from having a documented strategic plan to set the right course for an organisation, saying that a good strategic plan will “allow a business to think about how they are going to grow and develop”. She also believes that strategic plans should be reviewed annually to make sure that any actions or elements that were set at the beginning are still relevant and accurate.

She also believes that company culture and values are key to building a successful and well functioning business, noting that “culture is important in any business, people want to feel like they’re part of the culture, and are supported and are proud of working for the business they work in”. But having a workplace with a defined culture and set of values is useless if people don’t follow through with it; or walk the talk, as she puts it. “You have to show your staff or external stakeholders that you’re prepared to live up to those values. In Bulldogs terms, if we have a player that’s badly behaved and we brush it under the carpet and don’t do anything about it, we certainly wouldn’t be living up to our club values.”

Businesses can be involved with the Bulldogs as corporate partners and sponsors. They are a valued part of the Bulldogs, and Raelene is set on making sure that they’re given the five-star treatment, mentioning that “partners are always in the know: they receive members-only news updates with big news being broken to them before it’s announced to the public”.

Facilitating business connections is also a key part of the club’s offering as well as networking opportunities, like the popular Realise Business Bulldogs PubBiz ™ which is held each month at Canterbury Leagues Club. Raelene is a big supporter of networking, saying that it’s still one of the main ways to get business. “[Networking] is a really good way of making sure you’re staying on top of the conversation, knowing what’s going on in your local area, and keeping up with what’s happening in the local market.”

When asked about what sport can teach businesses and the similarities between both, Raelene believes that the corporate world can learn a lot from the sporting world. “With high performing sports teams, there’s a lot of things about the way they prepare in advance and think about the challenges they have in front of them, what they’re going to do, how they’re gonna attack it, their game plan, all of those are relevant when you’re talking about your own business.”

Raelene’s top 5 tips for businesses include:

  • Make sure you’ve got a strong strategic plan and that you check it on an annual basis
  • Understand your competitors, what they’re doing and how they’re going about their business. Ask yourself what you could learn from them
  • Give yourself some time every month to work ON the business not IN the business. Use this time to think about what you’re going to do to grow or develop it
  • Make sure you spend some time looking after yourself
  • Don’t be afraid to bring in some expertise, you don’t have to have all the answers yourself, you don’t have to get it right all the time. You’ve got to be the conductor of the orchestra, but you don’t have to know how to play all the instruments

With the recent news of Raelene leaving the Bulldogs at the end of the season, we want to wish her all the best as she embarks on the next steps of her career.