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1. Tips that have made you a success?

Quieten that inner voice that tells you that you can’t do something and just try it. Nothing is ever as frightening as you tell yourself it will be and you’ll probably be better at it than you thought you were.

Be authentic, you won’t be able to keep up an image of who you may like to be forever, if you’re not authentic to who you really are people will realise and just won’t trust you.

Don’t think you have to have all of the answers all of the time. The people surrounding you are often the experts, and the best advice and guidance in some situations can come from the area or person that you least expect. Respect their opinion and empower them to make the call. Take your people on the journey with you.

 2. How did you get into the sector?

Like many others I fell into hospitality having gone to university determined to avoid it as a career. But when you’ve grown up in hospitality supporting the family business and doing everything from washing pots and pans, making beds, answering phones, serving desserts, mixing cocktails, rooming guests and dealing with customer complaints – the pull back to hospitality was simply too strong to avoid.

Whilst I had previously believed that it was nothing but long hours, low pay and repetitive work, I’ve been amazed at how many diverse opportunities have come my way in hospitality, far outstripping those that my graduating friends have enjoyed in more traditional careers in banking, law and insurance.

3. Career high?

Joining Corbin & King. Although at the time I had newly returned from five years in Australia with Hilton and Hyatt and hadn’t really appreciated just how impressive Chris and Jeremy are! 

Being mentored and developed by two of our industry’s greats is a money can’t buy experience. Our company ethos and values attract and retain what I believe to be the next generation of “greats”, so I’m blessed to work with brands that I’m hugely proud of and people who inspire and surprise me every day at all levels of our business.

4. What are your plans for the next year?

We are lucky enough to have fantastic new investors with a real passion for our business and a desire to expand. We have just written a five year expansion plan, so expect several more projects from C&K, with some surprises along the way.

Internally our motto this year is “Back to Basics”. Hospitality can be over complicated and when you strip it all back it basically comes down to two things and both of them are people – your staff and your customers. Ensuring that they are both happy and looked after should mean that everything else falls into place. So that’s our focus. 

 5. What advice would you give to people keen to progress in the industry?

Don’t wait to be noticed, push yourself forward – ask for more responsibility, ask for more exposure to things you are interested in, ask for more training/coaching/guidance even in areas that are unrelated to your current role. Be brave.

The industry is at a point in time in which it is moving so fast. As employers, we are fast tracking our most capable people into supervisory roles and management, and it’s paying off. People from less traditional routes are bringing a new sense of perspective, clarity, hunger and ambition to the roles. Don’t get left behind hoping that someone will notice you.

 6. What question do you always ask in interviews?

What would you do if anything were possible?

 It’s always interesting to understand where people’s passions lie if they didn’t have to be a slave to paying rent/mortgage/bills. You can learn a lot about what really motivates and inspires someone.

 7. If you woke up and had 2,000 unread emails and could only answer 300 of them how would you choose which ones to answer?

Well I think given our mantra for 2019 I would deal with all the ones that most seriously impacted our people first. Either our guests or our employees.

 8. How do you motivate others?

 I try to catch people doing something right. In pursuit of excellence you can have a tendency to be overly critical about all the things that haven’t been done perfectly and you miss the multitude of things that are pretty darn close.

When you stop and take time to notice, it is incredible how many people are doing so many things brilliantly, so I try to recognise and acknowledge it when I can. Whether I catch them smiling on the floor, being especially kind to a customer or other staff member, writing to them to congratulate them on their recent promotion or thank them for their contribution in a learning and development session. Just small things to try and make them realise that we appreciate their efforts in the hope that they too will do the same to their colleagues.

 9. What three things do you need to be successful in this job? What are deal killers for you?

Tenacity. Things don’t go right first time most of the time but don’t give up – to quote Samuel Beckett “…..Try again. Fail again. Fail better”

Humility. Admit when you’re wrong, apologise and try and remember not to do it again. It’s good for leaders to admit their mistakes and to apologise as it creates a culture in which it’s ok not to get it right all the time.

Resilience. We’ve heard it all before but the market is incredibly tough right now and doesn’t show any signs of getting any easier. Focus on what you do well and build on that, hold your nerve and stay true to your brand and proposition. Put people at the forefront of all of your decisions and you shouldn’t go far wrong.

 10. Who has inspired you in your life and why?

So many people but if I had to pick just one who has influenced my career……

Sheryl Sandberg for her mission to reboot feminism but not in the traditional way by suggesting that society was repressing women, more that women were sometimes their own biggest obstacles, particularly in the work place and needed to get out of their own way. Her book “Lean In” awakened something in me as a younger female manager who couldn’t see the way to balance having a growing career in a predominantly male environment whilst starting a family and who had deliberately missed out on opportunities because she hadn’t “leaned in”. But I also admired her for her vulnerability and humility when she lost her husband and as the COO of Facebook chose to so publicly celebrate his life and mourn his loss. To me her strength and authenticity as a leader shone through at that time..

It is fair to say however that her alleged actions when backed into a corner over the recent Facebook privacy and election scandals have seemed more executive shark than feminist star. Both of which have discredited her reputation and somewhat tarnished her in my eyes but the principles behind “lean in” - empowering and encouraging younger employees to overcome their own obstacles, lack of confidence or belief in their ability and to push themselves forward are principles I still subscribe to today.

 11. Would you rather be liked or respected?

I’d like to be both. Why do the two have to be mutually exclusive? I don’t want to be well liked but lack the credibility to lead and influence others because I’m seen as a pushover. But more importantly, I don’t see that there is much point in being respected if you’re not the sort of person that others even want to be around!

 12. What’s the worst thing about your current job and what’s the best?

One of the best things is one of the worst things. I am lucky I get to work across seven different trading entities and our Head Office. But, I always worry I am not giving enough to each. With more businesses in the pipeline, I am currently evaluating the structure of the Executive team and their roles and responsibilities, as it is crucial each business and its people get what they need from each of us.

It sounds cheesy but it’s true – our people are the best thing. We have very high levels of retention and so I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of the same people for the last fifteen years. We have all helped each other develop and grow and have been there for each other when things have been tough. I’ve seen people have their families, buy their first homes, start their own businesses and it makes me proud to see what everyone achieves. We really are a family.

 13. What are you looking for in a candidate?

Curiosity – someone who isn’t afraid to ask “why?” and to challenge the status quo.

Collaboration – someone who doesn’t just stand around in the pub after work saying “they should…..” but comes to us with their suggestions and says “we should…..and I want a part in making it happen”

Pride – someone who is proud of what they do and proud to seek out opportunities to surprise and delight our customers in whichever way possible every day.

14. What does career progression look like within the business unit for which you are hiring?

Whatever you want it to look like! This is hospitality in a business that is expanding, so the sky is the limit. It doesn’t matter where you start or what your background is, if you want it, we will help you get there.

We have General Managers who started on the Head Office Reception five years ago, Head Chefs who joined as apprentices four years ago and porters that joined with only a few words of English and who are now running the Maintenance and Engineering team.

 15. Tell me something that you probably shouldn’t tell me. 

I have an unhealthy obsession for Pina Coladas – not the most sophisticated cocktail for someone in my profession but the heart wants what the heart wants…

 16. What’s something your brain tries to make you do and you must will yourself not to do it?

Doubt myself. It’s a waste of emotion and energy and slows me down. I think I’m quite good at spotting it in others now so I’m determined to help them stop doing it too.

 17. If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, which would it be?

When we die is that it or is there something else? Hopefully I won’t get to find this out for a long time yet…..well unless I don’t get that Pina Colada habit under control!