GETTING TO KNOW: Sean Donkin, managing director, The Inn Collection Group

Sean Donkin

Name:  Sean Donkin

Job title: Managing Director of The Inn Collection Group

Highlight of your career so far? 

Story continues below

The here and now – I’m using all the knowledge and experience I’ve built in one place, which is the current. The (Inn Collection Group) company is growing at a hugely accelerated pace. We’re progressively purchasing new sites and seeing a massive expansion in the team – it’s the most exciting moment of my career to date.

If you could choose three guests, dead or alive, to dinner, who would you choose?  

Clive Cussler (American adventure novelist and underwater explorer)
I read his books when I’m on holiday his plots help me escape and unwind. He’s told around 75 amazing stories, so I assume he’d have a good bit of crack about him.

Jimmy Carr (presenter / comedian) – He says all the things people really want to say without compunction.

James Hunt (racing car driver) Just an awesome individual – he lived his life to the full.

Last hotel you stayed at?

It was actually The Black Swan at Helmsley, North Yorkshire (17th century coaching inn newly reopened by The Inn Collection Group following a major refurbishment project). I was staying there to check that it was appropriate and ready for guests following a six-month restoration project. It’s rare that I stay in a hotel that isn’t ours. Life is too busy. I spend about 40% of my working week in pubs and hotels.  

Best piece of advice you ever received?

You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Hence listen twice as hard as you speak and you might learn something. My dad (Gary Donkin) told me that.

Biggest service bugbear?

Checking in. Because it’s a pain in the backside – it takes about 20 minutes to get through a booking that you’ve already spent the same amount of time doing on line, then having to go through it all again.

If you went on Stars in their Eyes, who would you portray?

Either Axl Rose or Bon Jovi – only because it’s from my childhood – singing as loud as you could without caring.

Which other company (inside or outside the industry) do you most admire and why?

It’s not a company – but a team –  the All Blacks rugby team. Factually, they are the most successful sports team, in any sporting code of all time. There’s a phenomenal book called Legacy: 15 Lessons in Leadership (James Kerr) which I highly recommend. It sets out what the All Blacks can teach you about the business of life in very simple terms – and it doesn’t let you get above your station.  

What’s the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning?

Unlock the door, open the blinds, put the kettle on – I like being the first person in the office.

Your first job?  

A glass collector at weekends in a bar called Jimmyz on Newcastle quayside. I was 14 years old and worked there on Friday and Saturday nights. It was where I first fell in love with pubs.  

If you weren’t a hotelier what would you be doing?

A sports coach – I enjoy seeing people succeed and become better versions of themselves.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Very similar to what I am doing now, but with a larger site portfolio.

Your dream job?

I’ve got it!

Something you wish you knew before joining the industry:

The perception of a lack of professionalism in the trade – hospitality is a wonderful industry to work in – yet it’s shunned by so many people – and even by some who work in it. They’re blinkered to seeing hospitality as a career or profession which it absolutely is. I did what I enjoyed and ended up being very successful through it.

In one word…

Favourite food?


Favourite UK city?


Favourite request on the jukebox?

Anything from the 80s.

Favourite drink?


Favourite holiday destination?  

Maldives aboard – UK – Northumberland

Favourite film?

Top Gun

Favourite gadget?

Egg slicer

Favourite thing you own?

Birch walking stick 

Tags : Inn Collection GroupSean Donkin
Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

Leave a Response