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INSIGHT: New GMs share their management secrets

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Starting as head honcho at a new hotel is an exciting prospect that requires strong leadership skills and confidence to make the right first impression. While management style will vary from person to person, joining with an appetite to soak up every ounce of knowledge and input from your staff will be vital. We speak to a handful of top movers and shakers, who just a few months into new roles, are looking to take business to the next level.

Angelina Chua

General manager, Sopwell House

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Joined in: August 2018

Last year, Angelina Chua was appointed as general manager at Sopwell House Hotel & Spa in St Albans, a four-star boutique hotel owned and operated by AB Hotels.

She joined from her role at the helm of Stapleford Park Hotel, where she was responsible for the strategic commercial and operational direction of the hotel, spa and country club for six years.

She boasts more than 20 years’ experience in hospitality, with positions such as director of operations at Marriott Hanbury Manor Hotel and Country Club; director of food & beverage at the Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel and corporate sales and event manager at the JW Marriott Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

How has the first few months in your new role been?

It has been very exciting with the challenge of understanding Sopwell House and getting to know the team.

How did you first approach the new role?

Look, listen, learn – I always spend the first few months observing, asking questions and learning why things are done in a particular way. It is always interesting to find out about the staff, and what inspires and excites them. Also, why things are done in a particular way and the reasons for it being so.  

How long does it take to really get to grips with a new property?

Some things, very quickly, others require a lot more delving into in order to understand the “DNA” of the place. For example, quite quickly into my first weeks at Sopwell House, I understand the requirements needed to deliver service excellence. On the other, procedural elements as to why we do things in a particular way took me a little longer to come to grips with.

When do you first start to think about making changes / improvements?

It depends, if it has immediate impact on guests, staff and the business, then very quickly. There are other areas that require more understanding and consideration. For example, some accounting and HR policies, would necessitate my working closely with other stake holders in the business such as the HR director and financial controller.

What attracted you to the new role?

The vision and ambition of the owners – AB Hotels has a clear vision of what Sopwell House will be in the coming year with the multi-million pound spa development as well as what the Bejerano family see Sopwell House in the coming years. Being part of that journey is what drew me to this role.

What is your management style?

I see myself as a situational leader – there is no such thing as “one size fits all” in management; it depends on the situation and the person in front of me. What works with another person, at another time in another place may be the totally wrong approach to the situation that I am currently faced with.

How do you make sure you achieve trust from other staff members and management team?

I set clear expectations for my management team and expect that they do the same for their staff. More importantly, I trust them to do not only do things right but to do the right thing. In short, from all levels, I always strive to ensure that everyone behave with integrity.

How do you work with your owners?

It is very important as a family owned business, for me to understand what the owners’ wants and aspirations are; then work with my team to deliver them. An open, honest communication channel sounds very obvious but can sometimes be underestimated or taken for granted. Trust between the owners and the general manager is very much like a nurturing a plant, something that is fragile in the beginning stages, but given the right environment and care, grows stronger with time.

Neil Glasspool

Managing director, Homewood Bath

Joined in: May 2018

In May last year, Homewood in Bath, one of the new hotel acquisitions by renowned hoteliers Ian and Christa Taylor, welcomed a new managing director.

Neil Glasspool joined the four-star, 21-bedroom hotel from his role of operations manager at Three Daggers Operating Ltd where he had been for two years.

The Taylors acquired Homewood from Longleat Group Hotels in August 2018, following a transformation process will be run alongside the group’s other properties, No.15 Great Pulteney and The Bird Bath.

How has the first six months in your new role been?

It’s been challenging, but we’ve achieved major improvements throughout the business, such as enhancing the guest experience and the look and feel with extensive refurbishment of our public areas. We’ve implemented new systems, launched a new spa menu using organic ila products, changed the restaurant concept and rebranded and repositioned Homewood in the marketplace.

How did you first approach the new role?

With lots of preparation. I did a lot of research on the property and its background; where it sat in the market, the reasons it wasn’t doing so well and what would need to be done to make it a destination property and a successful business product.

How long does it take to really get to grips with a new property?

If you have done your research leading in, only a week or so. As long as you have a strong plan, with what you want to achieve and clear timescales, then an experienced hotelier would be able to get to grips with it quickly.

When do you first start to think about making changes / improvements?

From my first interview, as vision and preparation is everything in hospitality.

What attracted you to the new role?

The large scale of the refurbishment project and working within the Kaleidoscope Collection, which is well known for its unique sense of style and quality offerings.

What is your management style?

To lead from the front, to inspire people to follow and to support the staff to enable them to grow with the business and progress their careers with us.

How do you make sure you achieve trust from other staff members and management team?

Communication and involvement is key; the team know my door is always open for support and I never ask someone to do something I’m not prepared to do myself.

How do you work with your owners?

Respectfully – I work with Ian and Christa to develop and meet the brief and master plan to make Homewood a real destination within the luxury boutique hotel sector.

Martin Kelly

General manager, Bovey Castle

Joined in: November 2018

Bovey Castle in Devon, part of the Eden Hotel Collection, appointed new general manager Martin Kelly late last year to replace Francisco Macedo.

Martin Kelly joined the five-red-star hotel and country estate situated in Dartmoor having previously held general manager positions at the Grand Jersey Hotel & Spa and L’Horizon Beach Hotel & Spa in Jersey, alongside other hotel management roles at properties in Brighton, Birmingham and Glasgow.

Kelly took over from Greg Fehler, Bovey Castle’s former resort director, who stepped in to oversee the 60-bedroom hotel when Macedo stood down with immediate effect in July after a year in the role of GM.

How has the first six months in your new role been?

I have only been in the role for two and half months, it’s been fun, the second month was Christmas, that’s a big deal for Bovey Castle with over 200 guests a night for nearly two weeks. It was a great opportunity to see in full swing and everywhere very busy.

How did you first approach the new role?

To learn as much as possible in the shortest time possible, and try and keep my mouth shut for as long as possible, not always easy.

How long does it take to really get to grips with a new property?

I think that it can take a while as hotels are very different at different times of the year. You need to see the property at its busiest and it’s quietest to fully understand the business.

When do you first start to think about making changes / improvements?

From the time I visit the hotel for my interview we do great things at Bovey but a fresh pair of eyes and all that. My experience in Jersey meant that I had a good understanding of the leisure market 

What attracted you to the new role?

The hotel is amazing and the estate is fantastic, you couldn’t help but be attracted to the place.

What is your management style?

Firm, fair and consistent.

How do you make sure you achieve trust from other staff members and management team?

I think that this is a process that takes time, trust is a two way street and it can take a while. Why should someone trust you if they have only just met you?

Nick Hanson

General manager, Mallory Court

Joined in: October 2018

In autumn last year, Mallory Court in Warwickshire, part of the Eden Hotel Collection, announced the appointment of a new general manager.

The four-star, 43-bedroom hotel welcomed Nick Hanson to the role of GM, taking over from Eden Hotel Collection’s director Greg Fehler, who has been acting general manager at Mallory Court since Sarah Baker stepped down earlier this year.

He will join the hotel from The Idle Rocks and St Mawes Hotel in Cornwall, where he was general manager for both properties since August 2016.

Hanson has also held GM roles at The Bath Priory, The Vineyard Hotel and Sharrow Bay in the Lake District.

How has the first six months in your new role been?

99% positive. I have inherited very talented and engaged senior team, who have been a great support. I hope to repay this in the years to come. We are quite early on in a new and very exciting chapter for Mallory Court. My main aim to create a clear picture for my team about where we aspire to be and what steps we plan to take to get there, and how the journey might feel along the way. It’s a very exciting project

How did you first approach the new role?

As you mean to go on. There is clear momentum at Mallory Court and within The Eden Hotel Collection. It is important that my arrival only helps this and does not put anything on hold. As much as possible you have to hit the ground running. You can bring with you a lot of confidence from your previous experiences and successes to help overcome the many challenges of a new role.

How long does it take to really get to grips with a new property?

Probably 12 months. You have then experienced everything once, and you can start to feel synonymous with the hotel. The whole team will then have a better understanding of how it works best as unit and can look back at some clear achievements.

When do you first start to think about making changes / improvements?

After the first three months. It’s important to ensure you fully understand the reasons behind the current procedures and policies. The first three months is all about taking detailed notes of your many observations.

What attracted you to the new role?

The people and the culture. There is a clear desire to continually evolve and a clear understanding that the development of our people will be the secret to our success.

What is your management style?

I have a very inclusive and open management style. It is important to have faith in your immediate management team, which given the right tools, motivation and information they have the skills to manage down through their departments to over deliver on the required standards and financial results

How do you make sure you achieve trust from other staff members and management team?

By showing faith in their ability; being available and approachable; always honest and constructive with advice and feedback. It’s imperative to be consistent with your management style and the old adage of lead by example still very much holds firm.

Tags : APPOINTMENTSBovey Castleexpertsgeneral managersHomewoodhotelsMallory CourtSopwell House
Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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