Scotland’s Top GM’s

13th of October, 2017 | Posted in Editor's Picks, People Email Article | Print Article

Over the last few months we have interviewed  some great GM’s and this issue we look at a few more… They are all a class act.

Next month we will feature four more. Each and every one is a credit tot the industry.

Murray Thompson

GM – Blythswood Square Hotel, Glasgow (Pictured Above)

Q1. Tell us a little about yourself and your experience.

I have been at Blythswood Square Hotel for more than two and a half years and have worked in the industry for more than 25 years. I was previously the Hotel manager of the four-star Grand Central Hotel and five-star Cameron House. Before that I worked as director of sales and marketing at Rocco Forte Hotels.

Q2. What drove you to choose your career path?

It all started as a summer job whilst I was studying at University. I absolutely loved the social aspect and was captivated by the industry. I was extremely lucky with the great people who invested in my development over the years and allowed me to continue with my hospitality studies.

Q3. How did you go about getting your job? 

I started studying when I was young and continued with my executive learning gaining a degree in 2003 I was lucky to be awarded a scholarship by HIT Scotland at Cornell University School of Hotel Administration in New York City where I attended the General Managers Programme. Previous to that, I was awarded another scholarship through the St Julian Scholars which allowed me to study the General Manager’s program at Cranfield University.

Q4. What do you actually spend the majority of your time doing?

I spend most of my day with people and creating happiness, whether this be with our residents, guests or the 230 ladies and gentlemen that I have the pleasure of working with at Blythswood Square. The rest of my day is focused on the commercial aspects; the development of the hotel, our business and most importantly our people.

Q5. What misconceptions do people often have about your job?

People may think that it’s a 9-5 job, however, Blythswood is a 24 hours a day operation, and switching off is not something I do easily.

Whilst I am in the spa every day, I don’t hang out having treatments or enjoy wonderful afternoon teas and three-course meals, however my waistline would suggest otherwise.

Q6. What are your average work hours?

There really isn’t an average. I’m at the hotel when I need to be and that is often. I make sure I have a good work life balance, but when I can’t get home and I want to spend time with my family they love coming in to see me it’s a real treat for them.

That may be different for other GM’s but that how I operate.

Q7. What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?

A GM once told me, walk into a room, look around, check it as if this was the first time you had seen it to make sure it’s perfect. Simple I know, however it works every time and I love sharing that one with the team.

I was also given the advice to hang out as a guest to experience everything from a guest’s point of view. What do you see, what can you make better.

I like to structure my day allowing me to be in the reception when our guests are going for breakfast or checking-out and then again when they arrive for lunch. I will do admin in-between before heading back to the reception for guests arriving. This allows me to catch up with our regular guests and friends of Blythswood as well as adding my welcome to those visiting for the first time. I believe its nice for the GM and the management team to be visible.

People are the hotel’s most valuable asset train them well enough that they can leave however treat them so well that they stay. I learnt that one when I worked for Richard Branson.

For me, there are no shortcuts. Everything is about the detail and if you cut a corner people will let you know. I’m always mindful of that.

What do you do differently from your co-workers or peers in the same profession? 

I think we all do the same thing, we just approach it differently with our own individual style and personality

9. What’s the most enjoyable part of the job? What is the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it? 

The most enjoyable part of the job are the guests I get to meet and the colleagues that I work with. We work hard, play hard and like any functional family have a bump or two along the way but we never allow this to dampen our enthusiasm.

The worst part is losing a member of the team, however, there are times when you have to accept that people need to move on to fulfil their ambitions.

Q10. What do your customers under/over value?

Our customers value good service and importantly, they truly value our team Everyone will have an opinion on what value for money represents and there’s no methodology to that as it can vary from one person to the other.

Q11. What are you proudest of or what was your proudest moment? 

I’ve had so many proud moments throughout my career, from being appointed director of sales and marketing at Rocco Forte, to winning hotel manager of the year at the Scottish Hotel Awards in my current role. But if I had to say one, it would be the surprise and delight that the team members are able to achieve for our guests every day. It makes me very proud to stand back and watch this happen.

I love to see guests walk out as fans of Blythswood Square and comment consistently on how great our people are.

GM

CRAIG EWAN 

GM – KINGSMILL HOTEL, INVERNESS

Q1.

I am currently the GM and Operations Director of Kingsmills hotel (Inverness) Ltd and have been GM here since 2006. Previous to this I have worked for Hilton, Marriott and Swallow hotel in various positions all around the UK.  I originally studied Hospitality Management at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Q2.

Being a people person, with ambition, drive and determination.

Q3.

I originally started on a  graduate programme with Swallow hotels, then worked my way up to senior assistant with them before the company was acquired by the Whitbread Hotel company which subsequently led to nine fantastic years with Marriott hotels.

I moved back to the Inverness Marriott in April 2006 to support my father as we lost my mother suddenly to cancer in 2016. In 2007 Marriott lost the management agreement of the hotel and the hotel was bought by a private hotelier.  The hotel was returned to its original name Kingsmills hotel and I was asked to stay on as General Manager for the new owner. Ten years later the hotel now has trebled it’s revenue to £8.9M per annum and I have become the Operation Director.

Q4.

Every day is different, which what is exciting and fresh about our business. Every day involves working with people, both internally and externally. I have a team of 17 team leaders and try to support each and every one of them, depending on where their pressure points are.

Q5.

The common misconception is that it is glamorous and Monday to Friday 9 to 5.

Q6.

My average working hours… Lots. Depending on the business requirements about 50 to 60 hours per week on site and more on line in the small hours.

Q7.

Tips… do things at the time if possible.  With so many distractions it is easy to lose focus or become too focus. Learning to stand back and view the operation via the eyes of your guests.    

Q8.

I like to address issues head on and at the time. Never asking someone to do what I would not be prepared to do myself. If you deal with issues that you think are going to be difficult or confrontational, honestly and quickly, they are often much easier than expected.   

Q9.

I like the fact that the job itself is enjoyable. I like people, recognition, recognising others and developing people.

Worst part – time management, trying to ensure work life balance especially with a family of three young boys 15, 12 and 10. I deal with this by ensuring I have one family day per week.  Usually Sunday is my golden day. This keeps me sane.

Q10.

Customers value the personal touches.  They love to be recognised as repeat or loyal business. We do try to deliver the wow factor on a continual basis.

They under value some of the time our associates put in to manage events or set up bookings

Q11.

Being a successful hotelier for 11 years in a vibrant city with a young family who I am so proud of. I love my family and work hard with my heart on my sleeve every day.

GM

PETER WALKER

GM MELDRUM HOUSE, OLD MELDRUM

Q1.

 I have been in current role as General Manager at Meldrum House for just over 8 years. I did a HNC/HND in Hospitality Operations and Management. I am 37yrs old and born and brought up in Aberdeenshire. I have spent most of my career in 4-star plus properties having started in hotels when I was 15 and still at school.

Q2.

I chose my career on advice from Mrs Allan one of my teachers when I was at school who was helping with work experience choices. She suggested I look at going into hospitality and I went with it. I’ve a lot to thank her for and have never looked back.

Q3.

By proving that I was a good operator at a high level and continuing to constantly learn and absorb as much experience and information as possible along the way. Being well connected and networking has always helped too.

Q4.

I spend the majority of my time engaging with people – whether that be clients, customers and my team. People are the heart of our business and so important to me.

Q5.

Misconceptions? I have a fancy office with views of the golf course and I get fine dining food cooked for me all the time by the chefs.

Q6.

I do about 65 hours a week.

Q7.

Personal tips – work hard, be honest, be firm but fair at same time, always be smart. Shortcuts – I don’t believe in short cuts – do things properly, even if it takes a bit longer

Q8.

What do I do differently? Difficult question – because of the style of our business I get the opportunity to be the public face of the property, as opposed to being part of a corporate family.

Q9.

Most enjoyable part of job – seeing youngsters develop – even if they don’t make a career from hospitality, its great to see them grow and develop as individuals and I hope they will always have fond memories of their time working for me – especially if this is their first job. Worst part of job – probably the impact it has on family life – I am very lucky to have a very patient and understanding wife at home that “puts up” with my long hours and commitment at work.

Q10.

Customers often undervalue staff as we are there to help them and not inconvenience them. Over value – they think when they check into a hotel that “rules” don’t matter as they are paying for the privilege of being served – so don’t behave appropriately or care for their surroundings.

Q11.

Proud… Being shortlisted for the Regional Ambassadors award for the Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards this year, the final is in November and winners go through to the Thistle Awards. Winning Most Hospitable Hotel 3 years in a row at the Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards. Plus winning AA Hotel of the Year for Scotland 2014/15. Proud of being part of a team that are 110% committed to being the best they can be at everything they do.

GM

CRAIG HADDOW

GM, BOCHAIR HOUSE HOTEL, BEARSDEN

Q1.

I’m the wrong side of 40, I have an 11 year old Minecraft expert as a son and have spent 27 years in hospitality. I studied Hotel Management first in Clydebank for my HND then Glasgow for my HCIMA. During those years I had experience placements at Gleneagles, Kilberry and Toulouse, all very different, but I still do many things I learned from those hotels. My career started part time while I was at college and I was working as a porter at the Hospitality Inn. My first managerial role was as Junior Assistant Banqueting manager at the Kelvin Park Lorne. 

Q2.

I spent a week in the kitchen at IBM for my work experience week and the seed was sown. I spent the week making tomato roses, fresh mayonnaise and toast but that was enough. 

Q3.

Most recently I worked as F&B development manager for the Crieff family of hotels and as Deputy General Manager for Macdonald hotels. My current role at Manorview was a conversation between the Operations Director, who I have known for a few years now, and after a chat it was an easy choice for me to join the team at Boclair House Hotel.

Q4.

My role is split into 4 key areas. Looking after the team and developing them, looking after our customers’ needs, improving and managing our product and lastly our responsibility to operate a safe and efficient hotel. I also spend time being the chair of the Glasgow POETS committee for HIT Scotland which is a big part of my life. I have been part of that for 14 years and it’s a pleasure to give back some time to help others in hospitality. Outside of hospitality I am learning Italian and love playing golf although the pressure of time is always a factor. 

Q5.

Misconceptions… That it’s all glitz and glamour and eating out. It’s far from it sometimes. There is a lot of administrative jobs that need done and managing a team of individuals who all have two lives, in the hotel and out of it. However I have a collection of stories that most people would never believe and I have met so many people through being in hotels, including Queens, Kings and 4 past US Presidents. 

Q6.

On average I work a 12 hour day at the weekends to facilitate others enjoying themselves is the norm for most, in hospitality and we are no different. 

Q7.

Tips? Have the right team around you to get the job done, and do it right first time. I wouldn’t say our job is particularly hard, but it needs commitment.

Q8.

I wouldn’t say my approach is vastly different to others, we are all here to look after people in the hotel business and I want to make sure my team have the passion to do that.

Q9.

The most enjoyable part is seeing everyone enjoy their Boclair experience and recognising the team. I don’t have a worst part of my job, we simply deal with issues head on and fix them.

Q10.

My proudest moments, will always be to see my team develop, get promoted and further their career in hospitality. I was lucky enough to have people who did that for me.

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Hotel Magazine Scotland News Team

Hotel Magazine Scotland News Team

Hotel Scotland is a new publication (2017) from the publishers of DRAM - Scotland's leading on-trade magazine. Hotel Scotland is a newsy magazine which covers all aspects of the industry in Scotland. From who's who, to industry issues and refurbishments.
Hotel Magazine Scotland News Team

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