What do you do and how long have you been in your current role?
I have been the managing director of Smart Hospitality Manchester since July. It is part of the Smart Group, which operates in many different hospitality sectors. Smart Hospitality is now the fastest growing division in the group's portfolio, providing both fixed-site and outside catering operations.
Where was your first job? What was the most important thing you learnt there?
My first job was at an investment bank. I always knew I wanted to work and went straight into the job market instead of higher education, joining YTS Union at 16, filing investment portfolios and loan agreements. By the time I was 19 I was the regional manager of their credit card and investment arm in the Midlands. I learnt early on that money made the world go round and how important sound investments are in both business and pleasure.
How did you get from there to where you are now?
At 19 I realised I needed to experience other things and joined the Royal Navy. This taught me discipline, respect and process – values that are essential to the complex industry I now work in. I left at 25 and joined a hospitality and catering company where I found my passion for all things culinary and events-led.
I subsequently moved to Manchester United Football Club and after three seasons, on to operate at Wimbledon AELTC, Excel and The O2 in London. I was also part of the mobilisation team at the Olympic Games for the sport and leisure division of Compass Group UK and Ireland, planning and running seven of their most prestigious venues.
Looking back, did you expect your career path to take the course it has?
I wanted to be in banking and working in the city as a trader, so I guess my job now is still very financially led, only it’s not selling stocks and shares but food and drink. Everyone wants to sell a great product but it also needs to be balanced, complemented by a financially secure business that is durable during changing market conditions.
Would you do anything differently?
There are certain decisions I would have made differently, but any failures I may have had in the past made me who I am today. As the cliché says, you learn from your mistakes.
Who has inspired you along the way?
My father who, like me, did not go into further education at the start of his career, he began his career on the telecoms production line and has become one of the most successful people in the industry. He has always been an inspiration, demonstrating anything is possible, if you are driven and honest with the people you work with. He has also been a valuable sounding board of potential business decisions and has always reminded me you can’t rush experience and knowledge.
Also David Gill, the former chief executive of Manchester United. While working for him in 2010 onwards I was always inspired by how he could have such presence and calmness even when certain results would not go their way. He was always seen as a talisman who would lead from the front.
He also had a real talent of remembering people’s names, even if he had only met them for a very short amount of time. This way everyone felt a personal connection and not like a faceless client or contract. They felt like they were dealing with a friend.
Have you ever had a job interview that went particularly well or spectacularly wrong?
Luckily not, but I still have many years left to experience one.
Is there a piece of career advice you’ve ever been told that has stuck with you?
From my father, be humble: don’t go around trying to be something you’re not. If people believe in you, you will naturally become what you want to be.
What career advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
Take cover. In the military, that was a good thing to learn.
How do you wind down and relax after a hectic day?
A glass of Barolo, then talk to my wife about her day and what my three-year-old and seven-month-old have been getting up to and think over what I would do differently tomorrow that I may not have done today.
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