Swiss movement

23 May 2002 by
Swiss movement

I rise about 6.30am and have an espresso to get me going. My wife, Marlene, makes it for me with our Olympia coffee machine. This has an Italian engine and a Swiss chassis, so it matches our marriage - Marlene is Italian and I'm Swiss.

I used to go for a run in the mornings three times a week but I can't do that at the moment because I had a knee operation in November. Instead, I'm currently restricted to cycling, swimming and golf.

I leave home near London Bridge about 7am and drive to work to get to the Paragon at Earls Court at about 7.30am. Noel, the concierge, gives me my newspaper - The Times - and passes on the gossip about what's been happening in the hotel.

The first thing I do is turn on the laptop and send and receive my e-mail messages. Then I have my second espresso of the day, look at the previous night's figures and read the newspaper. I've developed the technique of "skim-reading" diagonally - your eye runs down from top left to bottom right of each column, and you can take a lot in quite quickly.

At 9am it's time for the first morning meeting, which lasts 20 minutes. We start with the duty manager's report, review the figures, look at today's VIPs and how many check-ins we have. This is followed by reports from food and beverage, the controller and housekeeping.

The mornings are more or less the same routine every day. Every other Wednesday all the heads of department meet for 45 minutes to an hour - no more. If you count up the department heads, and think about the cost of their salary for an hour, a meeting for more than an hour costs too much money.

The focus of the meeting will be on the company's four core values: finance, the customer, quality, and people - meaning colleagues. We take minutes of these meetings but they will be just a record of the decisions taken - a series of bullet points.

Four times a week I'll be entertaining people at lunch in one of the hotel restaurants - either guests or suppliers, or employees. Otherwise I grab a sandwich.

The afternoons are more variable. Sometimes I have visits from suppliers. Today there's a 2.30pm meeting about revenue. Usually from 2pm to 2.30pm I'm back with Effie, my assistant, catching up with any messages. At about 5.30pm I might have a videoconference with colleagues in Australia, exploring how we can help each other.

Early in the evening, if I'm not having cocktails with someone, I may go to the gym, which isn't far from the hotel. Then, on the way home, I talk on the car phone with Paul Bartlett, the general manager at the Birmingham hotel, catching up on how the hotel is going. Twice a month I'm in Birmingham for two days.

I get home between 8pm and 8.30pm (but 7.30pm if the soccer is on TV - I'm an Arsenal fan). Marlene will already be there, as she works at home as an artist. Either one of us may cook supper. It will be something light and certainly fresh - we don't use tins, and we won't buy ready-prepared meals.

We talk about what's been happening during the day. I may watch TV for a while, and Marlene will read. At some point I will switch on my laptop. People tell me I should leave the job in the office but at present I can't. I prefer to be available to my team and for my guests. That will not be the case in a couple of months, but now my job is to support what's happening in the hotel.

Interview by David Goymour

Paragon hotel

47 Lillie Road, Earls Court, London SW6 1UD
Tel: 020 7385 1255
Web site:

History: opened by Centre Hotels in 1973, operated as Ramada 1986-91, rebranded as Park Inn International in 1991 and as Paragon in 1996
Bedrooms: 502
Staff: 250
Room rate: double room, single occupancy, £150; shared occupancy, £175; suites, £225
Restaurants: West View restaurant, 200 seats, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; Café Bar Lucente, 100 seats, open for breakfast and light meals from midday; lobby bar, snacks and sandwiches throughout the day
Facilities: ballroom for 1,600; five meeting rooms to take from 12 in a boardroom to 60 with theatre-style seating

Just a minute…

What is your favourite restaurant? Last year I went to the wonderful Châteauvieux restaurant in Geneva. The food served by chef Chevrier is among the best I ever had. A real explosion of flavours complemented by beautiful wines.

What is your ambition?
To be managing director of a hotel company one day.

What would your last supper be?
A bottle of Pétrus 1959 and Japanese beef.

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