The next chapter 6 December 2019 Lexington managing director Julia Edmonds on taking the helm at the boutique caterer and her people plans for the future
In this week's issue... The next chapter Lexington managing director Julia Edmonds on taking the helm at the boutique caterer and her people plans for the future
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01 January 2000
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Diane Miller broke new ground two years ago by becoming the first-ever woman president of the industry's professional body, the HCIMA. Still not yet 40, she is already in her fifth general management position, as well as being Whitbread's regional director for Scotland - the only woman among the company's 10 such office holders.

She has achieved this in addition to mastering three languages, qualifying for a private pilot's licence and working on gaining a golf handicap.

Financial skills

Miller puts much of her career success down to the 13 years she spent working for Trusthouse Forte then Forte Hotels. Not only did the company send her on numerous courses, she says, it also taught her how to be a sharp business operator.

"You could say I learnt in a tough school," she says. "At Forte you had to manage profit and loss effectively to get on, and that quickly honed my financial skills. It was also always the case at Forte that who shouted longest and loudest got more money to invest in their property, and that taught me how to fight for my hotels."

Miller is also grateful to Peter Stephenson, now a hotel industry consultant, who, she says, was her mentor in the 1980s when he was Forte's operations director for London. "He really supported and encouraged me," she says. "He very much groomed me for higher things."

But probably most important to Miller's success have been her own drive and ambition. She has always been "100% committed to every job" and has set herself targets to strive for. "It took me nine years, 11 months to make it to general manager level at Forte, at the age of 30," she explains. "I was really pleased with that as I had wanted to do it within 10 years."

Miller's love of a challenge has also been important. Spotting this trait, her employers have used her as something of a trouble-shooter, putting her in properties that have needed "turning around". She comments: "My hotels have always been at a stage of turmoil when I've got there, needing someone to drive them forward. I think I'm recognised as someone who doesn't shirk from tackling poor performance."

Miller admits that for much of her career she has also been a total workaholic. "In the late 1980s," she says, "all I did was work, and for much of the time since then work has taken over my entire life."

This is not something she would recommend that other women do to get on, however. She says that she feels she has got the work-life balance wrong throughout much of her career and has missed out on other things. "I've finally realised I'm not Superwoman," she reveals, "and part of my decision to come back to Glasgow was to get more balance in my life and spend time with my family."

Female role models

Miller says that she would love to see women making it to the top without having to make sacrifices. "Most women general managers currently have the Mercedes cars, designer suits and fabulous travel," she says, "but they go home to an empty house. We need female role models who combine management with marriage and children. I have yet to hear of a female general manager working three days a week, but there's no reason job-share isn't possible. In the next decade, I'd like to see that happening."

For herself, Miller still has another couple of goals she'd like to achieve. She plans to study for a Master of Business Administration qualification in order to get some fresh business ideas: "And I'd like at some stage to be a senior director involved in setting long-term corporate strategy."

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