Derek Picot, 53, is the general manager of the five-star luxury hotel, Jumeirah Carlton Tower, Knightsbridge. He’s worked there for nearly three years, but has 37 years of industry experience, and previous jobs have taken him to all five continents.

Starting at 16 as a kitchen porter at Jersey’s Biarritz hotel, Picot was desperate for the bright lights of London, so he began a four-year diploma at the London Hotel School in Ealing.

After college the Savoy gave Picot an administration job on 1,000 a year – including food and board – but he worked his way up and at 25 was its youngest-ever assistant manager.

Four years later Picot moved across to Hilton, where he found his head for business on its corporate development programme. In 1981 Hilton offered Picot an executive assistant manager position in Kuwait. Newly married, Picot took his wife, who “wasn’t overwhelmed” with the destination. “In three years I was shot at, and the hotel was blown up twice and set on fire once. It was an experience,” he recalls.

After a short stint as an operations manager back in London, Picot went to be resident manager at the Mandarin hotel in Hong Kong for two years.

After posts with Rocco Forte Hotels in Toronto and Le Meridien in Sydney and Melbourne, Picot returned to London in 2002 to the Jumeirah Carlton Tower, where he has remained.

Picot enjoys his work, and recently had to chase up a guest who had left $1m behind in a bedroom safe. There was also a customer who forgot his false leg. It’s perhaps no surprise that Picot believes a sense of humour is essential in the role. He adds: “The most important quality a general manager can have is leadership. With that you can develop people. You also need to be able to plan ahead and be good with numbers.”

Picot recommends learning at least one language – he’s fluent in French, and competent in German and Arabic.

Report by Amanda Smith

Salary Watch: What general managers should be earning

Property  Low  Normal  High
Three-star, up to 100 rooms  £25,000  £30,000-£45,000  £60,000
Three-star, 100 rooms-plus  £35,000  £45,000-£60,000  £80,000
Four-star, up to 100 rooms  £30,000  £45,000-£55,000  £75,000
Four-star, 100 rooms-plus  £40,000  £50,000-£75,000 £145,000
Five-star, up to 100 rooms £45,000  £60,000-£70,000  £105,000
Five-star, 100 rooms-plus  £55,000  £80,000-£100,000  £195,000

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