My life in hospitality – Nick Howe

29 May 2008 by
My life in hospitality – Nick Howe

Nick Howe is managing director of contract caterer Holroyd Howe

It was a dramatic change, suddenly being part of this fast-growing organisation, and it made me grow up. I met Rick [Holroyd] back in 1988. He said something like, ‘I'm going to set up on my own one day,' and I said, ‘well, don't forget me if you do,' then I went off to work for Baxter & Platts for eight years before we launched Holroyd Howe in 1997. Of course, it was a big risk. We were both director level and MD-bound if we'd stayed with bigger firms, but we decided to go it alone.

Creating something from scratch, with no turnover, no customers - well, it was life-changing. And the week I resigned, my wife told me she was expecting twins. There's nothing quite like that to focus the mind. We could have been comfortable just ticking along with the business, but it was never in our nature to do that, we were always ambitious.

We also both wanted a strong, people-driven culture, where staff felt empowered, and I genuinely believe we created that. It was immensely gratifying when we were listed at 64th place in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Since the merger with BaxterStorey, the past four months has been intense, getting to know new clients and staff, and creating our own style and culture. When you merge or sell, you imagine you'll be sitting somewhere hot, wearing a Panama hat and smoking a cigar, but I haven't worked so hard for a long time.

Highs… Moving up to London was one of the key turning points in my early career. I was working for Sutcliffe Catering West as a trainee manager, and was probably regarded as having a good future there, but it was all a bit pedestrian, living in Swindon, so when the opportunity came up to move to Sutcliffe in London, I grabbed it.

Lows… When we closed our Chesham office following the merger, we lost some good people. We'd created a tremendous team spirit and camaraderie, and some of our staff had been with us for a hell of a long time.

Age 48

Status Married with three children

Lives Ballinger, Buckinghamshire

Drives I've had a Range Rover for three years, but I've just bought a Mercedes 500SL. I haven't told anyone yet!

Business motto Lead by example and create good spirit in your team, because they'll go the extra mile

Best holiday Sailing in Majorca. I don't like sitting on beaches, so I bought a boat a while ago

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