Harry Murray, managing director of Lucknam Park hotel in Wiltshire and former Hotelier of the Year, was appointed MBE in the New Year Honours. Naomi Leach talked to him
How did it feel to be appointed MBE? I was delighted. I've had a long career in the hotel industry, well over 40 years, and I've enjoyed it. I received the MBE on my birthday [31 December], which was great.
Why do you think you were given the award? I've always done my job with a lot of passion and a lot of care. I love what I do, and I've always managed to develop good teams. They're the ones who deliver under my direction. When you do a job you enjoy you don't think of how many hours you've been working, you just get on with it. I'd like another day in the week.
The hospitality industry stormed the New Year Honours list this year, why do you think this was? It makes an incredible contribution to the economy. The honours list is a recognition, almost an advert for the country. Some of the winners, like Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay, are great flag wavers for this country. They've put gastronomy clearly on the map. We've always played second fiddle to the Continent and suddenly we're leading the way.
What has been the highlight of your career? One of the highlights was opening a five-star hotel from scratch in Johannesburg in 1973. The other was being voted Hotelier of the Year by my peers in 1986. When the then Caterer editor, Joe Hyam, called to tell me, I thought someone was playing a joke.
What attracted you to the hospitality industry? From the age of 13 I used to walk past the Midland hotel in Manchester and knew then that running a hotel was all I wanted to do.
Who inspired you? I've had several mentors. Ronald Jones, the general manager of Claridge's for 10 years, who was also a Hotelier of the Year, was a great inspiration. I particularly liked his style of management. He always respected his staff. You've got to look after your staff if you want them to approach customers with a smile.
My other mentor was John Turpie, who is no longer with us. He said I wouldn't make it. I was working in the kitchen at the Midland hotel and he said I was a great chef but that I should not go into management. That was like lighting a torch: I wanted to prove him wrong. He was one of the first to congratulate me when I won my hotelier award and said "I knew you'd always make it".
What do you enjoy about your career? Directing the team and setting goals and objectives. Our measurement is the satisfied customer. It is a privilege to listen to people say they've had a great time. You can't measure that in monetary terms.