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Laurie Nicol – My Life in Hospitality

16 September 2010 by
Laurie Nicol – My Life in Hospitality

Laurie Nicol is the general manager of the Grand Central hotel in Glasgow.

Laurie Nicol's first foray into hospitality came when she worked as a part-time waitress at the Kelvin Park Lorne Hotel in Glasgow while she was still at school.

A move across town to the Moathouse hotel (now the Crowne Plaza) followed, while Nicol studied for a HND in business management ahead of plans to do a degree. But these fell by the wayside when she realised she'd been bitten by the hotel bug. She says: "You either love it or hate it and I absolutely loved the variety - the people I met. It became very much part of my social life."

Having worked her way up to the role of banqueting manager, Nicol took a new job as operations manager at the forthcoming ICC in Edinburgh at the age of 21. "I started before the property opened, so I was involved in recruitment, procurement and training," she explains. "It makes you feel part of it - like you're ingrained in the building."

An ambition to ultimately become a general manager by the age of 35 led Nicol to joining Stakis Hotels with a view to learning about sales and revenue, in order to understand all aspects of a business. She stayed with Stakis for 12 years, experiencing the "exciting" acquisition by Hilton Hotels. In 2007, two years ahead of schedule, she became general manager at the Glasgow Grosvenor.

In January, Nicol joined Principal Hayley and the Grand Central hotel Glasgow, ahead of its launch on 15 September.

"I'm absolutely driven and passionate about the industry. I've found my dream job and now I've got 30 years to amuse myself here at the Grand Central."

HIGHS… Following five months of preparation, the launch of the ICC in Edinburgh gave Nicol the opportunity to meet the Queen. "It was definitely a career high point. The function went without a hitch and we received good feedback from everybody."

Nicol, alongside two industry colleagues, organises the Girls Up Town charity function in aid of the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice, Glasgow. "It's an annual function for girls who like to dance, drink Champagne and have fun while raising money for the hospice. We've raised more than £200,000," she explains.

However, being offered the general manager role at the Glasgow Central has been the pinnacle of Nicol's career to date, particularly as she was very nervous when waiting to hear, despite her confidence in her ability to do the job.

"I'd progressed very well with Hilton. Every role I applied for I got, but going for this job meant I didn't have internal advocates to speak up for me. I was scared, but when I got the job I was absolutely delighted."

LOWS… About 800 guests arrived for a sherry reception at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, but unfortunately a mix-up meant that the sherry cupboard was bare. However, off-licences across Glasgow benefited from the error as ICC staff were sent out to buy as much sherry as they could and ultimately satisfy the clients' needs.

On another occasion, a bride and groom were treated to a memorable wedding reception when the sprinklers were activated all over them and their guests. "They obviously weren't very happy, but when the bride had her picture taken with the firemen it lightened the mood," recalls Nicol.

Economic conditions have provided Nicol with some of the most challenging periods of her career. In Aberdeen, she worked through the crash in the price of oil, more recently, she has had the recession to deal with.

"It's harder to operate because you get a lot of pressure from clients to drop your rates. It's difficult to achieve the balance, but the upside is it makes you look at everything and review your business harder than you might in the good times."

Age 36
Family Partner Paul and three-year-old son
Favourite holiday Cancun Mexico for relaxing and New York for fun
Drives Black Saab, new Nissan 350Z
Motto Never be afraid to ask questions
Recession-busting tip

RECESSION-BUSTING TIPS Know your customers. Understand their business because it doesn't always come down to price

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