As part of the Think Again campaign, Janie Manzoori-Stamford asks Chris Penn, general manager of Flemings hotel Mayfair, why he loves his career in hospitality
How did you find your way into the hospitality industry?
By chance really. I had to do work experience at school and I had no idea what I wanted to be, so I took what I thought would be the easy option. Little did I know that I would love it so much that I would spend the next 17 years working through the ranks.
Did anyone try to put you off?
I remember a conversation with my German teacher when I chose to take an industry management trainee role rather than go to university. Her words were along the lines of - you are better than that, you are wasting talent. Comments like that make me even more determined!
Did you know right away this industry was for you?
Challenge has always been an integral part of my motivation in all aspects of my life and I am lucky enough to be in an industry where I can embrace challenge and make a difference.
What training opportunities have you been given?
My early training was all experience based, spending months performing each of the roles in the operation and learning the intricacies and logistics of hotelkeeping. I decided to take on an Open University management course while completing my training and this helped me to understand some of the elements of business that I was not getting exposure to at an operational level. More recently, I was lucky enough to be awarded a St Julian's Scholarship through the Master Innholders and completed the accelerated talent development programme at Cranfield.
Have you had a mentor along the way, formally or informally?
When I was at the Cavendish, I started working with an executive coach called David Fender. This was a fantastic relationship and David really helped me to fulfil my potential as a leader and has continued to be a great support ever since. The higher you go, the more lonely it can become and having someone like David to share thoughts with is invaluable.
What's the most rewarding day you've had in your career?
The day that I stepped on stage at the Visit London Awards to accept the award for Outstanding Customer Service. A lot of hard work went into creating and developing great teams and great service at the Cavendish and to be recognised in an awards ceremony that encapsulates numerous industries was a very proud moment.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the challenge and being able to make a difference to people's lives.
What do you hope to achieve in your career in the future?
I want to help shape the future of the industry, change the external perceptions of the industry and help as many people as I can to fulfil their own potential.
Who do you think is the best ambassador for the hospitality industry and why?
This does change for me and sadly I can think of more people that absolutely aren't ambassadors in my eyes than people that are. I love innovation and people that think differently and are not afraid to challenge the norm, so entrepreneurs in any way, shape or form would be my inspiration.
Would you recommend the industry to others?
I would prefer to ask a question… Would you like to join an industry that is rapidly growing and innovating, that offers huge opportunity for growth and development and that could result in you running a multimillion-pound business? If you answer no, it is not for you, or at least my hotel is not for you.
2011 to present General manager, Flemings hotel Mayfair
â- 2008-11 Hotel manager, Cavendish hotel
â- 2005-07 Stafford hotel
â- 1996-05 Historic House Hotels
Loving Life in Hospitality is a new series of interviews with young hospitality professionals who have started at the bottom and risen through the ranks quickly. It is part of Caterer and Hotelkeeper's Think Again campaign, which aims to show young people, teachers and career advisers the excellent career opportunities that exist in the hospitality sector.
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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