THE WINNER: Carrie Wicks, Firmdale Hotels Sponsored by: The Dudson Group
The Judges were unanimous in selecting Carrie Wicks for the Manager of the Year award, describing her as "outstanding at everything and ticking every box with 100% efficiency".
Shortly after joining Firmdale in 1997 as general manager at the Covent Garden hotel, Wicks was quickly promoted to opening general manager at the Charlotte Street hotel, achieving an occupancy of 91% in the second month of trading and 85% average occupancy for the first year. Wicks then opened the Soho hotel in 2006, growing the revenue by over £3m from the first year of trading to the third (2008). The hotel also achieved an average occupancy of 92%, while the average rate has grown by over £21.
The group's numerous accolades and average repeat business rate of 50% are attributed to Wicks's passion for exceeding guests' expectations. Within a year-and-a-half of opening, the Soho hotel was named Most Glamorous Hotel in the World by Tatler Travel Guide 2005 and Firmdale won the Catey for Hotel Group of the Year in 2006. The Haymarket hotel was also awarded a Crown Estate Urban Business Award in 2007.
As a leader, Wicks is described as demonstrating exceptional skills operationally, in people management, vision and culture. This is reflected by the retention of her GM team for more than eight years. She empowers managers to take responsibility for their own departments or hotels and is also recognised for having charm, humour and a presence that "lights up the room".
Chris Galvin, chef-patron of Galvin Restaurants, commented: "Carrie is a highly efficient manager, steering the company with progressive results. She aims for a win-win outcome for staff and the company."
As well as staying up to date with operational aspects via monthly meetings with heads of departments, GMs and deputies, Wicks also plays an active part in staff training. She launched Firmdale's Inspirational Service programme, delivering the first session to 800 staff, and also launched a "simply say yes" initiative to encourage staff to accommodate guest requests.
Wicks also believes companies should offer career opportunities for every individual, and each year she co-tutors three two-day residential management workshops focusing on management presence, comfort zones, profit and loss and coaching. Under Wicks's leadership, internal promotions have increased by 30% at supervisory level and 20% at management level, with 100% of GMs and DGMs being promoted internally. As a result, labour turnover has decreased by 25%.
With a personal passion to inject glamour back into a career in hospitality, Wicks also offers work experience placements for school and college students, internships for international hospitality management students and apprenticeships within the kitchen. She has even featured in a Channel 4 educational programme to demonstrate the importance of mathematics in running a hotel.
As judge Harry Murray, managing director of Lucknam Park hotel, said: "There was clear evidence of Carrie's skills in leadership, customer care, sales and marketing, training and development and financial achievements."
Another judge added: "She is not afraid to make changes to the hotel to exceed customer expectations. She goes above and beyond the call of duty."
- Richard Edney, operations manager, Swan at the Globe
- Daniel Pereira, general manager, the Glasshouse and Scotsman hotels
- Jonathan Raggett, managing director, Red Carnation Hotels
- Carrie Wicks, director of operations, Firmdale Hotels
- Chris Galvin, chef-patron, Galvin Restaurants
- Phil Hooper, corporate affairs director, Sodexo
- Harry Murray, managing director, Lucknam Park hotel
- David Nicholls, corporate director of food and beverage, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
- Anne Pierce, chief executive, Springboard
- Michael Purtill, general manager, Four Seasons Hotel Canary Wharf
- Will Smith, owner, Arbutus Restaurants