Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

Manny Sawhney – My life in hospitality

16 July 2009
Manny Sawhney – My life in hospitality

Manny Sawhney is the owner and managing director of the Asperion and Hilltop hotels in Guildford, Surrey
Iranian-born Manny Sawhney was the son of a hospitality pioneer. His father set up the first Indian restaurant in Iran.

"I grew up in it and always knew as a child I wanted to be in the industry," he says. "The family joke was: I'd always go to the bathrooms and check them out to judge the hotel or restaurant we were at. I just knew I loved the excitement and the people and the food. It all just blended really well."

This passion feeds his belief that individuals need to be passionate and dedicated to be in the industry, otherwise they shouldn't be in it and also that the guest is always right.

"And that's without exception, I'm sorry to say. I learnt it in the US and Switzerland and have a big bold sign in our reception stating it. We really live and breathe it from our policy of comp-ing rooms if guests are dissatisfied to our honesty bar."

HIGHS… Being awarded Business Person of the Year at the Surrey Business Awards - which is the most prestigious awards ceremony in Surrey that recognises all businesses. For me as a hotelier to win is the highest accolade I could receive, especially as I've only been in business for 4 1/2 years. The judges said they recognised my passion and dedication to my business and the fact I'd created a world-recognised brand.

To have created two properties in such a short space of time that are ranked number one and two on TripAdvisor and stay there consistently is a huge achievement which I'm very proud of. It shows that our philosophy of service is right and the guests have rewarded us with this rating.

We've also received many other awards and between the two hotels have more than 12. My goal was to create an ethical hospitality business and be socially responsible which sounds like a catchphrase but means a lot to me and is the ethos of the business and it's great to see that rewarded.

LOWS… The fact that I'm not currently able to achieve what I want to now because of the financial situation. We want to create the first fully sustainable hotel in the UK but aren't able to do that because the recession has made funding so difficult to get. Everyone's minds are focused on the recession; no one is thinking positively about good products and that's a real setback.

When I first moved here from the US eight years' ago it was absolutely abysmal. When I used to eat out in restaurants and hotels the lack of service was so bad it made me think twice about setting up a business in this country. Things have moved on now but it was pitiful and I was very discouraged at the time.

Age 42
Family Married with two children
Favourite holiday A mountain adventure
Drives LPG duel fuel Honda
Working Motto Ghandi's "Be the change you want to see in the world"

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1989 Sheraton, Stamford, Connecticut
  • 1993 Opened retail business in California
  • 1997 Hotel broker, investment firm Sperry van Ness
  • 1999 Food and beverage manager for Tarsadia
  • 2001 Moved to London
  • 2003 Set up Asperion and Hilltop hotels

RECESSION-BUSTING TIP

A lot of people are shying away from their ethos and starting to discount or change the way they operate the business because they're being reactive. It's important to stick to your principles, philosophy and ethos as a business and guests will recognise that even in the bad times you stick to your standards.

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.

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