Peter Cashman – Words from the Wise

12 November 2010 by
Peter Cashman – Words from the Wise

Peter Cashman, chief executive of Focus Hotels, reveals some of his business secrets.

Get up, dress up, show up This is a motto I recently read by a very old lady who said that to succeed in life, no matter how you feel, you must always go that little bit extra and not take the easy option. You must always try to stand out from the crowd and be noticed as a person who can be relied on. Getting into work at the right time with the right attitude is probably one of the most important things you can do.

Lead by example - others will follow Being successful as a leader is not just about giving orders and letting people get on with it. It's about good delegation, leading from the front, being prepared to make and take responsibility for decisions and, above all, willing to listen to other views.

Recognise the customer as king Always remember - it's the customer who is making your business successful and profitable. Take time to understand your customers and what will motivate them to use, or continue to use, your business and focus on that. Accept their complaints or comments as positive feedback and where a customer has an issue, deal with it to their satisfaction as quickly as possible. That way, you retain them as clients.

Employ people who complement your skill sets Focus on what you know you're good at and hire team members with skill sets that are complementary or better than you posses. Know your own abilities and that of your team and take it to its maximum with calculated, affordable risk.

Cash is king Keep a strong control on cash because, usually, if you run out of cash there is no business. Ensure that what you're offering is not only good quality but can deliver cash profit. When starting up, it is vital to have a good business plan, fully costed, to ensure there is sufficient headroom for when business doesn't go to plan. Many businesses go down, not because they have no profit, but because they haven't got cash.


1984-86 Executive general manager, Hilton National, Wembley

1986 Founder director, Friendly Hotels, which later became the CHE Hotel Group and then the Real Hotel Group

1997-now Founder director and main board director, Choice Hotels Ireland

2007-now Founded Focus Hotels with Alun Edwards and Tony Mylchreest. Today the company operates 13 hotels in the UK

Always be fair but firm. Keep a smile on your face, even when everything is not going your way, and try to stand out from the crowd.


Three years ago I set up Focus Hotels, having spent all of my life before that managing large publicly quoted hospitality businesses. Working for large companies taught me all the essentials of business life: decision-making, cash management and how to be entrepreneurial. Doing it for yourself, however, is different. Decision-making is quick, you can be entrepreneurial in your views, you can focus on your personal vision and demonstrate passion for your business, driving it forward and leading from the front.

I made a decision some years ago in a large corporate environment to rescue a hotel business in Germany which had about 15 hotels and was about to go into administration. However, in our enthusiasm to take on the business, we didn't do all of our homework and, as a result, we did not succeed in rescuing the business and had to let it go. It took our team and the balance of our business a number of years to recover. The motivation was right, the decision was wrong. However, I learnt lessons which I'm able to apply to the businesses I now work with.

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