The Caterer

Words from the Wise – Andy Townsend

Words from the Wise – Andy Townsend

Andy Townsend, chief executive officer and founding director, Legacy Hotels & Resorts, shares his business secrets

Always remember the difference between seniority and superiority At times you may well be the more senior person in the discussion but that does not, by default, make you superior on the topic - the team members around you have as much, if not more, of an influencing role to play in driving the business forward.

Be fearless in your ambitions - yet cautious with its execution The past six years running our own company has made this more obvious. The reality is that nothing is unachievable. It's hard at times, and the mistakes on the way can be plentiful, but as long as you want to do it and want to be better, it is possible.

Understand the cost of failure as much as that of success Some years ago I was fortunate enough to work for Anthony Harris, chief executive initially at Stakis Hotels and subsequently Hilton UK. The biggest lesson I learnt from him was not to be critical of mistakes but to understand why things didn't go as planned in order to improve; and not to be afraid of a decision if it, wrong or right, moves you forward. He was a great man and a dear loss to the industry.

Believe in your instincts All around us is policy, procedure and guidelines, more so in the world today than ever before, but while there is a place for this, operators should not lose sight of, or the ability to rely on, their "operator belly". Good hotel managers are grounded and have a sense of what is right and what is potentially wrong. The key is trying to create the environment that allows for the gut feel and instinct to shine through.

Employ the right behaviours over skill set Ideally, we would all want highly competent staff with great attitudes. Sadly, this mix is hard to find and harder to retain. That said, give me people with great attitudes over technical competence any day: with a great attitude you can coach and drive skill; without the right behaviours, regardless of skill set, you are wasting your time.

Good decision, bad decision

Good In 2005 Jim Gordon and I had the opportunity to pull together a team and start our own management services company. If I think back now and consider the leap I was making from leaving the security of corporate life, would I have done the same? I hope so. Six years down the line and with some 35 hotels on portfolio I couldn't be more proud of what we have achieved. If at the start we had - and we didn't - created a business plan for the company, would it have got us where we are today, having had the experiences we have? I doubt it.

Bad I have over my relatively short time in the business met a fantastic and broad spectrum of people. But I suspect that at times I have not stood still long enough to appreciate the moment and take on board more of their wisdom, particularly those from outside the sector. Possibly an opportunity missed.

Note to self: take a moment, listen, and listen again.

CV highlights

1990-95 Management roles with Whitbread Hotel Company, including Lansbury Hotels and Country Club Hotels

â- 1995-98 Stakis Hotels, including hotel manager at Stakis Dunkeld House Hotel & Resort and Craigendarroch Hotel & Country Club

â- 1998-2001 Director of food and beverage concepts for Stakis Group, moving to Hilton UK following its acquisition of Stakis Hotels

â- 2001-03 Managing director, Macdonald Resorts

â- 2003-05 Managing director, Macdonald Hotels & Resorts - Managed Contracts

â- 2005-present Chief executive officer, Legacy Hotels & Resorts

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