David Levin, owner, Capital hotel, Levin hotel, London Bakery, 195 Picadilly and the Levin Winery, shares his business secrets
Develop your own team I am very proud of the fact that the majority of our heads of departments have been promoted from within: housekeeper, bar manager and head concierge to name but a few. All have worked here and achieved their positions through their hard work together with the training and support that we provide. Sourcing managers from other companies can bring experience but trying to ensure that they fit into our philosophy is often a lot trickier than one thinks.
Consider your priorities For three reasons, I do not usually rise before 8am (except if I have a prior commitment). First, is because I am now 76 years old and secondly, because I live next door to the Capital hotel and my office. The third reason is that I enjoy listening to Radio 4 and reading the papers before starting my working day. I think it is good advice to consider one's priorities in the morning, and what one should be doing for that day in order to ensure that you are focused right from the start.
Invest in the future It goes without saying that the mechanical services and legal requirements have to be dealt with professionally and smoothly, but I would like to emphasise that Kate, my daughter and general manager, and I invest in the future by looking after the wellbeing and training of the people who work here.
Exceed the expectations of your customers It is vitally important to get to know, as well as listen, to your clients. Bear in mind that their homes are now of a very high standard of comfort and facilities, and it is our role in the hotel industry to provide equal, if not better accommodation, than they have at home. We endeavour to do this through quality of furnishings, linen, amenities, and artwork unique to each of our rooms and around the hotel. It is the courtesy and professionalism of the people who work here that is another factor in ensuring we get many repeat guests.
Best decision ever I was fortunate enough to focus on what I wanted to achieve when I was around sixteen years of age. I decided that I would build and own a small luxury hotel with a great restaurant in London. It took me just over 20 years from leaving school to open the five-star Capital hotel in Knightsbridge in 1971. My daughter and I are the only directors and we have no shareholders or partners in the business. This means that the calibre of our decision making is better and consistency of running the business year after year is much simpler - and more enjoyable.
does it make the boat go faster
I attended an evening at Oxford Brookes University where I am a visiting professor. A marvellous young man spoke passionately about being in an eight at the Sydney Olympics where the crew won gold medals. They had to be together for two years to train for that event. Many people gave them advice on vitamins, exercise, mental attitude and they all lacked consistency. They decided on a formula and that was somebody would put up an idea and it would be discussed. They would ask themselves one question "does it make the boat go faster?". If that was yes, they would embrace this idea 100% and if the answer was no it was immediately discarded. So now Kate and I ask ourselves "does it make the boat go faster?" and apply the same methodology as the Olympic rowers.
1952 First job as commis waiter at Malmaison restaurant, Central hotel, Glasgow
â- 1964 Manager at the hotel Lochalsh, Kyle (first management position)
â- 1965 Bought first hotel, the Royal Oak in Yattendon, Berkshire
â- 1971 Opened the Capital hotel after a year of construction
â- 1981 Opened L'hotel (later renamed the Levin hotel) on Basil Street