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"Setting Your Compass"

By Conor Kenny, December 2011


I don’t really buy the idea of “We are at a crossroads” It assumes you can keep going the same way, straight on. Generally you can’t, if you want to change and adapt.

I’m more persuaded by the idea of a T-junction. It forces us to turn left or right.

Every hotel faces these inevitable choices. The trick, at the edge of 2012, is to have a vision, a plan and a team behind you.

As Abraham Lincoln said;

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time”


2012 will be an interesting year. There will be the distant turbulence of the euro crisis. Banks will shake and wobble. Borrowing will be tough, consumers edgy and growth limited.

However, with the 2012 Olympics there are opportunities to showcase the UK, London and your hotel.

You need to grab this opportunity but first, let me start by dispensing a little advice.

Don’t see this as a one off chance to exploit and scar. It will be remembered forever.

Do look at the opportunity early and ask yourself ‘How can we stand out from the crowd and appeal differently to an overloaded and confused market?’

Don’t wait for the tide to raise your occupancy, rates and bank balance.

Do involve your team from day 1.

A hotel that has no clear vision will quickly catapult itself from the optimism of an idealistic dream into the depths of a nasty nightmare.

So what do you need to do?

First, you need to be very clear about your destination for 2012. Where do we want to get to? What does it look like?

Then, you need a plan. The plan must have targets, measures and goals. Otherwise, you will be just like a car without a fuel gauge.

Next, you need people, your people. They need to create the vision, believe in it and buy into it. Without them, you may just captain the ship but the sailors will already be overboard.

From there, you need to set the compass, listen and begin the journey. Once started, you must be steely in your determination to follow the map. You don’t have time (or fuel) to wander off on exotic tangents.

Finally, you need to be flexible, agile and adaptable.

Your ship needs to have the speed of a speedboat and the agility of a racing yacht.

Good news doesn’t sell newspapers. Alas, grim news does. In stormy seas there is a temptation to become slightly addicted to terrifying daily bulletins.

It’s a futile waste of your precious effort and energy.

We can’t control the globe. We have never seen ‘a billion’. We are not France or Germany. We don’t even get to their meetings.

What’s my point?

Forget it. Worry about the things you can do, can change and can influence. The rest will take care of itself.

Your priority is not to second guess Merkel and Sarkozy, your priorities are your business, your guests and your team.

As 2012 edges closer remember this;

You have already had 4 difficult years and you have managed successfully.

You have learnt more in tough times than in the good old days.

You are now where you once feared you would never be.

You have led and ploughed on, you did not fail.

2012 is a bright new year.

The banks will be fixed, the euro will sort itself out and visitors will be your guests.

Go back to doing simple things well and invest in your people.

Sure it will be tough but there is a huge opportunity too.

Focus on the opportunity and ignore the bad news.

Most of all, pause and catch your breath. Refresh and rest.

You and your team have done amazing things to have marched through the minefields – but you did.

It’s time to celebrate, give thanks and look cheerfully forward to an exciting and bright new year.

Be brave, be different and, most of all, be original, cheerful and optimistic.

After all, isn’t that what leads to the best hospitality we ever experience ourselves?

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