Do you have an “average working day”?
It’s important to me not to get too focused on the daily business. I always say that we are not in the hotel business, but the business of hotels. We are a Plc so we have to account for ourselves every day of the week. The risk there is in failing to look to the future. My focus right now is on 2020 and 2021.
We have a very stated objective to build about 8,000 rooms in the UK over the next five to seven years. If somebody isn’t looking at that now, then you might suddenly arrive at 2019 with nothing done when it is way too late. Our approach is to ask, ‘what can we do today that will drive our agenda in future years?’
Ours is not a static business in that sense. There is always something happening, so we operate slightly on what I call ‘the edge of chaos’. That creates a dynamic energy within the organisation. We are always thinking ‘we have to keep moving’, so when we open our five new hotels, the new management teams will come from within the existing group.
In terms of the people you have worked with over the years, who have had the biggest influence?
The three people who really influenced the way I think about business were Conor McCarthy, who was chairman of Ryan Hotels, Peter Malone, managing director of Jury’s Doyle and Jim Culliton, who was on the board there. I had a strong relationship with all of them, almost a bond, which meant that we felt comfortable in the space we occupied and I was able to learn from how they each adapted to different circumstances, both good and bad.
How do you switch off?
I am a miserable git. My hobby is my work. Walking is a critical ‘switch-off’ for me because it helps me to clear my head. I love sport – whether it’s soccer, Gaelic, hurling or rugby – but as an observer now, no longer a participant.
I was an Arsenal season ticket holder, but I gave it up this year, because I just didn’t have the time. I tell people that it’s important to have your broader interests and achieve a balance. Because when the job goes, you could be left with a big vacuum. My challenge at some point will be to fill that vacuum.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I’m a fan of country music, but not in the sense of the Country & Western music we have in Ireland. I listen to American people like Emmylou Harris, who I’ve met, and Patty Loveless. I like to play my music loudly. My kids go mad.
What was the last book you read?
It was The Silo Effect by Gillian Tett, the US managing editor for The Financial Times. I enjoy reading but I don’t tend to read fiction. At the moment, I am reading a book about Michael Milken, the collapse of the bond market in the US and the lessons that were never learned after it. I enjoy that kind of stuff.