This interview first appeared in Hotel Business Magazine.
After a period in the hospitality industry following his graduation, Brian’s career took a change in direction and he spent several years in the health and fitness industry includingthe role of Operations Director for Esporta Health Clubs. From there he went to De Vere and was COO of De Vere Hotels and Village Urban Resorts. He has experience in both public and private equity funded companies and most of his career has been spent in multi-site roles with lots of experience in new openings and repositioning projects.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to your current role?
My first job, aged 15, was as a vegetable peeler in the family-owned hotel, Hotel Keadeen, just outside Dublin. The hotel is a great example to all – 30 years later it is still here, family-owned and doing the simple things well. I graduated from Galway Hotel School in Ireland and spent my formative years with Millennium & Copthorne, becoming a GeneralManager at the Copthorne Cardiff. Since then, I have spent time in both the health club and hotel industry, primarily working in the world of private equity.
We formed Valor Hospitality Europe in November last year. Valor was formed to manage and develop assets owned by MCAP Global Finance Ltd and to evolve into a third party management company working with several owners. We currently manage 20 hotels and have 2,500 employees.
What do you find most challenging about your job?
The biggest challenge is to create an engaging, energetic and fun environment at each hotel where team members feel compelled to deliver consistently high standards of hospitality to our customers. Master this – and everything else falls into line.
What is the best part of your job?
I am a lucky man. I have the opportunity to create a business of which I am culturally proud and one that out-performs our competitors. Essentially, we started from scratch and our success is entirely in our hands.
What do you see as the most important elements in developing your hotel brand?
Valor is a hotel operator and as a management company, it works closely with internationally recognised brands such as Hilton, IHG and Marriott. Valor is not a customer-facing hotel brand. That said, I am keen to establish Valor as a business that is recognised for the following: high levels of employee engagement and producing great levels of customer service, all wrapped in commercial practices which are second to none. If we can establish Valor in line with those principles, we will be successful.
What are the key issues for the sector at the moment?
In my view, the UK market faces a few challenges. For investors looking to get into the market, they are challenged to find opportunities that will still deliver great value. They do exist but they are clearly not as plentiful as a couple of years ago. For operators, the biggest challenge is to recruit, retain and nurture great talent. This will always be a challenge and only the companies which are culturally sound, suitably challenging and appropriately rewarding will master this one. At Valor, we are totally focused on this challenge and confident that we will be successful.
What makes a great hotel?
It is very simple. Great people delivering great levels of hospitality make a great hotel. Anyone can build great buildings. Only the energetic, determined and committed create great hotels.
In general, how do you think the hotel industry is performing at the moment?
Clearly, the hotel industry is experiencing a time of very strong performance. There is an appetite to invest. Both corporate and consumer demand is strong and I don’t envisage this changing over the next few years. For most people, it is a good time to be in the hotel industry.
How do you see the future for the hotel industry?
The outlook is bright but there are challenges. Over and above those previously mentioned, customer expectations continue to rise. Personally, I think this is a good thing for the industry. Our customers have every right to expect good value for money, delivered by quality operations in suitably invested environments.
The world of franchise will continue to grow which is clearly a good thing for management companies such as Valor. As with most things in life, do things well and you will continue to thrive.
What are your plans for the future?
Our plans are simple. Continue to grow in partnership with MCAP Global Finance Ltd. We also would like to develop relationships with probably two other owners. And finally, the plan is to stick with our straightforward cultural and commercial priorities to build on a business which remains true to its values.
Quick fire questions
Last hotel you stayed at?
Martinhal Beach Resort, Algarve with my family. Conservatorium, Amsterdam with my wife, and Premier Inn Romford for work.
Your favourite food?
Friday night curry from The Bengal Spice in my hometown.
The one item of technology you can’t live without?
What is the most important life lesson you’ve learnt?
I was a trainee manager with Stakis Hotels. It taught me one thing. Work hard and it’s amazing the doors that will open. Trust me, it was a tough regime.