Managing Director

1. Starboard Hotels has established a strong reputation for itself, winning several notable industry awards. What do you feel sets you apart from other hotel owners and operators?

By owning and operating our own hotels, we are acutely aware of the operational challenges and efficiencies of the business. By not relying on third party managers, we have instant access to the day to day operation of the businesses, I also take a personal interest in every decision and that filters through to the team, who feel part of our family business with family values. By not have Private Equity partners, we can invest in the hotels and take a long term ownership view, meaning that our teams are not in constant fear of their hotels being sold or going through management changes.

 

2. Starboard Hotels works with leading brands such as Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Best Western and ibis. How do you ensure that you’re able to effectively capture the essence of each brand?

As Starboard employees, our team of over 500 people share the core company values, although each hotel is operated by a brand trained experienced General Manager, their teams also carry out brand dedicated training so there is no confusion for the guest as to whose hotel they are staying in.

 

3. You have 20 sites across the UK. Is there a particular place that your keen to expand to where you don’t already have a presence?

We are building up clusters of hotels, this improves the operational efficiencies and reduces costs. Our main growth is through acquisition of existing hotels where we can add value. We would really like more hotels in London and the South East, but the numbers do not always add up.

 

4. You founded Starboard Hotels in 2006. What do you think has been the biggest change in the hotel industry since then?

There have been many changes over the past 13 years, many driven by the changes in the economic environment during the recession. The investment from aggressive Private Equity houses completely changed the landscape of ownership, this bought opportunities when they needed to sell. The Brand Managed hotel in the limited and mid service sectors is a thing of the past and has fuelled the increase of third party management companies.

Within the hotels, the investment requirement for IT has increased exponentially, trying to keep hotels ahead of the IT wave is a challenge but exciting. This has been driven by the rapid development of the smartphone and apps, where guests want to do everything from their device.

Smart guests know what they want and where to find it, there are more people travelling and demand is higher than it has ever been, but hoteliers need to keep their standards up.

 

5. You recently announced plans to develop a 141-bedroom Holiday Inn Express branded hotel in Cambourne – how is this development coming along?

This is doing well, and we are now on site with a completion target of spring next year.

6. Which of your past projects are you most proud of?

I am proud of all of our hotels, but we opened our first Holiday Inn Express in Burnley two weeks before Lehman’s went into administration. I am thrilled to say that we managed to keep the hotel, despite the challenges during that period, and we have just completed a £500K refurbishment. A number of the team who helped us open the hotel still work with us either at the hotel or centrally.

 

7. What is your advice for budding entrepreneurs, particularly in the hotel sector? 

Do your own research and do not believe the analysts. Also, attend as many networking events as you can. People like dealing with people they know.

 

8. What has been the game-changing moment in your career so far?

Starting Starboard in 2006.

 

9. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

From a very successful businessman and one of my dearest friends – ‘It’s only money’

 

10. Finally, a bit of fun – please can you tell us your favourite app, book and holiday destinations?

Favourite App is Sleep Cycle, which I use every night.

Favourite book – I recently read and enjoyed ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k’ written by Mark Manson, which is well worth a read.

Favourite holiday destination is a great Heli-Ski lodge in BC, Canada, which I have visited every year since 2005 and where I will be heading later in Feb.