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Lessons learned - 5 hospitality leaders share their advice for their younger selves

  • Asset Type: Blog Post
  • Author: Ollie Brand | CEO
  • Publication Date: 15 May 2023

Serial hospitality entrepreneurs are well known for their passion, dedication and commitment to the cause. Often, this means taking risks, making mistakes, and learning quickly from them. Whilst we do not have hindsight to help us, we can all learn from those around us who have done it all before and have lived to tell the tale.

Fortunately, there is a plethora of knowledge and wisdom at our feet today, not to mention advances in technology, which make it easier for businesses to automate the mundane tasks and focus more on innovation and growth. And, in times of uncertainty, there are many benefits to be had from listening to the experiences of others. Having had the pleasure to interview a number of hospitality veterans and entrepreneurs through season one of our Recipes for Success podcasts, including insight into what these hospitality trailblazers would do differently, or advise their younger selves if they could turn back the clock and start all over again. In this blog, I thought I’d share five that have resonated with me the most so far.

People Power “I would remind myself of the importance of people and relationships. This industry is all about people and in my case, location too. Of course, you make mistakes when you are young, you might approach things in the wrong way, or make bad decisions but it’s important to recognise that you are on a journey. And I’m partly glad that I didn’t know everything I know now when I started out in life, because I think that might have taken me in a different direction, I would have made difference choices and I wouldn’t be sat where I am today. Making mistakes and learning from them is all part of the journey we are on.” Chris Shermaldine, Co-Founder of The Coffee House Episode 8

Keep Your Foot on the Gas “For me personally, I would say don’t sell the business you start first-time around. Keep your foot on the gas, keep pushing and focus on your customer. In life you have to stick to the knitting. Starting up a business and getting it off the ground is the difficult bit, growing it afterwards is more about brain than brawn. But I would say, employ good people and then stay committed and focused long term because it will pay off.” William Baxter CBE, Chairman of Hospitality Action Episode 7

Keep it Simple “If I could give any advice to my younger self, it would be to keep it simple. Use the best quality products or ingredients you can afford and that your budget will allow and be clever about your process.” John Harris, Partner at Confab Episode 6

Find your Compass “Probably my biggest piece of advice to my younger self would be find a mentor. Sooner rather than later. They are not just for senior people, or the more experienced C-suite professionals, they are for everyone. The right mentor will be your guiding compass to help you work out the direction you are going in. I really believe that I could have achieved much more from a younger age if I had sought a mentor earlier on.” Kieron Bailey, Co-Founder at Otolo Episode 5

Be Braver “I would tell my younger self to be bolder with decisions. I made safe choices in my youth from an education perspective. I chose A level subjects that came easy, and I didn’t challenge myself or try particularly hard. For example, I was really good at history, but I wasn’t passionate about it. As a child I wanted to be a game warden in Nepal looking after snow leopards. But I never did anything about it. My advice would be to do what brings you joy. Because everything else will follow.” Alex Marsh, CEO at Tweakd Episode 3

It is clear that choosing a long-term career in hospitality is a vocation – an environment rich in diversity, where there is an abundant of opportunities to learn skills that you might not learn in any other sector. Whether that is resilience, flexibility, swift problem-solving, communication, being prepared for all eventualities and even lessons in humility, there are few careers that offer such breadth and depth of experience. While there is no crystal ball, from nurturing people and relationships, to taking risks, being smarter with budgets, being bolder and taking advantage of other people’s knowledge and experience, there is clearly a lot we can learn from others and focus our passion on creating great client experiences as we go along.

‘Do what brings you joy’ seems to be a lasting sentiment– it is certainly why businesses like Zupa is developing technology to support this goal; helping reduce the pressure on day-to-day admin-heavy tasks and freeing up more time for those working in hospitality to focus on the aspects of the job they enjoy. After all, in line with one of the most common themes from our podcasts thus far, a happy, loyal and committed workforce is at the heart of all successful businesses.

If you've missed any episodes of series 1 of our Recipes for Success podcast so far, you can find them on our YouTube channel, Spotify, Apple or other podcast directories. Why not hit subscribe so you never miss a new one?