Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another

Kensington Close Hotel

I have often talked about hotels that had soul, a deeply installed ethos that resulted in a place being that little bit special. Well the Kensington Close, or KCH, certainly had no soul whatsoever when I joined. It was a dour place, unloved, uncared for, it was somewhere where the only motivation was the ability to make money. Now that is not to say that it did not have good people within, it most certainly did, but this was the hotel where I really learned a lesson that has stayed with me since. The top of the tree dictates. This was a hotel where the top of the tree only had eyes on the cash, and the very small branch next to the top was even worse.
Let me explain outside of using metaphors, the owner was a hard businessman, a successful businessman, and someone who would walk over anyone to get what he wanted, some might call it ruthless, I would just put it this way, he was a success by any means required. However the real negative was the one who thought he was the boss, but without any realistic knowledge, he was nothing but a recurring obstacle.
The hotel itself is not bad, the health club, the swimming pool, the restaurants, the garden and the conference spaces gave the hotel some real assets. The rooms were okay, if a little bland. Too many years being a Posthouse (an old Forte Brand). And like so many London hotels too many rooms were just too small, plus with no air-conditioning and no real saleable features this was a tough proposition. I was only there a year, but in that time learned some really valuable lessons. However I seriously doubt, no matter how successful we may have been, that I would have lasted much longer, it is not the style of the place to have people around for very long.
One thing I did really like, and gained a lot of satisfaction from was building the sales team I did. I do get a massive satisfaction from seeing young people grow and develop and that was one of the best things about the KCH. I recruited young, relatively inexperienced people, and they all played a part in the growth of the hotel over the year. I know all these years later that most are still in the industry and have build good careers for themselves. But as easy as it is to build a successful sales team, it is even far easier to destroy one, and in the end that is what the little branch did within a very short time. While the satisfaction of building a team is great, the sadness of seeing one ruined within weeks is a stronger emotion, seeing your work pulled down is immensely disappointing.
I joined the hotel because of one man, Mr. Paul Schnepper, a true London hotel legend, he was my GM at the Strand Palace and at the Cumberland, he knew what he would get from me, and I knew what he would want and what he would allow. I may never have been his best, or favorite, salesperson, but he knew I would get the job done. Looking back on parts of my working life, he has been both a real mentor, and a real pain in the ass. But I am who I am, due in no small part to him and for that, even with the downsides, I will forever be grateful.
This was the hotel that really thought me about two big areas of the business, firstly Food & Beverage, and secondly the value of the internet. I also gained a lot from the Conference facility and in a small way from the Health Club. So although I was only there a year, I believe I got at least three years experience and learning from the place. So without hesitation, the KCH was good for me.
The KCH was certainly not my favorite hotel, nor was it my worst hotel or working experience, that honor goes to the Kensington Forum, but it was somewhere where I learned the importance of the hotels owner. The brands, like Forte, who I have worked for had pluses and minuses, but the importance of the owner on the independents I have worked for has proven to be such a major factor in the success or otherwise of my hotels. And at the KCH, albeit that I did not know this at the time, the influence of the owner was a real lesson that would serve me even greater in later years. Would I stay in the hotel? Well even now the answer would have to be yes, it is a good honest hotel that serves its guests well, would I ever work there again? Well knowing now what I do, the answer again would be yes, it would be a challenge that has a lot of appeal, but somehow I doubt the opportunity would ever be presented to me. Ce La Vie.

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© 2008 Paul Kavanagh. All rights reserved.