We asked some of Scotland’s Top GM’s to give Hotel Scotland some background on themselves and their views on the industry. This focus is on Richard Small – GM of Auchrannie Resort, which has just become Employee-owned.
RICHARD SMALL GENERAL MANAGER – AUCHRANNIE RESORT, ISLE OF ARRAN
Tell us a little about yourself and your experience. I.e. how long have you been in your current role and what did you do before and qualifications?
I’ve worked at Auchrannie for a total of 24 years and really did work my way up to the top.
I started whilst still at school, becoming a kitchen porter during the summer holidays, not thinking for one minute either that the company would grow to what it is now or I would be general manger.
After school I went to college to train to become a chef, working part time in a hotel in Fort William whilst I did this. I then returned to college to do hotel management, working part time back at Auchrannie to help fund my studies.
Once I finished college I took on various full times roles at Auchrannie, leaving for a short time to take up a front of house role in Glasgow city centre.
When the opportunity to return to Arran arose, I couldn’t resist. I returned as Reception Manger and from there worked my way up to take over the GM role back in 2007 and that’s where I’ve remained for the last 10 years. 10 years in the same role might sound a long time, however the role has evolved so much as Auchrannie has grown during that period.
What drove you to choose your career path?
I spent most of my school holidays here on Arran, where my grandparents ran various hotels. So, even as very young child I was exposed to the industry. As I was growing up I just knew hospitality was the right path for me and I’ve managed to stick to that path ever since.
What do you actually spend the majority of your time doing?
Most of my day is spent meeting with the team – developing the guys is a big part of my role. Auchrannie is also a product that never stands still so a large amount of time is organising the next round of refurb or planning the next stage of our development. Of course, you’ll also find me on the floor meeting and greeting our guests or serving in one of the restaurants when things get busy.
What misconceptions do people often have about your job?
I think a lot of people still think of Auchrannie as a small country house hotel rather than the full scale resort that it is. Most people are surprised when you tell them we are a 65 acre site with 115 rooms and lodges, 3 restaurants and bars, a spa and an adventure centre; and that we now employ almost 180 people.
What are your average work hours?
I’m in the business about 45 hours a week; which compared to many GMs is very little. However a big part of the Auchrannie ethos is all about work/life balance. If I didn’t have such a strong team I would be working a lot more! Of course, I don’t think any GM really switches off and even if I’m on a day off or on holiday I am still very much connected to what’s going on within the business.
What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?
Don’t take shortcuts! The job is definitely easier if you surround yourself with a strong team, over the years Auchrannie’s reputation has grown making it easier now to attract really good people. The more good people I have in the business the easier it is to manage.
What do you do differently from your co-workers or peers in the same profession?
I am fortunate to work for a privately owned company where every decision can be made locally and without too much involvement from too many others. We totally embrace the culture of team development on a much greater scale than most other hospitality businesses and I think that makes us stand out from others.
What’s the most enjoyable part of the job? What is the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it?
The best part of the role is seeing the team grow and develop. Over the last couple of years especially we have seen so many of the team move upwards within the business which goes to prove that all our investment in the team is paying dividends. There is nothing about the job that I don’t enjoy, but of course we all have our off days, even me!
What are you proudest of or what was your proudest moment?
The proudest moment was becoming GM at Auchrannie back in 2007; as well as that I’m extremely proud of the fact that I have been a part of such an awesome company for so long. Linda Johnston (Auchrannie’s owner) has given me a unique opportunity not only to manage the day to day operation but to play a key role in every decision that is made about the direction we take the business.