Kevin Wood is the Managing Director of Forest Park Country Hotel in the UK. Kevin talks to us about his journey into the Hospitality sector and recounts how he bought a struggling business in California and increased its turnover, tenfold.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
A Spring Break trip from university to Torquay started a desire to not only move location but change direction. I took a gap year from Sheffield Uni while studying Engineering to work in hospitality on the South Coast. I started working for two very talented business partners and quickly moved up the ranks to the top job in their diverse portfolio. The rest is history and, although we've not always worked together, I'm currently a business partner of the same guys running our latest country house project Forest Park in the New Forest, together we make the dream team.
What kind of work does your role involve?
My role in someways is everything to everyone within the hotel. Mainly I drive the business forward, keep up with the trends and make new ones. I am very hands-on and manage all marketing, social media, revenue management, finances and, alongside my GM, the smooth running of the operation and well-being of our team.
What gets you excited about your industry?
I love opportunities to be creative. It's an industry that is consistently on the move. The ever-changing ideas to give the general public different experiences in hospitality excite me. The changing styles, foods and concepts are invigorating along with technology within the operation. The end-product of which is ever-changing and ever-improving the customer experience.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
My parents brought me up with a good work and moral ethic and often told me you don't get anything for nothing. In my case, this has been true, and it's driven me to work hard to enjoy the things in life that give me joy.
I've also been told many times by my current partners about being "constantly vigilante". This concerns many things in the operation that continuously need to be checked and corrected, periodically and forever!
What, or who inspires you?
People inspire me. I watch with admiration, particularly at this current moment during the pandemic where friends, family and employees dig deep. Captain Tom is a great example, and the many thousands of good people who find the drive, compassion and goodness to help, survive and support each other. It's easy to look at the press and see so much bad in the world. I try and focus on the good and be part of it; there will always be more of this.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
I love to travel and have a keen, sharp eye. This is generally how I keep up to speed with what's happening in the hospitality industry. There are obvious publications that give great information, and many of my colleagues have similar mindsets. It also helps to be perceptive with current mood and trends in society when looking to be part of the future.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
A monumental move lock stock n barrel to California with 10K in my pocket at 30 years old has to be at the top, although there have been many. I had to create a whole new life, find a home, build a business, build credit and make a social network.
I managed to buy up a bankrupt awning manufacturing and installation business in Santa Cruz. I knew nothing about sewing, welding or design drawing, let alone installing huge steel structures or speaking Spanish (all employees were Central American). I quickly cracked on, went to school, learned Spanish and self-taught myself the business before eventually increasing turnover tenfold in just 5 years.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
I'd buy my parents a bungalow in Ferndown, support some smaller localised charities, and bring forward my plan to move to Spain.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
Being honest, I don't. Once I'm through the door, I settle in, put my iPad in my chair, have dinner and a glass of red wine, and get to work on communications I've had since leaving work, as well as the business social media. We are all so accessible these days with social media, and I've always been hot on responding to people. It's something I would not recommend!
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
I'd like to see hospitality work get the recognition and respect it deserves. Working in hospitality is an exceptionally skilled job if done correctly.
At Forest Park, the high level of customer service is what keeps us at the top. To have the skills and knowledge to deliver the quality and service excellence people seek is not easy. There are many countries worldwide where a restaurant or bar job is not only respected but desirable. Knowing how to interact with some many differing personalities is a skill that's so hard to get!
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
Ok, I'm going to plump for a book to read on holiday, this one I did read on a trip to Ho Chi Min City, though it will be a great book to read anywhere. The book is Saigon - an epic novel of Vietnam by Anthony Grey.
How should people connect with you?
You can connect with me via www.ForestPark-hotel.co.uk or Kevinw@forestpark-hotel.co.uk.
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