In the second of our spotlight interviews with Members who are part of our Company Sponsored Membership (CSM) we talk to Garry Baldwin FIH, Managing Director of the New Forest Collection to find out what he’s been up to.
Tell us about your current role and workplace.
I am Managing Director of the New Forest Collection, heading up a great team of hospitality focussed professionals, excellent general managers and a well-rounded executive team of advisors and leaders in their field. We have five venues across the beautiful New Forest National Park each with their own unique identity yet all with our natural approach to hospitality. We have two grade II listed manor houses, a Georgian dower house, a coaching inn with its own pub restaurant and a Victorian village hide-away. A real collection of hospitality venues across the national park, we are family owned and continue to drive these family values across our portfolio, welcoming your family into ours.
What makes The New Forest Collection a great place to work?
We are building our collection and teams at this time to incorporate our new and improved values, incorporating Bravery, Trust, Ownership and Communication. Our location is a real draw yet being close enough to key south coast city’s such as Winchester, Bournemouth and Southampton… we believe we provide the ‘fresh air’ to people’s lives. We have the usual benefits such as Hospitality Action EAP, Perk-box treats for team members, health care discounts as well as those a little more unique like your birthday off and we will be re-growing social and green committee’s following this lockdown to stay focused on our team community and our wider environment. The people in our team really make it a great place to work though.
Did you always want to work in hospitality when you were growing up?
For some reason me and hospitality just clicked, my grandfather once spoke to me about careers and his view was that people will always want to eat, so, should be a job for life, he also suggested similar about becoming an undertaker, safe to say I chose hospitality! I always wanted to be a chef, that’s the path originally took at college but soon realised that I personally found direct guest interaction a little more rewarding but still kept my positive attitude for cookery, love of fresh ingredients and good food!
You have had an extremely exciting and successful career, what does it take to get to the top in this industry?
All careers have their ups, downs and challenges, its about riding these waves, making some yourself and keeping positive. Learn as much as you can from every situation, and keep enjoying what you do; take time to reflect and always listen to your team, managers and those taking the time to talk to you. I’m certainly very fortunate to be where I am, I never take anything for granted. You get to the top by believing in yourself, working hard and trusting in the team you work with. Take time to find inspiration in everyone you work with and learn from experiences, take time to listen.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in hospitality?
Got for it! It’s so diverse, it’s a great community that is so rewarding. Yes, we all hear about long hours and low pay, but the hours are there when people are enjoying themselves, trust me those that work in hospitality often know how to have a great time outside of the usual weekend! And as for money, life is not always about a rate per hour, we often forget that opportunity, work environment, variety, balance and benefits (including those important gratuities) all play a part in a career in this industry.
You’ve already worked with some fantastic people, who has inspired you the most during your career so far?
I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some great leaders and those that inspire me, but also some great team mates. My previous role had me working with some great industry stalwarts including the ever-fabulous Giovanna Grossi and consummate professional in Alistair Sandall – The AA allowed me to work on a number of hospitality focussed panels in the past from People 1st, Springboard to Caterer, this and the job itself gave me great opportunity and I was able to work closely with many industry leaders and excellent organisations. I’ve taken Inspiration from plenty of Industry colleagues, some may even be reading this, they know who they are.
In terms of those that inspire me the most, that has to come down to the team I work with now, the COVID-19 situation enabled us to change quickly, we took advantage of a crisis and as a senior team had come together stronger than before… its these people that inspire me greatly and have kept me focussed at this time with a real sense of togetherness.
How have things been for New Forest Hotels during the pandemic?
In a word, difficult. We need to be honest about these things and although fortunate to utilise Furlough, we like many businesses were not eligible for much of the government support and those we did get we soon utilised to stay in business. I work with a great Finance Director, Nathan Pick, who went above and beyond in keeping any grants vs expenditure under control whilst ensuring cashflow was well plotted. Our belts were truly tightened and innovation to keep a viable business for now and the future was the discussion of many of our strategic meetings. We have learnt quickly to adapt, to slow down, to speed up and to change; all in a short period of time whilst keeping safe, profitable, adapting to closures, openings and rules etc. It’s been a real rollercoaster of emotions. So great to see hope on the horizon, with hotels and restaurants filling up and our forecasting looking good.
During the pandemic we continued our already started journey of re-branding and firming up our purpose, mission and values; we’ve got some small refinement to do now that our teams are back, but our marketing and people team certainly pulled out all the stops here and we have a great brand story that quite nicely encapsulates growth (in nature and a business) and of course our great location.
What have you missed most about ‘normal life’ in hospitality?
It’s having the hotels busy, working at a pace that focusses on guests day in day out, with the teams working hard to service this. Last year brought a high level of business inconsistency with opening, closing etc. Our teams and managers did a great job, but the uncertainty certainly played its part, would we be told to close tomorrow, what’s the next rule to follow etc. I very much look forward to projects to finalise, teams to develop, standards to make consistent and just talking and being with our teams, I am certainly looking forward to this well ahead of COVID-19 risk assessment writing and pandemic decision making.
How have you kept your staff motivated during this time?
Keeping teams motivated has been a challenge across our industry, we decided that communication was the key here and tasked all GM’s and appropriate department heads to keep in touch, after all, its good to talk! For those wanting to read updates we provided updates via our people team, but also provided updates via FLOW (our e-learning and comms platform). For those wanting to learn, we provided the opportunity to complete a suite of online courses, with mixed success. We offered complimentary yoga classes and obviously kept support through Hospitality Action EAP and our team Perkbox benefits.
Recently we completed a ‘get-fit get-ready’ initiative, developed by our Head of People, Jo Llewellyn, where we virtually met with our teams and set challenges with walking the average departmental steps a day, on top of that we set mental challenges from quizzes of new forest facts and renaming our people e-platform. Great fun and got a good proportion of the team getting ready!
New Forest Collection is one of our Company Sponsored Members, why is it important to you to offer some of your leadership team membership?
It’s about a sense of network, we all lead busy lives and opportunity from the institute of hospitality allows our team to read, keep up to date, join discussion and stay abreast of whats going on. We can often lead blinkered lives as we all work hard in our respective roles, the link to IoH gives real, current and professional advice paired with personal learning and development opportunities.
How has being an IoH Member helped your career?
I’ve been a member since college, to be honest, I really didn’t know what I was signing up for then; it seemed the right thing to do and we all did it. It wasn’t until university that I really saw the benefits of the network and the resources available. Articles could be researched and sent on, proving an invaluable part of my university life. Membership throughout my career has seen support from job searches, informative articles and the wider network of the institute. It really is the stamp of a hospitality professional, and now in an exciting new chapter, it’s so positive how as an organisation it has adapted during the pandemic much like we have a real sign of an organisation FOR the industry.
You are a Fellow of IoH, what does that mean to you personally?
Personally, I see being a Fellow as an opportunity to promote the industry, to be visible both in your own organisation but also within your own network. Now more than ever, we should be promoting the benefits of working, living and breathing hospitality and being a Fellow is one way this can be done. Networking is a key part of this but so too is giving back… in the pandemic I’ve attended a good number of collaborative Zoom meetings, but also spoken to universities and been part of student Q&A’s – all of which has been great and helped me personally stay focused whilst giving something back.