New Chair of the Institute of Hospitality Kellie Rixon MBE FIH takes over from Robin Sheppard FIH at the next AGM, which should take place on September 10 this year. She talks to us about her plans for the Institute.
I have always been in the hospitality industry, in roles that have ranged from operations to HR, and I have worked for many big hotel companies, including De Vere and Macdonald Hotels. To me the job is about driving the performance of a business rather than managing it.
At De Vere, we created a unique hospitality school for young people across the UK. We brought some people on the cusp of society into the industry; we started with just 12 kids and by the end, had 13,000 people through the door.
In 2012, I was involved in a serious road traffic accident and my son received life-threatening injuries. In the same year, I got an MBE and a Fellowship from the Institute. That kind of experience changes everything about who you are and what you do – I did not want to spend one moment of my working life not doing somthing I love. I was done with pension reviews and managing payroll. I wanted to spend my working life helping shape the future of businesses through their people.
In 2015, we launched Rixon Associates; our aim is to help organisations articulate the culture of their business so that their values align with their productivity through engagement. Great business is all about culture and that will sustain an organisation through times of challenge; when a company’s culture is defined and strong, people feel ownership of that.
At the Institute, we must make sure the membership sees the bigger picture, so that we are driving a culture of association with and ownership of the IoH. And we need to be clear with our voice. Some representative bodies try to avoid offending anyone and take a middle ground; businesses that fall into that sectortend to be vanilla, they don’t upset anyone but they don’t inspire them either.
We want people to know who we are and what we are about: this is our direction of travel. We will aim for chartered status and this will be a kitemark for the industry so that members are proud Fellows, and we will make sure there is recipricol value. People’s desire to belong to an established organisation varies according to where they are in their career, and sometimes they sign up because it is the right thing to do; that is head over heart – we need more heart.
We also want to get more out of our young dynamic, entrepreneurial members – people who don’t generally want to be part of an establishment. I want to get members re-engaged with the Institute; every new Fellow should donate a day a year to pass on their experience to hospitality operators. Mentoring is important and there is a growing need to go back to grass roots values.
Some have suggested that the perception of the Institute is an old boys’ club, a bit corporate; I want to make sure we demonstrate how inclusive and diverse we are. We have to change that perception and I see it as my responsibility to do that and clear the way for others – I owe it to my industry and that would be a legacy to be proud of.