Ulster Business speaks to Ciaran O'Neill, managing director of the Bishop's Gate Hotel in Londonderry
The dog alarm goes off closely followed by my wife’s alarm, 30 seconds later. We have four Shih Tzu and a Great Dane. Even when the time changes, the dogs seem to know, which is bizarre. Breakfast is a glass of orange juice and a piece of fruit. I either head straight to work or I do the doggy day care drop off. The kids are at university, so those joyful school runs are a thing of the past.
I’ll check in on breakfast at the hotel, chat to customers and then I’m off to reception where you’re always guaranteed a smile. That also means it’s time to collect the mail and head to the office.
I’ll review the calendar to see what the scheduled part of the day holds. Planned meetings could range from welcoming a high-profile politician to the hotel, to meeting a potential new supplier. Digital communication has become such a critical part of our business. It’s important to address it in a timely manner. I’ll check emails, bookings, reviews and other general management correspondence that is conducted online. I’ll also spend time making any follow up calls that are required.
This is when hotel meetings happen with suppliers, agents, tour operators, managers or I might need to hold a conference call with my business partner. Although I’m now the owner of Bishop’s Gate Hotel and not the manager, I haven’t lost my attention to detail, so I’ll still conduct an inspection of the hotel.
This involves checking the rooms, speaking with housekeeping, chatting to the chefs and kitchen staff, checking that the bins have been emptied and seeing how front of house are getting on.
This is dedicated office time to catch up on the strategic aspects of the business: best practice, alliances, innovation, links with other service providers, tourism bodies and local authorities. I’m also chairman of a school board of governors and I sit on four external boards so reading papers and following up on commitments from meetings can rapidly fill a diary.
A visit back to reception to see what arrivals are due and what the next few days of business looks like. Hotels are complicated, with so many third parties controlling your business it’s critical that you stay on top of this and regularly take stock. I’ll also visit the restaurant and bar to make sure everything is operating smoothly.
Normally my wife Anne Marie calls to see if I am coming home for dinner and reminds me that I don’t live at Bishop’s Gate.
I get home and reheat the wonderful dinner that I promised I would be home for at 6pm and we get to spend some time watching catch up television.
A quick walk for the dogs, though they can be very hard to drag away from the fire. Before going to bed I’ll do a quick diary check to see what tomorrow holds. Hotel life leaves little time for hobbies.
Every day is different and with people at the forefront of our business it is important to speak to and more importantly to listen to customers. A glance at my weekly analytics report tells me that I spend four hours and 28 minutes on average on my phone, take 6,400 steps and allocate 38% of my week to my Outlook calendar.