Published on 27 November 2012

Leading Light: David Guile of Macdonald Hotels and Resorts

2012 has been an excellent year for Macdonald Hotels and Resorts with a raft of high-profile industry awards and an ambitious investment programme already underway. CEO David Guile speaks exclusively to Hotel Industry Magazine about how he intends to lead the group into 2013 and beyond.

As CEO of the UK’s largest privately owned hotel group, David Guile is responsible for more than 45 hotels and employs over 4,400 members of staff. Strategic, unflappable and determined, Guile has grown Macdonald Hotels into one of the most recognisable brands in the five star and red four star segments.

On a recent visit to the luxurious Royal Garden Hotel, he took time out to speak with the editor of Hotel Industry Magazine.

“I like to think of myself as an inclusive leader able to empower my team,” said Guile. “I have surrounded myself with good people, and this enables us to achieve a one-team approach. I think this can then flow down into the business and reach hotel level more effectively.”

The importance of the people that make up the organisation’s various teams was a reoccurring theme throughout the interview. Interestingly, when described as the man who turned around the public perception of Macdonald Hotels, Guile immediately asserted that this was a team effort.

“Five years ago, when I took over as CEO, we set a strategy as a team that focused on the key elements that will grow the business and drive profitability: service, people and quality.

“We are still on that journey today and there is lots more I want to achieve! We have a plan for every one of our hotels in areas like developing and investing in the product, guest rooms, conference, leisure and spa facilities.”

Green Pioneer

Guile’s tenure as leader has been marked by his green credentials. Last year, the group achieved the Carbon Trust Standard and in September this year it scooped the Eco-Hotel Group of the Year Award at the AA Annual Hospitality Awards.

“Our green agenda started life five years ago when we realised that we had a great responsibility for our impact on the community and the wider environment. But when we put together our Corporate Social Responsibility policy, we found it to be a very weighty, word-heavy document.

“Instead, we wanted to launch something simpler; something everyone throughout our entire organisation could get behind. That’s when we introduced our Room 15 initiative.”

Room 15 identifies 15 commitments that the hotel group can make to reduce its impact by 15% by 2015. For example, one of the commitments reads: Improve electricity, heat and water efficiency by 15% by 2015.

“We recognised that it is essential to get buy-in at hotel level for Room 15 to work, so we placed a Green Ambassador in every department in every hotel – they then became green champions for their respective departments.

“This is a self-selecting process, and I have found that when we talk to our employees about sustainability, many are already passionate about the issue. Therefore, we have seen lots of people stepping forward to lead on this who you otherwise wouldn’t expect to.”

To keep the initiative alive, Guile has launched league tables and Best Practice Awards to keep team members engaged.

Developing the Team

At the heart of Macdonald Hotel’s success is its training and development programme, which is linked to succession planning.

“We called it Stairway to Success because is provides a progression stairway to anyone, anywhere in our business, whether they are at craft, supervisory or management level.

“We also run ILM and mentoring schemes. A good example of this is the operations manager mentoring we launched last year. My team and I each mentor someone within the organisation that we believe has the potential for general manager. Out of the 12 that started, two were just recently promoted to general manager!”

Investing for the Future

Guile recently announced a £5 million investment across the hotel, conference and meeting space portfolio. Despite the sales challenge on the meetings side of the business in recent years, Guile is keen to make a strategic investment into conference facilities.

“It is certainly true that the conference segment has been in decline over the past two or three years, but I think business is slowly coming back. So, now is the best time to invest for two reasons:

“Firstly, to steal market share and attract conference business into our units; secondly, to be in the best position to capitalise when that business does comes back.”

And, if recent investment levels are anything to go by, then it seems that Guile has no intention of letting this key opportunity slip through his fingers.

David Guile’s advice to hotel group leaders in 2013:

  1. Retain and develop your best people
  2. Challenge the way your business operates to achieve profit growth despite the current sales challenge
  3. Retain existing customers and win new ones by focusing on delivering the best guest experience

David Guile’s Business Mantra:
Surround yourself with the best people and empower them to become successful.

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