What do you currently do?
I’m the founder and CEO of Go Native Serviced Apartments, the largest operator of serviced apartments in the UK. We operate 23 blocks under a mixture of long term leases and management agreements. We offer fully furnished and equipped apartments that you can check into for a night, a week, a month or longer as easily as you could book into a hotel. Our market has been predominately corporate but is beginning to rapidly expand into leisure – people travelling for extended stays who want to be able to cook for themselves and have a lot more space. Sometimes, you can’t beat baked beans on toast in front of the telly!
What is your inspiration in business?
I’m passionate about property and really good service. Cleverly designed property, both internally and externally, can lift our senses from the mundane to something far more elevated. I heard Ian Schrager speaking at a conference in Berlin this year. When asked whether he used focus groups to determine what his hotel market wanted, he laughed explaining that people don’t know what they want until he creates it for them! The point in this that inspired me was the confidence to follow his own creative instincts without the constraint of feeling the need to look over your shoulder.
Who do you admire?
The Hong Kong Chinese entrepreneurs that I used to work for as a corporate lawyer with a British Law firm in Hong Kong. I used to sit across the table from these men and women of humble origins, many of them refugees from mainland China, inspired by their chutzpah and longing to be doing what they were doing. I determined then that I’d do the same once I figured out what I’d begin. It was many extended stays in hotels on business travel in Asia that gave me the idea for serviced apartments.
Looking back would you have done things differently?
The best lessons I’ve had have come from my mistakes, and there have been many. Some of the best have been: trust your instincts; you’re only as good as the people you employ and in a high volume, low value transactional environment; don’t underestimate the value of excellent systems and reporting. I once hired a finance director that seemed to stack up well but I had a niggling sense that all was not as it seemed. Despite that I hired him. Eighteen months later he was in prison having been convicted of theft. A tough lesson on trusting your instincts!
What defines your way of doing business?
Going the extra mile delivers exponential returns. The last 10% is generally always the hardest to deliver, that final push, but it’s what delivers the stand out results every time. That applies across everything we do whether it’s working on the designs for our buildings, the service we deliver to our guests, our corporate clients and our property investors, the thought we put into a customer journey or the time we invest in our relationships internally.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Read this whenever you feel your commitment wavering – it’s the perfect mantra for aspiring entrepreneurs:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” Goethe