Meet the Independent Hotel Show Awards winners: GM of the Future Karen Weisheit
Independent Hotel Show sits down with Karen Weisheit, Hotel Manager at Grove of Narberth and winner of GM of the Future, in partnership with The Master Innholders, at the 2022 Independent Hotel Show Awards, to learn more about her career, the award-winning Grove of Narberth, and her passion for the industry.
Image: Karen Weisheit with Dan Rose-Bristow, Chairman of The Master Innholders (left) and Independent Hotel Show Event Manager Glenn Wallace (right).
How did it feel to win the GM of the Future award?
It was a huge surprise! To be shortlisted with such a talented group of people was a true honour and I can honestly say it caught me completely by surprise to win – I am thrilled to have won. At Grove of Narberth and in the wider Seren group, we quietly get on with what we are doing, providing the best for our guests, and pursuing our goal of being a great place to work and where everyone has opportunities to learn, grow and be happy. I joined the company five years ago and have learned so much, and I know I have so much more to learn. We are always reminded not to rest on our laurels as a company, there is always more we can do, new ideas to put in place , and that is the same for self-development. It was brilliant to win this award, but the hard work has only just started.
How did you first get into the hotel sector, and when did you realise you wanted to pursue a career in the industry?
I began helping my dad at family parties when I was in my early teens, making cocktails and checking his guests were happy. That’s what made me think that maybe I could do this for a living. I then went to Austria for a three-year apprenticeship, and it really is true, with hospitality, you can travel the world, meet extraordinary people, and work with inspirational characters in inspiring environments. I have been lucky to work in some incredible environments.
What do you enjoy about working in an independent hotel?
Independent hotels rely on team members being personable with guests and learning as much as we can about them. Independent hotels also know everything about their team members. My experience has been that you’re treated like an individual, and you’re encouraged to treat your colleagues and staff as individuals. Independent hotels are nimble and have the agility to make decisions quickly and introduce new procedure without being hampered by red tape.
The Grove of Narberth was recently awarded 5 AA Red Stars at the AA Awards and UK Hotel of the Year at the 2022 Catey Awards in July, what do you think contributed to this success?
Guest experience is as the heart of everything we do - from finding out their likes and dislikes, to the reason for their stay, and much, much more. We empower our team to think about our guests needs and go the extra mile for them – we of course get the basics right first, but it’s the extra personal touches that help us stay in a guest’s memory. We also never stand still, and are always looking to make positive changes wherever we can, for example, during the lockdowns we carried on with our room renovation works, adding incredible glass boxes to suites outside which help to bring the wonderful gardens into the rooms.
What advice would you give people working in the industry hoping to move up the ranks and stand out from the crowd?
Passion, be passionate. Give everything you do show the care and attention it deserves. It is easy to overlook the entry-level jobs in hospitality, but without caring and passionate people in roles that are busy washing plates, or cleaning rooms, it makes everything else in the business so much harder. Respect the roles of your colleagues, show understanding and compassion for their own stresses and strains in their job role. Learn from the people around you, the industry is full of humans from all walks of life who have their own stories to tell. From their stories you can learn important and valuable lessons. You don’t stand out from the crowd by shouting about yourself and how great you are. You move up in well-run organisations by getting the job done effectively and efficiently, and by recognising the hard work of people around you. We must all be team players.
What do you think makes a good leader and manager in the hotel sector?
For me it is all about time, whether that’s having time for guests or for your colleagues. Sometimes during the day it can feel like you have everything coming at you, but it’s important to remember we are in the people business, we want to make people happy and a great leader can help a person achieve their happiness. Give credit where credit is due – I know it’s never “my” success, and the success that I may have now as being “GM of the Future” is actually the success of all the people around me today and in the past, who have taught me and shared with me their life lesson and skills. Never forget to empower and enable the people around you to achieve their goals.