BE THE BOSS
Have you ever dreamed of running a hotel or hospitality operation? BRYAN DAVERN, General Manager of The Dean, tells us about life at the helm of one of Dublin’s hottest hospitality businesses and offers advice for building a successful career.
To be a hotel manager you have to be a multitasker. You need to be good at finance, marketing, IT, customer service, food and beverage, events and more.
Hotels are big businesses with high turnover and a large staff so you really need to be on the ball. It’s exciting and varied, but it’s hard work. You need to be very focused to succeed in this business.
I started my career in hotels while I was still at school. Growing up in Cashel you’re surrounded by tourism and I got a weekend job at the Cashel Palace Hotel as a porter. It was intimidating starting work in a luxury environment, but it’s a great place to learn.
My parents were teachers so we don’t have hotelkeeping in the blood, but somehow three of us ended up in the hotel industry. My brother Michael is Chief Executive of The K Club and another brother, Donagh, also ran five star hotels before joining CIT as a lecturer.
Both Michael and Donagh studied Hotel Management at Shannon College so it was a natural choice for me when I left school. It’s a great course and you get a good understanding of business. A number of people in my year have since diversified and gone into banking or marketing but they still use what they learned in Shannon.
Go Across Before You Go Up
All the way through my career I’ve tried to get as much experience as possible before taking thenext step on the ladder. When you’re young the temptation can be to go for promotions as quickly as possible, but it will stand to you if you get more experience in the early days. You only get a certain amount of time in your career before you start going up so take time to go across the organisation and learn different skills. Think long-term instead of short-term. All those experiences will stand to you when you get your GM position.
In Shannon you spend 21 months working in the industry – 12 months on placement in year two and nine months on trainee management placementat the end of year four. I spent my first placement in Brussels and I went to the Four Seasons Hotelin Dallas for the trainee management placement.I worked in different departments before coming back to work in what was then the Four Seasons in Dublin. It was an unbelievable experience and so exciting to travel at a young age.
You learn and see so much when you work in luxury hotels and you get to meet plenty of VIPs. I’ve met Mike Tyson – he was lovely, although you wouldn’t challenge him to an arm wrestle! – Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and others. The highlight was definitely meeting Nelson Mandela though. I will remember that forever.
Reach for the Stars
It’s great at the start of your career to get a grounding in a five star hotel as you learn how to operate at the highest level, but you shouldn’t be blinded by stars. It’s important to diversify in your career and experience all aspects of the industry.
I loved working in a big international luxury brand but when the time came for me to move on from the Four Seasons I went to Castlemartyr in Corkto get experience in an independent hotel.
I made a definite decision after Castlemartyr, which was also a five star hotel, to broaden my experience so I took a position covering maternity leave in Thistle Hotels in the UK for eight months. It was a 300-bedroom, three star hotel and it was a very commercial role so I learned a lot. You have to push yourself outside your comfort zone as you work your way up the ladder.
When I came back from the UK I did a Masters in Business Strategy & Innovation in Maynooth, then worked as a GM in Delphi Adventure Resort in Connemara and a hostel in Dublin before I was approached about the GM position at The Dean. I was extremely excited to be asked to interview. The Press Up Entertainment Group owns someof the best bars and restaurants in Dublin and it’sa really innovative company so it was agreat opportunity.
When I started in September 2014 it was stilla building site on Harcourt Street and it was great to see it all come together in time for the launchat the end of November. We opened in time forthe Christmas market and it was absolutely buzzing. It was a great experience to open such a cool place at such a busy time.
On The Move
An opening is hard work. For the first few months you work six or seven days a week but then it settles down. On an average day I start at 8.30am and work until 7pm. At 11am every day we have a briefing to discuss arrivals, customer requirements and events planned with all of the department heads. Then throughout the week I will have different meetings with different departments.
Each day I am constantly on the move. I don’t have an office so I hot desk from the lobby. It’s good as I see everything and meet everyone. I always try to do a couple of check-ins each day and bring the bags up to the room so I can meet the guests. I like being on the floor and interacting with people.
With 120 staff, 52 guestrooms, Sophie’s restaurant and The Rooftop Bar, The Lobby, The Blue Room event space and The Games Room, there is plenty to keep you occupied at The Dean. We try to do something different here – the service style is informal but we deliver beyond expectations, the uniforms are relaxed and we encourage the team to customise them to reflect their personalities. We don’t have name badges because we believe the staff should introduce themselves.
The Hot List
The Dean has been going really well since the launch and I’m enjoying it. It’s great to see it all coming together. We were listed by Condé Nast Traveller as one of the hottest new hotels to open in the world in their 2015 Hot List, which was a really big deal.There’s always a great buzz around the place.
We attract a lot of the creative industry, but The Dean is for everyone – we want it to be inclusive not exclusive. It’s really exciting to work somewhere that is so different and I love how people are so wowed when they come in for the first time.
For me, working in the hotel industry has been a great career choice. It’s exciting and rewarding. People talk about the long hours and hard work, but I think you get that in any industry now. If you worked in an accountancy practice or a law firm you would still have pressures and long hours.
Not everyone is cut out for a career in hospitality though. You definitely have to like working with people, you have to have good communication skills, you need to be a multitasker, you will need strong financial skills and be interested in trends. If you have all these characteristics, then hotels could be the right choice for you.
This article first appeared in the 2015 issue of Get a Life in Tourism.