A long-standing senior manager with the ALH Group in WA, under Colin's tenure the venue portfolio grew from 10 venues to 30 venues with the purchase of several well-known WA pubs including the Hyde Park, The Saint George Hotel, the Leisure Inn and the purchase of the Compass Hotel Group. His venue portfolio attracted a significant number of awards from the AHA, including a National award for the best redeveloped venue (Hyde Park). Colin was principally involved in planning & designing multi-million dollar redevelopments of the key venues to incorporate the Dan Murphy’s liquor store brand:
- Hyde Park
- Highway Hotel Bunbury
- Bull creek Tavern
And led the team which refurbished Compass venues;
- Herdsman Tavern
- Kalamunda Hotel
- Greenwood Tavern
- Peel Alehouse
- Brighton Tavern
Leadership and learning
What are the most important traits that every leader should possess?
- Communicate the vision, goals and objectives of the organisation, then ensure that everyone is on side and intellectually feed them to achieve results.
- Create and enable a culture of achievement; pick the right people.
- Exude aspiration and optimism.
- Be brave when making the right yet unpopular decisions for the benefit of the organisation and the people within it; despite the pressure from people with a vested self-interest in a soft outcome.
- Be prepared to be flexible to achieve the company objectives.
- Set a benchmark in your own performance as an example to your team of what is required.
- Don't believe your own press: leadership is a responsibility, not an ego trip.
- Continue to challenge the status quo to ensure that you get the right result.
Who has been most influential in your career and why?
2 people have been influential in my career for very different reasons:
My Mother was influential in giving me the example of someone who achieved despite the adversity of circumstance, society and cultural norms. She instilled in me the virtues of ‘Philotimo’ which permeates who I am, what I stand for and how I conduct myself.
Allan was instrumental in coaching, mentoring and challenging me to achieve as a manager and a leader.
How do you stay relevant and current in your knowledge?
I have always read and studied. I consciously continue this daily habit. I engage in conversation and listen to alternative points of view to assist in forming my own. As part of my thirst for knowledge, I continually view and review new and different innovations that I seek out.
Moments in time
What are the two most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from or got you where you are today?
I have chosen to share only one as it was a big one!
Compass Group Takeover by the ALH Group
In the 2nd week of November 2011, our WA Office was given 2 weeks' notice on the takeover of the Compass venues. There was little or no time to develop a succinct takeover plan for the 8 venues which increased our portfolio size by 40%. The venues had been managed on a caretaker basis for the previous 2 years and there were serous shortfalls in suitable staff, venue condition, management capabilities and morale - only 2 of the 8 venues were turning a profit. Given the time constraints there was little assistance that could be afforded to us in terms of people power from our national office.
To tackle the situation I established a ‘Brains Trust’ of the best people resources I had in the company. We formed our priority list and battle plan and then threw away the rule book for three months. To enable the transition I involved all stakeholders to the plan: Venue Managers, Senior Assistant Managers and Senior Administrators. I adopted a ‘5 Minute Manager’ approach to operations from top to bottom and set about constantly reviewing our progress.
Within 12 months only 2 former Compass venues were not making a profit. The majority of management teams within the Venues were being managed by new or promoted talent. We had changed operations and organisational culture. I was completely exhausted!
Always recognise the potential of the people that you have and reward them by empowering them and affording them responsibility. It is incredible what you can achieve with the resource you have if you are imaginative, innovative and committed to a vision. The final lesson afforded to me personally during the takeover was that when the going gets tough; I am there for my team.
Tell me about a time when things didn’t go to plan. How did you fix it? What did you learn?
Venue Manager Appointment Southwest
I approved the voluntary transfer and appointment of one of my existing Venue Managers to a position in the Southwest. The appointment was made on the back of the demonstrated track record this Venue Manager had at delivering results and that they were willing and able to tackle a new adventure.
In approving the transfer I did not factor into consideration the reaction that the community, patrons, staff and officials would have to the appointment of a female Venue Manager to this property. I believed that gender equality issues were no longer an issue in a commercial environment. Although the Venue Manager ably delivered on results achieving significant change both in culture and profitability, the personal and emotional cost to that Manager was not worth the organisational profit afforded. I transferred a male Manager to the Venue, putting an end to the upheaval.
Whilst this dedicated and capable female Manager remained employed with us for some time as a valuable contributor, operationally the Venue took time to find its acceptance within the community.
When considering the capabilities required for a person to be successful in a position do not make your decision based purely on ability, consider the impact of environmental factors when deciding on a ‘best fit’ approach for a position. Always put the right people in the right positions and don’t be afraid to move them if the environmental pressures determine that your first ‘best fit’ decision was not the right one. People flourish when capabilities, passion and environment are aligned. Unsettle one and the winning formula is jeopardised.
How do you stay motivated?
Motivation comes naturally to me. Where there is an opportunity that I can visualise that I can make a difference - I am sold. When the lights come on and the music starts, I am already on the dance floor!
When do you think a person should make a change in their career?
When they are no longer challenged.
Your thoughts on Perth’s market
You have been exceptionally successful in hospitality, what’s your advice to someone contemplating starting their own venture?
Ask yourself: ‘Why am I doing this?’ If the answer does not involve a financial plan, then think again. Study the market, both locally, nationally and internationally to see what is new and working well and incorporate that in your plan. Take time to formulate a concise plan on your intentions covering all aspects of the business and stick to it; however be prepared to be adaptable and to adjust your plan as your venture develops. Make sure that fits within the environment in which you intend to operate, tailor or change it to suit. Answer the question truthfully , why will people patronise my venue over others?
Always consider and cover the 5 P’s
- Point of Difference
What’s your current perception of the Perth hospitality market? Where do you see its future direction?
We will see a continuation of the reduction of traditional business as we knew it. The growth in inner suburbs is in the Cafe/ Bar hybrid style venues. Big Pubs will be a thing of the past in time. Pubs and Taverns will continue to be developed organically in new areas as the suburbs develop. Restaurants will continue to struggle. Food business will continue to split into the following categories:
- Cafe/ Bars with unique food offerings
- Pubs with traditional offerings as we know it
- Franchise and Food Chains with kitsch American style offerings will continue to grow
What’s the key to making profit in this market?
Profit focus is the most critical thing in your venture. If in the worst case scenario , you can devise a break even point, then go for it. Ensure you stick to a tight budget of expenditure. Neither undercapitalise or overcapitalise the business. Provide what you need, not what you desire Always look at different avenues within the business to generate sales and ultimately profit.
What’s the most common service mistake you encounter in Perth venues?
In this new age of a multitude of products exciting innovative food we forget to ;
- Provide good basic service
- Communicate and get buy in form our patrons
- Thank them for their business
- Consider the value proposition on what we offer
Just for fun; let’s get to know you better!
Are you coffee or tea?
Tea at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Coffee in between!
Describe your perfect Sunday?
Beach for a quick dip, then out for breakfast. Spend a little time in the garden pottering, enjoying the fruits of my labour. Enjoy a light lunch followed by an afternoon siesta ;o) Sit on the porch and look up at the stars. Nye Nye.
If you could only hear one song for the rest of your life what would it be?
Twist and Shout by the Beatles. It just says it all in 2 minutes 34 seconds.
Dream home….city or country?
My dream home is most definitely in the City. I grew up on Canning Highway falling asleep listening to the hourly trucks travelling from Swan Cement to Fremantle Harbour. I can’t sleep if I don’t hear traffic.
Tomato sauce….pantry or fridge?
It's the fridge - it says refrigerate after opening on the bottle!
What's the most exciting thing you have done over the past year?
Having resigned from the ALH Group after 25 odd years, I would have to answer this question by saying that the new adventures that have been afforded to me, the time I have had available to spend with great people has seen me gain a new perspective on life.
What’s left on your bucket list that you are dying to do?
If I left tomorrow, I would be content with what I have achieved, who I have become and what I have done. However, always wanted to jump out of a plane [with a parachute]!
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