By Gillian McKenzie
DEDICATION, commitment and an ability to adapt to changing conditions are among the characteristics Steve Graham displayed when he ran the London Marathon last month.
But then they are qualities the Manorview Hotels & Leisure Group boss draws upon on a daily basis running his business.
Since Manorview’s inception 11 years ago, Steve has steadily built a portfolio which now numbers nine hotels, as well as five pubs and two nightclubs in central and southern Scotland – his ability to react to market and economic conditions underpinning the way in which he has built the business.
And it continues to shape the way the company is growing going forward.
“The business has changed so much, even in five years,” said Steve when SLTN caught up with him at the group’s Bowfield Hotel & Country Club in Howwood last month.
“When I think back to 2013 when we won the SLTN [Entrepreneur and Independent Multiple Operator] Awards, we were growing rapidly; there were so many opportunities because of the financial downturn. There’s not so much of that now.
“And I think the weakness of the pound has seen a lot of overseas investment come into Scotland, particularly in hotels. I always knew the market would change so we had to fill our boots at the time and I’m glad we did.
“We still have aspirations to expand but just now it’s about how we grow what we have.
“We don’t need to acquire to grow; we’ve enough to develop out for another three years without acquiring any more.
“It’s important that what we have is sustained.”
There’s no shortage of projects in the pipeline.
Bowfield Hotel & Country Club in Howwood, which Manorview acquired in 2012, is currently undergoing a phased refurbishment, the next stage of which will see a 30-bedroom extension added to the property.
Cornhill Castle in Biggar, acquired by Manorview two years ago, is in line for the addition of 15 bedrooms and seven lodges; the Redhurst in Giffnock, which it bought in 2013 when it acquired the nearby and subsequently fully-remodelled Busby Hotel, has also been earmarked for a full refurbishment; there are also revamps planned for its Lynnhurst hotel in Johnstone and the Star & Garter in Linlithgow, which Manorview bought in late 2016.
And it’s not just its properties in which Manorview is continuing to invest.
The company, which turned over more than £15 million in its last financial year, has ramped up its focus on the near 600 staff it employs.
The range of qualifications available – and number of people completing them – at its training academy, which employs two full-time SVQ assessors, continues to increase; the company is in the process of developing the ‘Manorview Way’ – a set of guiding principles designed to improve consistency across its venues; it’s also enhancing staff retention through its HeartCount Fund – a profit share initiative through which it allocates 10% of its pre-tax profits to qualifying team members.
“We are doing as much as we can to develop our staff, to give them a career path,” said Steve.
“We can’t lose sight of what’s got us here.
“It’s so important we keep good people in the business – good housekeepers, cleaners, chefs, managers.
“The company is at the size now where we need to focus even more on the team and the assets so we’ve got strong foundations in place.
“There will be further opportunities for acquisition going forward. I’m always looking but there’s not many bargains at the moment and I like a bargain!
“It is tough at the moment; we’re working hard to control costs and drive sales.
“I’m grateful we’re going in the right direction and the numbers are up.”