Will Oakley: General Manager, Cobbler’s Cove

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My Native Admission Statement: I am experienced in luxury hospitality, I continuously look for new challenges within a business. I am flexible and level-headed, and lead from the front, with strengths in project management, guest relationships and decision making. I bring a dynamic, individualistic approach to running Hotels, through quality and style. I am creative, confident, loyal and passionate about people with experience across multi cultures. I actively encourage entrepreneurial autonomy throughout my teams and encourage people to step outside their comfort zone. - https://www.cobblerscove.com/

How did you get into the industry? 

I joined the Savoy Group of Hotels & Restaurants in London as a Management Trainee and started my working life as a butcher atSmithfield Market in East London. Over the 5 years, I worked my way through all departments in the group working at The Savoy, Claridges, The Connaught, The Berkeley and The Lygon Arms. After graduating from the course I joined The Lanesborough in my first Management position.

Within a year I had decided that I wanted to be part of something more unique and boutique. I joined Firmdale hotels and worked with them for a number of years taking up my first GM position with them before moving to be General Manager at the Halcyon Hotel in London which was a 5-star boutique townhouse hotel. I have continued to work for Private Family owned businesses ever since.

Career advice to those in your industry?  

It is essential that you gain departmental experience on the journey to General Management. Join an apprenticeship based training course and at some point, you will make a decision where you specialize.  It’s also important to touch or experience as many aspects of the business as best as you can: To know the characters that are involved in providing the service delivery to a hotel, the work ethic that they have, the hard work and hours that are put in.  

I’ve always been a team player and being a part of every department is an opportunity to meet characters from so many walks of life. It helps you to understand people, how to get the best out of them and in turn have them provide the best service possible.

How do you motivate others? 

Taking time whilst being goal orientated is very important to me and I believe it's also very important to people. When someone realizes that you're taking time to listen to them, get to know them, their life, family, etc, this makes a huge difference. I can tailor my responses to each of my team members' issues with understanding and fairness because I took the time to know them. This, in turn, creates genuine understanding, trust and therefore motivates that person to want to do their best because the conditions and environment in which they are working works for them as well. Creating the right boundaries is also important in motivating individuals and teams so that they know what is expected and that low productivity has a negative effect on many parties.

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Any industry opportunities or challenges?

In my current role, the biggest challenge we face is seasonality. This is especially highlighted in summer when occupancy and price is lower than in winter. However expectations of service delivery do not reduce and managing cost base becomes critical to maintaining profitability year round. Demand for summer is improving and we have to adapt our marketing strategy to reach the consumers who travel to the Caribbean in the summer months. 

What do I do best? 

Change management. This is my strength and my focus. I believe I work best under the pressure of major change and I get my greatest rush from taking a business through change and seeing the successful end result.

What makes me the best version of myself? 

Outside of my children and wife who try to slow me down and remind me of what’s important, I would say my transparency and social nature. I love people and have a genuine interest in others.

My Motto? 

Don’t be afraid to try new things, don’t be afraid of failure, you don’t always get things right the first time around. Be brave.

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