Scott Harper of Malmaison
Scott Harper, chief operating officer of leading hotelier Malmaison, catches up with BQ to tell us all about life at the boutique hotel chain and talk all things management...
What does your role at Malmaison involve?
I am responsible for the day to day operations of Malmaison as well as agreeing and implementing brand strategy and delivering the bottom line. It means my days are really varied, working with marketing, sales, operations, finance, human resources, health & safety, maintenance, purchasing and projects.
What were you doing prior to joining the business?
After gaining an Honours Degree in Catering Administration at the University of Huddersfield, I became a management trainee working in the South West before deciding to go abroad. I ended up working in the Caribbean, which was an absolute career defining time – it was an inspirational, challenging and amazing experience, from both a cultural and business perspective.
On leaving the Caribbean, my first experience of the brand was with Malmaison Newcastle. I then went to work in London before joining Malmaison Manchester as general manager in 2004. I have been with the brand ever since, working my way up to my current position.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Resilience, enthusiasm, empathy and the ability to admit when they have got it wrong are qualities that can go a long way with a team. Leadership is about bringing people along with you on the journey.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
We have been bought and sold twice since I took up this position so it is always a personal challenge to ensure that you adapt to the different management cultures. I have always approached change with an open mind and see it as an opportunity to hone different skills and approaches. For me the changes have been positive in both cases and have helped my personal development.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
A long time ago I fell out with my wife about always talking about work issues at home – so I tend not to talk shop at home and this helps me focus on the family and gives the mind a break from work. I find this space gives me the opportunity to reflect and approach each day, each challenge with a fresh perspective. I like to read, work out – though a lot of that is more heavy lifting in the garden – and I love watching my kids play rugby and football at the weekend. I’ve learnt how important it is to have this balance.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
The first memory I have of thinking about a career was when I suggested to my Dad that I wanted to be a session bass guitar player.
Any pet hates in the workplace?
Rules for the sake of rules – I think sometimes these can be more of a hindrance than a help, and nothing grinds my gears more!
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Never give up, be tenacious, and follow through on what you believe in. Listen, learn and ensure you always work with integrity. Finally, do the simple things well with care, consistency and passion.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Never assume because you have asked somebody to do something they have done it – check for understanding, check they know how to go about doing it and check it has been done with an open ended question and perhaps some evidence.