Rob Jarrett, CEO and founder of The Resort Group, gives BQ an insight into how he built the luxury hotel group and shares his top tips for aspiring business leaders.
What is it the company does?
The Resort Group plc (TRG) is a world-class luxury resort hospitality company specialising in creating five-star holiday resorts and hotels. TRG has the largest resort and hotel pipeline in the rapidly growing tourist destination of Cape Verde and is directly responsible for employing more than 1,000 people, with its UK operations based in Derby.
What does your role involve?
As founder and CEO of TRG, it’s my job to make sure we deliver on our promise to our partners and deliver world-class luxury resorts on time, on budget and to a high standard while maintaining and extending our vision to other markets and products. That means building a strong leadership team, creating a collaborative culture and making sure we all enjoy the outcomes. I have a long-term view on where The Resort Group should be and it’s my role to make sure everyone is aligned with that vision.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I began professional life at the Prudential Corporation in sales and distribution, but I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, organising my friends at school in business ventures where we could make a little extra pocket money. After working at Prudential, I decided I wanted to build my own business and moved into property development. Success breeds success in property and being able to deliver projects on time, on budget and to a professional standard meant that I was able to leverage the support of banks and investors to grow my business through projects in Spain and Canada. This is what led me to set up The Resort Group and to attract a talented leadership team to complement my skills and maximise the opportunity we see in Cape Verde, which can be replicated in other markets.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
A great leader has to have a vision and the ability to deliver on that vision through inspiring and enabling other people to make the most of their talents. This includes acknowledging your own limitations and recognising who is the best person for the job. Leadership means being able to take people with you – if everyone isn’t on board then things aren’t going to work. A vision attracts talent who can see what you are trying to achieve and want to be a part of it. It’s important to know you don’t always know best, and to make sure you are surrounded by trusted advisors who share your vision but aren’t afraid to challenge you. A good leader knows when to stop talking and start listening.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
The biggest challenge in my current job has been getting people to see my vision for Cape Verde, which is where The Resort Group has established the market for 5-star luxury hotel developments. This is not just tourists, but importantly hotel operators who can deliver the tourists. We have strategic partnerships with global operators including Melia, TUI, Hilton and Deutsche Hospitality. They had the foresight to see the Cape Verde’s potential but these are global operators, working in multiple geographies. They need to be convinced there is a market.
While awareness of Cape Verde as a holiday destination is growing rapidly, many people still don’t know where it is (it’s in the Atlantic Ocean, around 350 miles off the western coast of Africa by the way). They have a sense of what it might be like, but once you educate them on why they should go there, they are hooked. What’s not to like about 350 days of sunshine with temperatures consistently between 25°C and 30°C? Cape Verde is famous for its ‘No Stress’ mantra and laidback lifestyle, but the efforts to make people see the opportunity has definitely not been laidback.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Fortunately for me, I spend a lot of my time in Cape Verde where I can live the ‘No Stress’ lifestyle to wind down from the pressures of business when I get the chance. I am a huge music fan and relaxation for me is always going to include music and dancing. It helps being able to walk on the beach and swim in the sea as well. It certainly beats the pressures of city life where it’s hard to escape the pace of corporate business.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was very young, I wanted to be a barrister. I quickly found though that continuing my education beyond GCSEs was not for me, as I wanted to get out into the work place. That’s when I realised that a more entrepreneurial life was for me.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I’m not a big fan of meetings that don’t deliver outcomes in a focused way. There’s a real risk that corporate life becomes focused on talking shops where a lot is said but not a lot is done. I am very action-focused and a strong believer that confident decision-making leads to results, not circular debates on what to do next. Luckily, I have a leadership team who feel the same which means we get things done. The growth of The Resort Group and the quality of our partners show how much people value that.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
There is still the potential for development in Cape Verde. It’s an archipelago of several islands and we have 10 developments in the pipeline and currently under construction. We also intend to replicate our successful model and experience from Cape Verde in other jurisdictions and we are looking at the Canary Islands in particular. I think we are well positioned to expand into new destinations and five years’ time we will be well established in a number of markets. We’ve also launched Bikini Beach club, which is a new concept brand that is open to all tourists and residents on the islands and provides fantastic entertainment. We have huge ambitions for the brand with plans to launch additional beach clubs that offers a complementary offering to the all-inclusive resorts located nearby. It has been very successful since its launch and we’re confident we can transfer that success to other tourist destinations where people are looking for a luxury club experience that isn’t tied to a specific hotel. I’m confident we will have established Bikini Beach as a destination brand over the next five years.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Don’t give up. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else believe in you? At the same time, you do need to be open to feedback and surround yourself with people who share your vision but aren’t afraid to pull you up on something when they think they need to. Also attention to detail. I still get involved in the details of what we are delivering, right down to furnishings. It’s still important to me because it shows my team that I care about what we are doing and I’m not prepared to cut corners. Once you start sacrificing quality, you lose what people expect from you.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
I’m pleased that I wasn’t really offered any advice because at a very early age, given the size of the projects that I was taking on board, I’m quite convinced that people would have told me to stay with the Prudential and not realise my potential.