Starting out in the kitchen of a local hotel aged just 15, Malcolm Hendry’s career in the hospitality industry started early. Today, Malcolm celebrates over 20 years with Red Carnation Hotels, working at The Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel, The Milestone Hotel in Kensington, and today The Rubens at the Palace and Hotel 41 in Victoria. Leading a team of over 225 employees over three properties (including bbar & restaurant), Malcolm and his team have a list of awards and accolades to be proud of, including Hotel 41 retaining the coveted Forbes five-star rating for the past four years, the Rubens at the Palace being awarded five-stars following a multi-million pound refurbishment and continued success on Tripadvisor – where Hotel 41 has been consistently voted as London’s number 1 traveller rated hotel in London for the past 10 years. We congratulate Malcolm Hendry on acheiving 'Top General Manager Worldwide' in the Luxury Travel Advisor, Awards of Excellence 2019.
We caught up with Malcolm to discuss his career, how he's spending lockdown and his thoughts on being named 'Best General Manager in the World'.
Q&A with Malcolm
How did you start out in the hospitality industry?
Like many GM’s in our industry, my story starts at a young age, I was 15 when I started working in the kitchen of my local hotel.
What has kept you in the hotel business for so many years?
I genuinely love people and working with great teams, I’ve always loved being part of a group of people. I love to work, and I love to look after people and make them feel special. I like to make people happy with both large and small gestures - I am the same at home, with family and friends.
If not a hotel General Manager, what other roles in the hotel operation do you respect and/or enjoy the most?
I have a love and respect for all roles within the operation, as I know from experience a hotel business cannot succeed unless all departments work well together. I am definitely happier in an operational role, on the ‘floor’ meeting with guests and supporting my team.
What does a great day look like for you?
Happy teams and happy guests, one cannot be achieved without the other. I enjoy receiving and sharing recognition with our teams for the hard work, care and passion that they all put into their jobs, day in and day out. Nothing makes me happier or prouder than this.
What challenges do you face as a General Manager today, that you didn’t face 10 years ago?
There are definitely higher result expectations, but this is normal as a hotel/company grows and has to compete with better and better hotels in the market every day. Sales and Marketing has also changed beyond recognition, with our digital channels now as dominating as sales and communication channels, and seemingly in a state of constant change.
There are also new and changing expectations from each generation of employee that comes through the business – younger employees expect different things from work than I did as a trainee many years ago. Sometimes different is better of course, and it’s about accepting and managing change to ultimately benefit the team and the business.
How do you motivate your team, each and every day to be the best?
I try to lead by example always, I work as hard as I can in the knowledge that I am leading a team of people who will be inspired by my actions – not just what I say but what I do, on a daily basis to take care of the team and of our guests.
Communication is everything is a hotel operation, being consistent and positive and regularly and proactively offering support. My office door is always open, but I am not often found in my office, my real office is in the hotel lobby and the lounge. Recognition and reward are key in an environment full of ‘hidden heroes’, those team members that work behind the scenes to make the operation work. A simple ‘thank you’ still has the power to make someone’s day.
What drives and motivates you every day?
An acute sense of responsibility, a strong work ethic, wanting to achieve results, wanting to be recognised and to be around people. Those that run hotels know and understand that it is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle. I am always either the first in the office in the morning or the last to leave at night.
Red Carnation Hotels are passionate about building a sustainable hotel operation, what challenges/opportunities does this pose for you and your team?
A sustainable business is difficult in hotels, so many contradictions and challenges – but this challenge gives us all a sense of common purpose, it also gives us the opportunity to change so many things for the better and to challenge the ‘way it’s always been’. I see this as something important, critical even – but at the end of the day it is just the right things to do.
How important are the relationships you hold with Luxury Travel Advisors today?
Just vital. This community plays a huge part in helping us be a successful and a well-run, caring hotel, we are not only looking after our own guests, we are also responsible for looking after the clients of our advisors. This industry is an eco-system and we cannot operate without each other, which is why we always stick together – in the good times and the more challenging, such as the difficult days we are facing now…plus you will never find a more fun, friendly and well-travelled bunch than the travel advisor community.
Do you get to travel much with your job?
Regularly around London, but I am happy in a role that allows me to be a hands-on GM, and lucky enough to work with others that are happy to do the travelling. I love to travel, but not for work, I like to be present and available for the team and for our guests. I know that our Luxury Travel Advisors like knowing that I am here and available to meet and greet their clients when they arrive at the hotel.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the hospitality business today?
Work hard, look to do the extra little bits, build good relationships with guests and the people that you work with, and enjoy this incredible industry. If you stop enjoying things, then look to do something else!
What type of people do you look for when recruiting for your hotel?
I guess it’s the same people I choose to spend time with generally, someone with a good personality, positive attitude, a willingness to continue learning and someone who enjoys being part of a team.
What lessons have you learnt over the years that you feel have led to your success?
Work hard, always go the extra mile where you can, care for people, be kind to others, keep good relationships and always try and make the boss happy!
Where do you choose to holiday and what type of hotel do you enjoy staying in and why?
Anywhere South East Asia, mixing city and beach holiday, so half and half. I love a large city centre hotel with lots going on; beach-wise, I want to be right there, with an ocean facing terrace to enjoy the view.
What is your favourite whisky?
My favourite whisky is anything from the Speyside region. Whiskies like Glenlivet, Knockando and Craigellachie hold a special place in my heart, as they are distilleries close to where I began my managerial career.
As a proud Scot, do you wear a family tartan kilt?
Yes, Hendry is related to Henderson, which is the kilt I wear at many hotel and industry events
How are you keeping busy while the hotel is temporarily closed?
Lots of positive communication with my teams, at all levels, learning how to work remotely, lots of communications with regular guests, agents and partners. Being a part of the wider Red Carnation team has also helped with communication, as we have regular video calls and try to keep challenging ourselves and keep the camaraderie going. I have also been going to the supermarket a lot more (very quiet here in Victoria at present), to buy groceries for charities and local residents who need support during this time.
Why do you think you are deserving of The ‘Top General Manager Worldwide' award?
I’m humbled that anyone would put my name into any category close to this, all I know is that I love what I do, I work hard each and every day for the people that I represent, serve and care for, I am lucky to work for an incredible family owned business in the best industry in the world. I feel very lucky.