Kevin McCarthy is Managing Director of Castle Management Ltd (CML), which provides clients in the hotel and leisure industry with business management advice, training and support. He is also Chairman of HOST Somerset Ltd, a joint venture hotel, leisure and facilities management group that was created to meet the accommodation management needs of the Hinkley Point C development – recently awarded Preferred Bidder status by EDF Energy.
Kevin and his family moved from London to Taunton in 1999 when as Director and General Manager he took on the responsibility for running the Castle Hotel, and subsequently also Brazz PLC, until his departure in 2011 to launch CML. Still living in Taunton he has been, and still is, involved with a number of charitable organisations such a Rotary International and Abbeyfield Taunton (sheltered accommodation for the elderly). A keen golfer, he also enjoys long challenging walks on Exmoor and Dartmoor, and has ambitions to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with his son in 2016/17.
When you were at school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Growing up in Africa and, from the age of seven, flying back and forth to Scotland three times a year for schooling, international travel and hotels were always going to feature in any future career. During one Easter holiday, touring major construction projects that my father was responsible for, we visited a new school in Jos in the highlands in Nigeria. The Hill Station Hotel was the best in town and it was there that I met the Italian General Manager. It left such a lasting impression, that he could run such a grand hotel in such a remote spot, that many years later hotel management became the career of choice.
How did you get into the hotel and leisure industry?
Having been educated in Scotland it seemed natural to go on to study in Edinburgh where Napier College was establishing a new degree in Hotel Management, and so I was one of the pioneering first intakes. Four years later, immediately after graduating, I joined The Gleneagles Hotel rising to the dizzy heights of Relief Night Manager before a move to join the pre-opening team of the Edinburgh Sheraton.
Which individual has had the most influence on your career and why?
It is very difficult to pick one because at different stages I have been very fortunate to have remarkable mentors. That said, in terms of broader development, I would have to pick Kit Chapman, Proprietor of the Castle Hotel in Taunton. Kit and I worked together for a little more than twelve years and in that time our relationship was at times turbulent but always honest, respectful and we trusted each other professionally and personally. I took the job at the Castle because I wanted to find out if I really could run an hotel. The challenge of it being a small independent business, with a great culinary heritage, in a less than premier division tourist destination and with limited resources (compared to my international 5 star background) proved to be a worthy examination and with Kit’s guidance I learnt what great service really is and discovered that I really can run an hotel.
How did HOST Somerset Ltd come about?
Two years ago I was approached to join one of the early FM groups that were engaging with EDF Energy. It quickly became apparent that there was a great opportunity to harness CML’s background and link up with other local businesses to develop a compelling proposition to manage the construction worker accommodation sites. With the invaluable assistance of the Somerset Chamber of Commerce, and their co-ordination of EDF Energy’s Hinkley Supply Chain, I was able to identify and subsequently invite key partners (John West (Contractors) Ltd and Brooking Ruse & Co. both based in Weston-Super-Mare and Paragon Laundry based in Yeovil) to establish HOST, which was incorporated in June 2014.
What is your perspective on the Hinkley opportunity?
EDF Energy is publically committed to working with local businesses to grow and develop, so that once the construction phase is complete there will be a significant social and economic legacy throughout Somerset. I believe this is a once in a generation, possibly lifetime, opportunity to create something remarkable with the reassurance of an eight to ten year contract. HOST is committed to cascading benefits to other local businesses, with an ambition to source 95% of supplies, services and employees from Somerset and the South West of England.
What are the key things you’ve learned through the Hinkley process so far?
Scale, ambition and communication. The scale of the project, set to be the largest civil construction project in Europe, is staggering in physical terms but no less so in social and economic terms. The consequences of the project will be profound. The ambition and drive required for a new start business such as HOST to even be considered to bid for a contract has gone far and beyond any comfort zone. Being announced as a Preferred Bidder demonstrates that we were right to dare to dream. Finally, effective open communication and co-operation with the Chamber, other local businesses, colleges of further education, partners in HOST and EDF Energy has been critically important.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
All my successes, professionally and personally, have been built on the training and mentoring I have been able to give, and I am particularly proud of the fact that many have used the narrative that I gave to them to write their own success stories. Oh, and I ironed the Queen of Sweden’s dress to her satisfaction!
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
“If”. One day sitting alone and feeling pretty gloomy in my early days at boarding school, an elderly Benedictine Monk approached me and asked why I was feeling down. I can’t remember the reason I gave but he suggested I to go to the library and find a poem that, if I paid attention to it, would serve me well. The poem was “If” by Rudyard Kipling. One other invaluable piece of advice that I received from my father, probably the only one I actually paid attention to, was a hand shake must always be firm but not crushing.
If you could have any job in the world, what would it be and why?
Being a keen golfer since the age of seven, it would be a great privilege to be the Chief Executive of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, or simply the R&A to most. The R&A is one of the most influential bodies in world sport and the one which organises The Open and governs golf worldwide, jointly administering the sport with the United States Golf Association (USGA). The responsibility involved would be a huge challenge but the fringe benefits in this case are self-evident.
To succeed in business you must…
To succeed in business, and in life for that matter, you must have vision, drive and charm. You need to know your capabilities and surround yourself with those whose strengths complement your weaknesses. You must see adversity as a gift, be prepared to fail and be free with sharing success.