Leaving school at 17 with not a clue what I wanted to do with my life, I ended up falling into hospitality, becoming the youngest assistant manager in the Trust House Forte group aged 19. Full of ambition, I studied Arabic at night school and moved to Saudi Arabia to seek my fortune. I had to grow up, fast, and learned my first valuable life lesson – the only person who would look after me was me!
On returning to Scotland after nearly 10 years in Hong Kong, Singapore, India and London, I secured a job at Gleneagles Hotel, running the Dormy House – what I consider now to have been my real college. It was common to do 16-18 hour days, often six days’ week and I soon became more confident and learned to stand up for myself, especially during meetings. If you didn’t speak up, you didn’t stand a chance.
You cannot change your past but you can change your future, so just do it
One of my toughest challenges was owning and running a training school for spa therapists in Edinburgh. After years as a successful spa director I was quite arrogant and assumed I could make anything work. During the crash of 2009 I learned tough lessons. To save the business – and my staff’s jobs – I had to walk away and sell my home to pay back the bank. It was very humbling. Hard but valuable lessons were learned. Make sure you have enough money at the beginning of a project, learn to create cashflows so you’re not surprised when your tax bill comes in and make sure you put a salary in that cashflow for yourself!
Since then, my motto has been ‘Onwards and upwards; you cannot change your past, but you can change the future! So just do it and stop fannying around!’
Years earlier, when I first started in the spa sector, I was inspired by the late and great giant of aromatherapy, Geraldine Howard, owner and creator of Aromatherapy Associates, and Espa’s Sue Harmsworth. I liked that they just got on with creating their brands with real passion and love but they both had backbones of steel. They started their companies around the same time and whilst there were some similarities they were quite different people. They were tough negotiators, especially in a male dominated hotel world, and neither was afraid to tell you straight to your face, always with a smile!
Go with your gut - if something doesn't feel right then it probably isn't!
And to my younger, headstrong self I’d say; listen to what your parents taught you, use what little common sense you have and most importantly, go with your gut. I always rely on gut instinct now but would ignore it when I was younger as I didn’t realise that if something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn't!
Author: Brian Hunter
Brian has worked in the hospitality industry all his life and in the spa sector for the last 25 years. After beginning his career oversees, Brian opened both The Scotsman Spa and One Spa at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. More recently he was Director of Spa Developments, a Glasgow-based spa design and consultancy company, then Owner and Principal of the prestigious Mary Reid International Spa Academy. Brian become involved with the Lifehouse Spa & Hotel in Essex in 2012 as Operations Director until late 2015 and is currently an advisory Director at Made for Life by Spiezia Organics plus Director at his company, BH Spa & Leisure Concepts.