Success Stories – In Conversation with Claire Llewellin-Davis
With a diverse background spanning prestigious international establishments such as The Hurlingham Club, The Hong Kong Jockey Club and now as Managing Director of The Lensbury, Claire Llewellin-Davis’ journey has been impressive.
Her expertise extends far beyond the confines of luxury hospitality, having previously served in Iraq and Afghanistan in her distinguished eight years as a British Army Officer. This unique blend of experiences has shaped Claire into a dynamic leader, well-equipped to inspire change and set new standards of excellence at every level.
Founded in 1920, The Lensbury is set within 25 beautiful acres, bordering the River Thames, and comprises a 155-bedroom hotel, a private members’ club with 7,000 members, a conference centre, state of the art gym, studios, an indoor pool, spa, 24 tennis courts, squash courts, water sports centre and elite sports facilities supported by a heavy weights gym and 2 UEFA pitches.
Claire commenced her role as Managing Director at The Lensbury just days before England’s Lionesses checked in to begin their successful run at Euro 2022. It resulted in Wembley glory and a team victory celebration hosted at The Lensbury, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in England since 1966.
We had the pleasure of catching up with Claire for a fascinating chat, where she shared her invaluable insights on the world of hospitality within both Club management and the Hotel Industry.
Transitioning from a successful career in the British Army to the world of hospitality is an impressive achievement. How has your military background influenced your approach to leadership in the hospitality industry, and what valuable lessons have you carried forward from your time in the armed forces?
A career in the military provides an excellent grounding for all walks of life, and the path to Club Management is increasingly common. I loved my time in the Army, and credit it for honing a number of transferable skills and lessons for future success:
- The importance of teamwork and developing a strong camaraderie; there is no leadership without followership
- The power of communication; this sets the foundation for success at all levels
- The necessity for ongoing personal and team development, ‘train hard, fight easy’
- To set, embody and maintain high standards; to ‘be the best’
- To set priorities and manage time
- Resilience: the confidence and strength to tackle the unknown
In your opinion, what are the key factors that contribute to creating a strong and cohesive team culture within a hospitality organisation?
Communication is key. The majority of people set out to do a good job. It is our responsibility as managers and leaders to help them deliver it. We have to put in place the structure and support necessary for our team to understand what their role is, what the future of the business is, and to see how they play their part within it. We must encourage and reward success. The workplace should be an enjoyable place to be, where engagement, recognition, reward and support are part of daily life. Happy staff = Happy customers.
As a seasoned hospitality leader, what do you believe sets apart truly exceptional service from the rest?
The key to exceptional service is anticipation. Understanding what someone wants, before they know it themselves.
As an experienced Club Manager, now benefiting from an insight into the world of Hotel Management, what have your observations been?
It has been a fascinating, and hugely rewarding experience. There is so much that Club Management can learn from the Hotel Industry and vice versa. Whilst equity Clubs are ‘surplus’, rather than ‘profit driven’, there is much to be said for the hotel industry’s laser focus on revenue and profitability at department and GOP level. Data driven decision-making is powerful.
Technology has revolutionised the way we experience hospitality. How do you strike a balance between leveraging technology to enhance guest experiences while still maintaining a personal touch?
The word ‘balance’ is key between automation, and maintaining a human connection, which will always be irreplaceable. Automation is great when there is little complexity; as the military would say, Keep It Simple, Stupid. With escalating costs, we are all looking at ways we can reduce our overheads. Ultimately technology that will enhance the guest experience, whilst providing a better understanding of their journey and drive revenue, is what we are all looking to invest in.
What advice would you give to aspiring hospitality professionals who aspire to reach leadership positions within the industry?
Believe in yourself and be clear about the kind of organisations you want to work for and why. Continue to develop yourself and obtain professional qualifications which will set you apart from the rest. Don’t be afraid to take the odd ‘detour’ if you can see that it will provide you with additional, relevant skills in the future. Attitude is everything. Good luck!
Madison Mayfair focuses on forging strong, long-standing relationships with clients and candidates, often over the lifetime of multiple roles, to ensure we can find creative and innovative solutions to the challenges we all face in the hospitality industry.
To discuss how we can support your businesses with your overall people strategy or to access our full suite of human capital services through Hospitality People Group, please get in touch with Guy Lean on Tel: +44 20 8600 1180, Mob:+44 7813 009787 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org