Five Minutes with Angela Vickers - Managing Director of Apex Hotels
HOSPA Chief Executive Carl Weldon recently met up with Angela Vickers Managing Director of Apex Hotels who is a member of the Leaders’ Panel at HOSPACE 2012
What was it like going from Finance Director (FD) to Managing Director (MD)?
My first action was to give the General Managers more autonomy. I didn’t have a typical operational background so I deferred to their expertise in running the hotels. This provided an immediate uplift in motivation and creativity, although discussions still very much centred around financial performance and commercial viability. I asked a lot of questions in the first few months, building my knowledge in non financial aspects such as IT, Sales and Marketing. I had the perfect excuse to question traditional practices and no preconceptions to suggest alternative new ways of doing things.
I have never been one to focus purely on the numbers and have always aimed to take a wider commercial view – due to my training at KPMG – so the transition wasn’t as difficult as it might have been. I also had the benefit of eight years’ valuable experience in working at Stakis and Hilton. Of course, I was helped enormously by the owner of Apex, Norman Springford, who was still very much involved with the business back then.
How long before you felt comfortable in the role?
I measure it in terms of when I began to automatically put the customer first before the figures, and that took about a year to achieve.
We had four hotels when I became MD and now have eight – with three in London. This meant that I adapted my role as the business grew and developed. The first London hotel opened in 2005 and this catapulted us into a different league. I have been very fortunate in being part of the transition of Apex in steering an increase in revenue from £14m when I joined, to £50m plus today.
How would you describe Apex Hotels?
Contemporary is the official brand description.
Once they have stayed with us, our customers often tell us that we have exceeded their expectations, which suggests we are delivering. It is our mission to be the leading UK independent hotel group, utilising the skills and innovation of our people; and we try to do this through genuine service delivery and a drive to continually improve.
What are the challenges for you today?
The need to keep all balls in the air during competitive and recessionary times, being one step ahead and keeping on top of the information and data you receive in relation to the challenges.
Eroding contribution set against a backdrop of meeting and exceeding guest expectations. Another is online reputation management, driven by the transparency and accessibility of social media.
Food & Beverage in hotels – especially those without Conference and Banqueting – is an ever evolving challenge; and trying to be innovative about cost, as opposed to just reducing it, is one of our key focus areas.
What is one of the key things you have learnt in your career?
When I worked at Stakis with Sir David Michels, he made us focus on one key target – improvement in share price; and he showed us the links and connections between everything the business departments were doing to drive towards that ultimate goal.
So I learnt the importance of the simplification of your goals and illustrating to the business how everything it does is a funnel towards achieving the overall objective; and a key part of delivering that target is the responsibility of the MD.