After hours with… Nick Holmes

By Becky Paskin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Rockliffe hall Hotel

Nick Holmes, managing director of Rockliffe Hall in Co Durham
Nick Holmes, managing director of Rockliffe Hall in Co Durham
Nick Holmes joined Rockliffe Hall hotel in County Durham at the end of last year to oversee its long-awaited launch in November. Just months on and the managing director has ambitions to see the multi million pound hotel and spa join the top ten properties in the UK

, as well as become the AA Hotel of the Year and gain a Michelin star.

My big achievement

Before joining Rockliffe I was managing director of Branston Golf and Country Club, which was a world away from hotels. Whilst there we twice won the FLAME fitness award for UK Club of the Year, and I was named Clubhouse Manager of the Year.

How I got here

After studying an HND in hotel management in Sheffield, I joined Gleneagles as back of house manager and quickly became a duty manager within the year. Within 18 months they opened the country club and I became country club manager for four years. The hotel changed dramatically during that period, from a British Transport Hotel into the resort destination it is today.

I left to become general manager of the four-star Craigendoch Hotel, which is now a Hilton, in Northeast Scotland. Despite having the best management training I could have asked for, I’d gone as far as I could at Gleneagles. In my first year at Craigendoch I became operations director for the group, which then opened Cameron House in Loch Lomond. So I moved over and oversaw the opening of Cameron House as managing director.

I was with the group for six years in total, but left to start up several leisure projects on a freelance consultancy basis. It was only after 10 years of working for myself and moving around that I thought I owed it to my family to stay put in one place. I initially got involved with Rockliffe Hall as a consultant, but when they offered me the position of managing director, because of my background in both hotels and leisure, I couldn’t say no. It’s a five-star hotel in every way, at the top of the market. There is no weak link as far as I’m concerned and an irresistible proposition that made me return to employment.

The most valuable thing I’ve learned

This is a business that revolves around people, and you have to invest in your team if you want your business to work. You can spend millions on a state-of-the-art facility but it’s just a hollow shell if you’ve not got the right people in it.

These days it’s tough to manage the personable side of being a managing director alongside all the paperwork and emails, and anything that takes you away from the people side is a challenge. You need to learn how to spin plates, and it’s difficult but that’s what gives you the buzz.

The other important thing I’ve learned is to invest in PR and marketing and always keep your standards high. Even during tough times like these, if you never let your product slip, you’ll stand out when you come through it all.
What I do well

I have a good analytical mind, which helps me work in a commercial mindset and understand figures. I’m also consultative across the whole team; all the employees know me well. The ability to talk to people and never losing that is important. You’re the person who has to provide for the team and inspire them with vision.

Future plans

Now we have Kenny Atkinson here at the Orangery, we’ve put ourselves on the map as a top-class destination for dining. We’ll be going for a Michelin star over the next few months, and aim for five star accreditation for the hotel in the early part of this year, which I know is a big ask but we are on course for it.

I’d like to see Rockliffe up there with the likes of Gleneagles and Turnberry, regarded as one of the top ten hotels in the UK and achieve the AA Hotel of the Year award. Although Rockliffe already has everything about it that would allow it to achieve these things, we still have a long way to go.

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