Get to know our Managing Director, Richard Harrison

Describe your job in five words

Rewarding, exciting, innovative, versatile and – especially over the past year – challenging.

What was your first job in the hospitality industry?

Work experience at a Northampton hotel, where I grew up. My first job was to clean out the walk-in meat fridge, it was grim. Looking back, I think they’d been saving the job for a few weeks.

I spent two weeks at the hotel and cleaned a lot of things – the only ‘cooking’ I did was to prep two 10kg bags of Brussels and make the staff sandwiches on my last day. I must have made an impression though as they offered me a job, which I politely declined.

The hotel has long since closed but the experience has stayed with me. In every business, I’ve worked in since I’ve always ensured that students on work experience and apprentices have positive experiences and learn whilst they are with us.

What drew you to a career in the hospitality sector?

I originally wanted to be a chef and spent three years studying for what was then my City and Guilds in cookery, advance, food service, patisserie, and bakery. After completing my training, I realised I preferred being in a more customer-focussed role. I enjoyed spending time with guests and creating great experiences for them – and this is something that has stayed at the core of my career over the years.

My aim was always to own my own business, I’ve never got there but have always viewed every business as my own. Doing this, I think, helps you make decisions in the best interests of the business and ensures you are thinking longer term. I ask myself: if this were my money would I do it? If the answer is no, then you should not be doing it.

What is one of your biggest achievements within your hospitality career?

In 2014 I undertook a major four-year project to restructure the business I was working for at the time. My team and I reshaped the culture, increased both revenue and profits, delivered major multi-million-pound capital projects and developed a new venue taking it from business plan, through the construction phase to opening.

This was one of the most challenging and enjoyable periods of my professional life. Knowing you have set a business on a new path was deeply satisfying. There’s also something great about creating a new building, and knowing it will be there for years to come.

Tell us what your key strengths are

I have always hated this question; others will of course have a view on my strengths and perhaps it is for them to answer. Now if you would like to know where I think in need to improve, I can give you a list!

What are the best things about working in hospitality?

Our ability to deliver enjoyment to people. Anyone working in the industry can be there for some of the greatest moments in people’s lives and helping them to celebrate.

When you work in hospitality no day is the same, it’s hard work, exciting at times and, to my mind, incredibly rewarding.

How will hospitality change in the post-Covid years?

Guests will continue to be more discerning. I feel people’s needs will change and as a sector we need to be alive to that.

Hospitality is great at adapting. Look at the number of new products and offers our industry has developed in a short space of time – whether it is how we engage with guests, offering takeaways and delivered products and al fresco events – and it becomes clear that we are an industry that does change well.

Post-Covid I think we’ll see even more innovation. I’m hoping for more focus on guest experience because, if the last year has taught us anything, it’s that life is about the experience.

What makes No Ordinary Hospitality Management stand out in the sector?

We are different, if you are looking to build a hospitality business that feels like every other then, to be honest, we are not the partner for you. If you want a business that reflects your ownership, has a sense of place and delivers great guest experiences then we should talk. One of our USP’s is that we pride ourselves on being friendly and easy to talk to – you can speak to us directly to discuss your ideas and we will help to tailor your plans accordingly.

What are your hobbies away from work?

I enjoy sport and coach Athletics and Triathlon with Junior Athletes. This takes up about four hours a week but is very enjoyable and rewarding. I have two sons, and both share my love for sport. So, when not coaching training sessions I’m taking them to training, rugby matches, athletic meets, or triathlons. Other than that, I like running and cycling working on my garden and going back to my origins in the hospitality industry, cooking, and having friends over to eat and drink.

What would be your perfect weekend away?

Very simple, a weekend in Cornwall with my wife and two boys. Saturday on the beach and in the sea surfing and paddle boarding, with my sons showing me how it should be done. Finish that off with a BBQ and maybe a glass or two of something, sleep and repeat the next day.