After winning the Regional Award at The Society of the Golden Keys of Great Britain & the Commonwealth Awards 2023, Alan talks about his career in the Concierge industry.
1. What does this mean to you on a personal level?
It really does mean a lot. Any recognition is always nice, but coming from your peers, it does make it that bit more special.
2. Can you tell us about the career path that led to where you are today?
I left school at the ripe old age of 15-and-a-half and went on to a YTS in Hall Portering and after a couple of years as a hall/luggage porter in a small property I got a start in the Hilton Glasgow, which was my first venture into a proper Concierge department and 5 star service.
3 Are there any specific mentors you've looked to for guidance, and how have they helped you on your journey?
My first Head Concierge was a gentleman called Tom Barr who had the job of polishing what was a VERY rough diamond in me. But he kept me on the straight and narrow and I have a lot to thank him for.
Working with Alan Grimes several years later took my game to another level. With Alan being instrumental in the regional set up of the Golden Keys in Scotland, I think he also had a positive influence on other Concierges in Scotland too.
"I like to think of myself as an “ideas man” who has that creative spark."
4. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
There have been many. From being a twice recipient of the UK Regional Award to being recognised by Visit Scotland as tourism individual of the year and being accepted as a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, to name but a few. However, it has to be receiving my keys and becoming a member of the society; to me it was affirmation of my peers saying “you are good at what you do.”
5. Dealing with guests cannot always be easy; what's your approach to winning over difficult guests?
If you have guests who are being difficult, my guess is that no-one wants to be that way, therefore, assume they have more going on in the background that you don’t know about. With this in mind, take any negative energy and unkind words and return them in the form of positivity and kindness. I am sure you will win them over and bring them round to your way of thinking.
"If strength is in numbers and knowledge is power, then our combined numbers and knowledge makes us one of the strongest and most powerful organisations in hospitality today."
6. What personal sacrifices have you had to make to become so successful in this field?
My biggest sacrifice, I think, was time at home when my son was growing up. I don’t just mean at special occasions. Doing a late shift onto an early. There were times when I didn’t see him for a couple of days on a regular basis. I would have liked to have been home for more dinners, bath-times etc than I was.
7. What attributes do you think you possess that make you an award-winning concierge?
I think every Concierge has to have the ability to think on their feet. Not every guest request has a ready-made answer sitting in front of you. Sometimes you have to get creative to get the outcome your guest expects of you. I like to think of myself as an “ideas man” who has that creative spark.
8. If you could give advice to Concierge new to this profession, what would it be?
The way some Concierges do certain things may not be suitable for you, your property or your guests. Don’t be afraid to do things differently. Make the situation work for you.
9. What is the most rewarding thing about being a concierge?
For me, it is looking after someone who maybe doesn’t have the means to stay in 4 or 5 star hotels every week and giving them the “rockstar” service. Five star hotels, particularly the large internationals, can be intimidating for someone not used to those surroundings. It’s always nice to offer that reassurance and make them more comfortable.
10. Les Clefs d'Or's motto is 'service through friendship'; how important is collaboration with colleagues across the industry to you?
I wouldn’t say it was important, I would say it is absolutely essential!! If strength is in numbers and knowledge is power, then our combined numbers and knowledge makes us one of the strongest and most powerful organisations in hospitality today.