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Leadership & Strategy


Go behind the scenes at The Headland Hotel

The Headland Hotel overlooking Fistral Beach in Newquay

It’s one of the most iconic hotels in all of Cornwall, with a history dating back over 100 years, but Darryl Reburn and the team at The Headland Hotel have a decidedly modern approach to business.

Darryl Reburn joined The Headland Hotel nearly nine years ago as its new general manager, before rising to managing director in 2017. Having inherited a hotel turning over just shy of £5m, Darryl has overseen growth to £9m and a doubling of staff.

The hotel, with a unique setting shown off through a number of TV and film appearances, has big plans for the future – including its already under development Aqua Club, which will contain five pools, a sun terrace with ocean views and a new restaurant. Due for completion in mid Spring 2020, it’s part of an eight-phase plan to further cement The Headland Hotel’s position as a five-star location, Darryl commented.

With a headcount nearing 200, which is expected to grow by 25-30 per cent in the next couple of years, Darryl has a big task in keeping all employees – ranging from the concierge greeting guests at the front door to the housekeeping department responsible for all 95 rooms and 39 cottages – all aligned on the same set of values and overall mission.

“For me it comes down to listening twice as hard as I speak, after all you have two ears and one mouth, and you can’t learn when you’re talking,” he explained.

“I don’t have time for command and control leadership, which is all tell and no ask. I enjoy a collaborative approach that involves drawing out of others and solving problems together.” Putting ideas out there and “sewing seeds in a collaborative environment”, as he put it, helps shape big ideas.

Darryl also expects his leadership team to bring an element of solution to problems and challenges presented – then taking a bigger picture, rather than knee jerk, reaction.

The Headland Hotel way

Going beyond the conventional hotel industry “ten at ten” daily meet up involves replacing one-in-four of their weekly head of departments meeting with a talent and development session. A topic is selected that might not necessarily be close to someone’s central role, but is important in up-skilling them as a manager. That could mean helping the wider team understand what goes into the revenue department or how the food and drinks team work out the selling price by understanding the sums behind a gross profit percentage.

The Headland Hotel Darryl
The Headland Hotel owners display their five-star Quality in Tourism award with Darryl (second from right).

Darryl will also soon be launching a training academy, aimed at all members of staff, which will help both newcomers and develop those already part of the business. “There’s sometimes a dip in mid-streamers, those who have been with us for a while but haven’t joined leadership or management levels,” he said. “It’s important to recognise them through a development vehicle, making sure they don’t hit soggy ground.”

With the hospitality industry often seen as a temporary part of someone’s career, Darryl and The Headland Hotel are eager to demonstrate a path to greater responsibility and leadership can start to be mapped out early on for ambitious members of staff.

Getting out of the business

For the managing director of a 100-room hotel, Darryl does manage to take himself away from the day-to-day a surprising amount. Describing himself as “very structured” with how he allocates his time, he utilises both the head space gain through working at home an in other off-site locations.

“I currently meet with several master inn holders, and I should be achieving a mater inn qualification of my own next spring. I also sit on the UK Hospitality South West board to help address things affecting our businesses,” he added.

“There is a resistance in Cornwall for business leaders to share much about how they do business because they tend to be independent companies in direct competition with each other. I’ve taken it upon myself to do more, encouraging more leaders to join together.”

Once Darryl has got the new Aqua Club up and running and established the training academy he’ll be able to let his general manager focus on the day-to-day activities more, freeing him up to spend more time working on the business – rather than just being caught up in it.

Winning new customers

Dramatic storms near The Headland Hotel
Dramatic storms near The Headland Hotel

Alongside placing a big emphasis on the way his staff are motivated and trained, the hotel has also spent a lot of time improving its marketing efforts. “We’ve undergone a significant branding review, segmenting the market we operate in far more,” he said. “It’s about playing to our strength in size by having an offering for three generations – from grandparents through grandchildren.”

Sign up to The Headland Hotel mailing list and you’ll very quickly get a feel for what Darryl is talking about.

Halloween breaks, dog-friendly says and storm-watching packages are all possible as the business looks to drive up off-season demand and utilise its unique location on the seafront.

At 120 years-old next year The Headland Hotel is a central cog in the Cornish hospitality industry, and it seems like Darryl’s efforts are getting it ready for another century of success.

Darryl Reburn is one of five shortlisted Business Leader of the Year award nominees at the Cornwall Tourism Awards. Be the Business sponsored the Business Leader of the Year award and, in the run up to the awards on 7 November 2019, published a profile piece of each business leader. Read more from the same series here.

Find out how other business leaders in Britain have honed their management approach.

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