My Biggest Mistake

Dick Beach, 50, is manager of Dunkeld House Resort Hotel, the Stakis group's flagship in Scotland. His career began in 1959 as a management trainee with British Transport Hotels. In the early Sixties, he spent several years running restaurants in Paris and Frankfurt before moving to Scotland, where he worked his way up the hotel management ladder. He has been with the Stakis group since 1981, and became manager of Dunkeld House on completion of its refurbishment in 1990. The hotel has a turnover of pounds 3m and boasts a pounds 500,000 clay-pigeon shooting academy.

MY BIGGEST mistake was in doing too much talking and not nearly enough listening. From 1971 I spent three years as manager of the Great Northern Hotel in King's Cross, London. Early one morning, I was sitting in my office when I had a phone call from Peter, the head doorman, telling me that someone had turned up for an interview.

We had advertised for a waiter so I told Peter to wheel him in, whereupon a very smart, good-looking young fellow of about 23 presented himself in my office.

During the interview I didn't learn very much about him apart from the fact that he had no experience and was from Iran.

But he was very keen to learn and I was very short- staffed, so on discovering that he could start immediately, I decided to offer him the opportunity to take on the great British public.

I explained what the job entailed, told him all about the money and conditions of employment, and sent him off to the head waiter.

At about 12.40pm, I walked through the restaurant, as was my habit, to see how everything was going.

We were always full at lunchtime, so it was with some surprise that I found this fellow sitting down at a table.

As I chastised him, he jumped up, whereupon I saw that he was still wearing the checked trousers he had worn during the interview.

I assumed that he must have misunderstood me, and explained again that while we supplied the jacket, he had to provide his own black trousers.

He dashed out and bought some, and over the next hour and a half I observed him working very hard in the restaurant, carrying trays and generally doing what he was told.

At about 2.45pm, I was walking along the corridor to my office when I heard this altercation going on between my secretary, Maggie, and the young gentleman. He was shouting: 'Me no waiter.'

So, with the general aplomb that one adopts when managing a hotel, I stepped in. And during the course of my peacemaking, I discovered that the fellow had actually come to be interviewed by one of our customers for a job as a cosmetic salesman. The rest of the tale was one of language barriers. Because he didn't speak much English, the head porter had had difficulty in understanding him and just passed him on to me.

I doubled up with laughter.

When I could manage a straight face I said how sorry I was, refunded him pounds 7 for the trousers and wished him well. Pity - he could have been a good waiter.

The hotel business is famous for interviewing people in corridors, and in those days you would take them on as long as they were breathing. But in this case I had spent a good hour and a half in my office. And in retrospect I realised I hadn't interviewed him at all, but just talked at him.

I learned two lessons: first, as a manager, you should never assume anything - I had assumed that this chap was coming for a job as a waiter, when the reality was nothing like that at all; second, of course, is that you must listen. I give that advice to my assistants time and time again, and always try to live by it myself.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sale...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer (Trainee) - City, London

£25000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A large financial services company...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Assistant - Financial Services Sector - London

£20400 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and highly reputable organisat...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Services Graduate Training Scheme

£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a successful and establ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage