Running the family business

Paul Milsom

Paul Milsom - Credit: Archant

Gina Long in conversation with Paul Milsom, owner, Milsom Hotels and Restaurant Group

I was lucky enough to meet your late father Gerald – he was an trail blazer in his day and very highly regarded. Has following in his footsteps been difficult?

No, not at all, it was a fantastic experience working with my father for 18 years. We shared an office for that length of time and I learnt so much from him. We ended up not just father and son, but best friends and business partners. He always treated me as an equal, so I never felt I had to prove myself to him.

How has your role changed over the years?

I have done every job from washing the dishes to waiting on tables, to eventually doing the job I do now. The great thing about hotels is that you can really learn the job from the bottom up – in fact it is imperative it is done this way. We’ve always had a young team, and that was the case when I started so there was no problem being the boss’s son, and they were happy to accept me. I am sure that will be the case with my own sons too. In fact Charlie, my eldest son, has already done the odd shift.

What do you like most about your profession?

Firstly, it’s the people side of it whether that is customers or the staff. Both can be challenging at times but working with a big team, meeting interesting customers and giving them a great time is always massively rewarding. It’s also been a pleasure growing the business in size which allows us the opportunity to invest in the special properties we own.

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What do you like least?

Customers who get rude and aggressive, especially to the young staff we employ. Sometimes people lose their sense of perspective when complaining.

You and your wife, Geraldine, work so well together. What’s the recipe for success?

I know hotels and she understands the design side which has become so much more important in the way restaurants and hotels look and feel. So often the designer doesn’t really understand what the hotelier is trying to achieve, but because we’re married we can avoid that and create our own unique feel. Geraldine doesn’t work for anyone else so it’s very much our look.

How was your childhood?

I had a great childhood despite my parents being divorced. My mother, June, who brought my brother, sister and me up on her own, is an amazing woman, and she put all her love into us. We never moved far away from my dad so he became a greater influence as I got older, especially once I started working at the age of 15.

What happens when you’re away from work?

Its runs like clockwork. Modern technology, of course, allows you to stay in touch with everything that’s going on. However, we have a great team led by our operations director, Stas Anastasiades, and my PA, Bridget Stanley – and to be honest, they thrive on the challenge. I hope they miss me a bit when I’m not there.

You’re happiest when?

I’m in the surf at Polzeath, North Cornwall, on a sunny summer day with my two surf mad boys, Charlie and Jack. It’s fantastic that we can all be in the line up together in decent surf, although sadly those days are probably running out for me. I am just as keen being their surf coach, watching from the cliff top and taking photo. The good news is that SUP (stand up paddle) looks like being able to prolong my surf career.

The most difficult decision you’ve made in the last two years is?

To continue to invest in our business, despite the banks being so unhelpful. Particularly at Kesgrave Hall, when we wanted to develop our new Hangar party venue. Fortunately the LEP [Local Enterprise Partnership] had confidence in us and lent us some money. We now have this fantastic new facility which is going great guns.

Your greatest fear is?

Having to get a real job! I still worry where the next customer it going to come from and it’s this that keeps all of us on our toes.

What does Suffolk mean to you?

Big skies, great rivers and a wonderful coastline. It’s a gentle part of England with a great combination of old and new, of high tech and traditional industry, and it’s a brilliant place to live.

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