Reading Time: 4 MINUTES
Steve Fitzgerald takes a walk down memory lane as he shares the story of his career, his management philosophy and highlights the wonderful people he has worked with along the way
People often ask me about the success factors of our long, sometimes tough but incredible journey in the hospitality industry – to be honest most weren’t planned as we stumbled from one exciting venture to the next. In my formative commercial years there were some very influential mentors who moulded me. I sadly lost my father at an early age otherwise I might have ended up as a more conservative businessman – maybe even a proper practicing accountant?I was fortunate enough to be articled to a very brilliant accountant, Steve Phelps. He died a few years ago and this has left a huge gap in my heart and life. He was so smart, had such a shrewd commercial head – he was also a total hooligan and led me astray with his love of horses, alcohol, cigars – I will leave it at that. But I was lucky to be exposed to a very alternate way of looking at things.My second mentor was equally maverick, a farmer of sorts and committed entrepreneur, Storm Quinan. He could make and lose fortunes faster than anyone but it was his positivity and enthusiasm that got us into the hotel industry in Arniston way back in 1981. That was the first plan that wasn’t planned.Obviously my smartest move was identifying Nicky to be my partner when she was just 14. I saw her in the distance at a tennis tournament and turned to my friends and said, ‘I am going to marry that girl’. And so it came to pass. In fairness I didn’t know then that she would become one of the finest operators and marketers in the luxury hospitality industry (well, in my book anyway). I think fair to say we wouldn’t have gone this route without her extraordinary skill set. And she is a machine (and it is very tiring).Then of course there are all the wonderful people we have worked with on this journey – way too many to name. For some strange reason we seem to have been able to attract extraordinary talent and managed to keep out of their way sufficiently so that they could all truly shine. When asked about how it feels to let go of operations we have started, it is always the people we miss – not the business itself.So from our most amateurish start in Arniston 34 years ago, we have worked with thousands (literally) of extraordinary people. And what a joy it has been to work with them all – if I were to rack my brains I can hardly think of more than a handful who have disappointed. Perhaps it has had something to do with our philosophy that there is no such thing as bad staff – only bad management. This belief enabled a very open, trusting and devolved style of doing business, to which our staff in Africa responded to with great enthusiasm. I hope they are as positive about us as we are of them.So now to Angama Mara – we have assembled a dream team of delightful and talented Kenyans, led by the wise Duncan Kiroro. I have no doubt this is another step down the familiar road of working with amazing staff. We so look forward to it.