20 Questions: The founder and managing director of serviced accommodation firm StayLets takes on The Raikes Journal’s 20 Questions
Coronavirus, he says, has taken a layer off life somehow and made it raw, but he is encouraged by the thought we will re-build it better than before.
He has a sweet tooth that finds banoffee pie irresistible - except when faced of his son’s own Key Lime Pie - and his musical taste is eclectic, covering everything from from Holst - Planets Suite - to rap and even a bit of Billy Joel.
Business is something he is clearly hugely passionate about and motivated by and he encourages us not to be put off by failures, but to learn from them. When it comes to Gloucestershire attractions the rugby at Kingsholm comes close, but loses out to a certain Cheltenham festival.
It is as a good father he would love to be remembered, and a willing friend, and if he has not told him yet he will know now (assuming he too reads The Raikes Journal!) – it is his big brother (who joined the forces aged 16) who remains his childhood hero to this day.
Oliver Williams, managing director of Cheltenham business StayLets takes on The Raikes Journal's 20 Questions.
Question: What is your favourite film or series?
Answer: Probably Ghostbusters! Just watched it again for the first time with my little boy. Some exceptional comic writing.
Q: You’re hosting a dinner party and can invite any three guests from any time in history. Who would they be and why?
A: Oliver Reed – not for the boozing, but for the stories and his vivacity; David Niven – absolutely for the stories, but also the class he would bring to any occasion;Judy Garland – best way to end dinner with a bit of a sing-song, and just such a fascinating character.
Q: What is the best bit of your job?
A: The variety – forgive the cliché but no two days are the same. I have the flexibility to engage in so many different aspects of the hospitality and property worlds. On top of this, each day, I get to build something, to create, as well as run a growing business. It’s also particularly rewarding to work with clients, domestic and corporate, delivery the best service we can, and helping devise solutions to meet their individual needs.
Q: What is the worst part of your job?
A: I struggle to find one, but I guess ithas to be how long it takes for things to get done! I am impatient for progress, and just hate having to wait for other people to make up their minds! (or struggle through the red tape).
Q: Who was your childhood hero or the person you looked up to?
A: Probably my eldest brother. He joined the Royal Navy at 16 and was away doing exciting things when I was very little. I still admire him greatly as he has become a wonderful father and still a great guy to spend time with.
Q: Where is your favourite place in Gloucestershire?
A: Since lockdown startedwe’ve managed to explore the outdoors a bit more as a family, and found some lovely new walks. I think Winchcombehas to come high up the list – history, great outdoor walks, and a few pubs to choose from for refreshments!
Q: What advice would you give to anyone starting out now?
A: Keep your head up and your eyes open. Opportunities are all around you, and something I’ve learned over the last 10 years or so is that, whilst perfection is impossible, mediocrity is rife in all industries, and the point of difference that anyone can bring to make a business successful is only a very short step away.
Also – allow yourself to fail and change (plans don’t have to stay the same). I moved into this industry 12 months ago, and I wish I’d done it a lot earlier. It’s changed my life for the better. I’m so proud of what we’ve created with StayLets and the future possibilities.
Q: Was there a mistake or piece of bad luck which changed things for the better?
A: I don’t really believe in mistakes or bad luck. Your path is your path. I wouldn’t go so far as calling it fate, but things happen for a reason. I’ve failed several times, and I’ve come up against huge challenges. But they have all contributed to make me the operator I am now, and it’s all positive learning.
Q: What is your favourite piece of music?
A: That’s impossible. I love music, in almost all its forms. We try and keep our house full of as much music as possible at home. Currently, I would say – Holst - Planets Suite, anything by Billy Joel, and probably a bit of Lizzo or Dua Lipa.
Q: What qualities do you look for in a new member of staff?
A: Vision and flexibility. Kind of following on from my point before, people can tend to fall into boxes or routines that they get very set in. People do fear change. I want to work with people who can see and understand the end goal and find their own path to it. How you get there, largely, is up to you!
Of course, excellent customer skills are also key as are a willingness to share our passion for making StayLets the best in our sector.
Q: What is your favourite pudding?
A: Ooooh – Banoffee Pie. OR, my little boy’s Key Lime Pie which is ace.
Q: Has the coronavirus pandemic changed how you see the world?
A: I think it’s made the world smaller. I think it has sloughed off the top layer of life as we know it. And it’s raw now, but I truly hope that, moving forward, it can be rebuilt better than it was before. Lockdown for me has been mostly pleasurable.
More time with the family, business has been good, I have found pleasure in simple things that I may have forgotten about. You re-align your priorities in a situation like this.
Q: If it was in the name of pleasure – would it be car, bicycle, walk, run, swim?
A: Swim – every time.
Q: What is the best thing about living/working in Gloucestershire?
A: The position in the country and the access to everything. You can be in a field in the middle of nowhere in minutes, there is such beauty in the countryside, the architecture, the hills. But you can still be eating in the best restaurants, you can be in London in two hours, one hour to an airport.
It’s a perfect base for work and home life. Then there is the Gloucestershire Business Community, which is close-knit but not closed, innovative and driven. I love the way that businesses go out of their way to help other businesses in the county.
Q: If you could wave a magic wand to achieve what you wanted to at work, what would it be?
A: Triple the size of the business – develop the StayLets brand and help it to achieve its full potential. Also get hold of more lovely properties to work on and increase the enjoyment.
Q: What’s your biggest frustration?
A: People or systems that create blockages to progress and improvement. The old adage: “if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem”!
Q: If you could start again and had to do something else, what would it be?
A: Get into this area of business sooner. Invest more wisely. Not much else really.
Q: Cheltenham Festival, any of the town’s others festivals, Giffords Circus, Stroud Fringe, Gloucester Rugby v Bath, Three Choirs Festival, Cirencester food Festival, evensong at Tewkesbury Abbey, or Newent Onion Fayre? And why?
A: I love the rugby and converted to a Glaws fan very early on when we arrived in Cheltenham. But nothing beats the Cheltenham jazz and literature festivals – world class performers, right in the heart of town, cider in the sunshine.
Q: If you had to recommend a pub or restaurant in Gloucestershire, what would it be and why?
A: Suffolk Rock on Suffolk Parade in Cheltenham. We live right around the corner so it’s convenient, but the food, the vibe, the service are all exceptional. And supporting small businesses at this, and any, time is vital to the life of the county.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
A: StayLets has gone from two properties to a dozen. We are bringing profit and success to ourselves and our investors, but more importantly providing a quality service operation across the country and taking care of our guests.
Q: What would you like to be remembered for?
A: Being a good father and being a good friend. Plus, always ready with a glass in hand for a chat and a bit of a laugh!
Oliver Williams is managing director of StayLets – Serviced Accommodation. Visit: www.staylets.co.uk
First published July 11.
Every week The Raikes Journal champions an individual from the Gloucestershire business community through the '20 questions' feature.
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