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Jazz Shapers, Jazz Shapers Live

Shaper: Sir Rocco Forte

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Welcome to the Jazz Shapers Podcast from Mishcon de Reya. What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however the music has been cut or shortened due to rights issues.

Hello and a very warm welcome to this special edition of Jazz Shapers. Ladies and gentlemen the Jazz Shapers Live Session.

As you can tell I have got a rather excitable audience here at the beautiful Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair, London. Jazz Shapers is the place where I get to bring the Shapers of the world of business together with the greatest musicians who are shaping the world of jazz, soul and blues. Joining me very shortly on stage, my Business Shaper is none other than the Chairman and Co-Founder of Rocco Forte Hotels, the luxury hotel company, it is of course Sir Rocco Forte himself.
But first we are going to have some music, she grew up singing gospel at Church and after two friends persuaded her to audition for Ike & Tina Turner, she grabbed the opportunity. Learning her craft on tour as one of their backing singers, though she’d never dreamt she says of a professional career in music, our musical Jazz Shaper overcame great personal challenges and became known as London’s first lady of soul. Collaborating with Small Faces and Rod Stewart before releasing her debut solo album aged just 21. With the first of several songs on today’s Jazz Shapers, The Live Session, please welcome the original soul superstar, it is PP Arnold.

Thank you, good evening. I am going to start my set with the first song that I ever wrote and today we live in a, in a melting pot culture where interracial relationships are the norm but back in the day when I first came from the United States out of the Civil Rights Revolution in to the Rock and Roll Revolution, it wasn’t the norm. But when I came here I had my first interracial relationship and this song is all about that, it kind of went like this…

Thank you.

Elliot Moss
Absolutely fantastic, that was of course PP Arnold with Though It Hurts Me Badly, it is from her latest album, The New Adventures of PP Arnold. That is her first album of new material in 51 years. Much more coming up from her and her band and we will be meeting, might be having a short chat with her as well. In the meantime, my Business Shaper for this Jazz Shapers Live Session is, as I said earlier, Sir Rocco Forte. He is the Chairman and Co-Founder of Rocco Forte Hotels, the luxury hotel brand and this wonderful building, Brown’s here in Mayfair is one of 14 Rocco Forte Hotels across Europe and more recently the Forte Family launched their first hotel in Asia in Shanghai. With his grandfather and father in the hospitality business, Rocco’s approach to customers was shaped at an early age – treat guest differently because they are individuals. From spending half his school holidays working across his father’s company, the Forte Hotel and Restaurant business, later Trust House Forte, Rocco succeeded his father as Chairman of the company in 1992. We are going to be talking about that later as well. Over the next 4 years he was responsible for more than 800 hotels, 1000 restaurants and nearly 100,000 employees in 50 countries worldwide. But the family’s domination of the UK hotel industry came to an end in 1996 after a bitter and well publicised take-over battle which led to Granada Media taking control. With his sister, Olga, Rocco rebuilt a new business. Focussing on luxury hotels in major continental cities from 1997, run independently rather than as a chain, each hotel capturing a unique sense of place – just as this one does here – with that strong family influence. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for today’s Business Shaper, the one, the only, Sir Rocco Forte.

It is the welcome you get every time you come in your own hotel?

Sir Rocco Forte
I am looked after quite well in my own hotel surprisingly enough.

Elliot Moss
You have been at this for 50 years pretty much, 1969 you joined the family business. This is in your blood, it’s in the family’s blood, it’s what you do. What is it that you love today about the business that you’ve created and walking into your own hotel, having a conversation in your own hotel?

Sir Rocco Forte
Looking back from the start of Rocco Forte Hotels which was now 22 years ago, I think the thing I am most proud of is the culture that we’ve created in the company. A sense of wanting to please the customer, to look after the customer, a belief that everybody in the company what they are trying to do and a commitment to deliver high levels of service in a personalised basis to all our customers and yeah, and have now got 14 hotels, we’ve got some iconic hotels in various major cities around Europe, in Rome in particular the de Russie and a new hotel now, the de la Ville, Brown’s Hotel here in London, The Balmoral in Edinburgh and they are all special hotels and people say to me ‘which is your favourite hotel?’. I don’t really have one. They are a bit like children I suppose, you can’t have a favourite, a favourite child.

Elliot Moss
Well you can but you can’t tell them whose favourite.

Sir Rocco Forte
And I’ve got one of them here so…

Elliot Moss
She is obviously your favourite. This is Lydia who is here this evening so therefore is number one.

Sir Rocco Forte
But… and some of them you know, weren’t there before. For example the de Russie in Rome had been a hotel before the War, was turned into offices. It had been empty for 8 years before I went in there and turned it back into a hotel. And when I sit in the gardens there having lunch in the better months of the year I look around and see it is full of people, staff working very happily in the hotel, I feel, you know I feel a sense of achievement. In Sicily with Verdura which was the most painful of the hotels to develop because this was a greenfield, 220 acres, 2 kilometres of coastline in the South West of Sicily and I imagined that once I had bought the land – there were 72 different owners of the land – once I had got past that everything would be easy. From then it took me 8 years to open the hotel. I was dealing with the Sicilian bureaucracy. I never had any problems with Mafia. People immediately expect you to say something about that when you are talking about Sicily although it is a little bit in the past all that but it was the bureaucracy which was so difficult and delayed me and they stopped the development for a while; for a year and a half actually and so made it a very difficult beginning. But I have been, as you said, I have been involved from an early age. I used to, I started working in my holidays in hotels, half the holidays would be spent in one of my father’s establishments from about the age of 14 onwards. My first job was in the Café Royal in the cellars there and actually it was the only time I have ever been head hunted because I was running around busying myself looking pretty active I suppose and one of the suppliers came in and came up to me and offered me twice as much as I was earning. Which I think was the wonderful sum of £6 a week in those days. So I went to my father and said ‘look you know, somebody has offered me £12, can you pay more’ and he said ‘well if you want to go work for him do so’. So I didn’t but I worked in washing up, I worked as a chambermaid, I worked in control offices, I worked behind snack bar counters. I’ve done sort of more or less every job that’s available in hotels. I worked in the kitchens as well. I wish I had spent more time in the kitchens now because I never really learnt to cook properly. The important thing about knowing food is you can tell chefs then exactly what you want. It is more difficult if you can’t describe the processes in quite the right way. But I seem to manage with chefs anyway.

Elliot Moss
But at its heart a hotel is a simple thing right? I mean as a person that stays in a hotel you want great food, you want a lovely environment, you want the bed to be comfortable, you want the service to be impeccable. I mean I am saying this and as I am saying it I realise this is not an easy thing but that’s a lovely and romantic thing to do and I’ve read a little bit about the romance that you believe feel for the business. How does that work when you’ve got a serious business to run? When you are looking after, now it’s 14 hotels? It’s a £200 million plus business. How do you ensure you retain that simplicity and that romance in the context of running a big business?

Sir Rocco Forte
The glamour is what you see from, from the outside. It is not quite so glamourous from the inside and there is a lot of hard work involved and a huge attention to detail in delivering the guest experience during the stay at a hotel. A lot of things have to come together, the various departments have to work effectively for the guest experience to be, to be a perfect one and I don’t think anybody should come into this industry who doesn’t love it and believe in it and feel passionate about it because effectively it takes over your life. The hotel general manager has to evolve his life around the hotel, as must his family. He effectively has got to be available 24 hours a day. But unless you have that passion, that belief and you want to deliver, it is very difficult to then do the job properly. My sister as well, particularly when we were starting out, we looked at every single little detail. We would go into a hotel, we’d pick up on the details and that, now we have of course a much bigger organisation, we still do that to a lesser degree. But I believe it, I you know, I go into the hotels on a regular basis. I see each of my hotels at least twice a year and I spend 2 or 3 days in each to satisfy myself that what is being done in it is correct and within the standards and philosophy of the company and that the service is being delivered with the right passion by the staff.

Elliot Moss
And that detail, when I read your father’s autobiography, he talked about the detail around counting the number of people that walked past his first property that he wanted to open in the ‘30’s I believe, The Milk Bar. Is that still the level of detail that you uphold for you and your team? That’s a lot, that’s a lot of detail.

Sir Rocco Forte
That was so he was counting the number of customers that passed by, walked past and hoping that and then sort of calculated how many might, might drop in. This was at Markle House in, in Regent Street next to the Polytechnic.

Elliot Moss
But when you come in here do you notice the flowers? Do you think about the…

Sir Rocco Forte
Well that’s all, that’s the sort of detail that makes, that makes a difference. And I think a luxury hotel is different to a, you know, budget hotel and so on because it is all this detail that makes the difference. Sometimes a customer doesn’t notice but it feels that the ambience is right because you’ve done it in the right way. A lot of the jobs in hotels are quite hard, the chambermaid job is one of the hardest jobs because they are working on their own, it is actually quite physical work and it is important and whenever I go into a hotel I make sure I go into the housekeeping department, talking to chambermaids and also into the washing up section because the washer uppers are sort of the lowest of the low in a hotel and rather treated as dogs bodies in the kitchen but I understand what it is, the work they do, how important it is and without them the kitchen couldn’t function. It is the same with the chambermaids.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more here on our Jazz Shapers Live Session Special, my guest Sir Rocco Forte. Much more coming up from him shortly but right now it is time for some more music. Ladies and gentlemen please welcome back on the stage with a round of applause perhaps, PP Arnold.

Thank you. That first song that I sang Though It Hurts Me Badly is from my first album, The First Lady Of Immediate Records but I re-recorded it because it never got the attention that I felt that it deserved at the time and I put it on my new album which is The New Adventures of PP Arnold and this next song is also from The New Adventures and it is called Baby Blue.

Elliot Moss
PP Arnold.

Thank you.

Elliot Moss
This is Jazz Shapers, The Live Session with me, Elliot Moss here on Jazz FM and nestled within our wonderful live audience here in the heart of Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair I am delighted to see the beaming faces of many previous Business Shapers, there’s lots of you. Raise your hands if you have been…. there they go, hello, hello, hello everywhere. Nice to see you all. All in of course today to see my Business Shaper which is Sir Rocco Forte; Chairman and Co-Founder of Rocco Forte Hotels. Sir Rocco we were talking about what goes on under the bonnet of a hotel to make it look effortless and there is a lot of work and you talked about different roles. I want to talk about what happens under the bonnet of the family that runs those hotels because this is a family business, it was a family business in its previous iteration where you worked with your father. How is it working with your children? How was it working with your father? What do you think are the unique characteristics that are different to a family business versus a more corporate one?

Sir Rocco Forte
When I started this business my sister, Olga joined me in the business a little bit reluctantly actually because I think she, she thought there was a change to take life a bit easier but she did it really to support me and she had a very clear vision of décor in hotels and the way things were going, it was during the sort of minimalistic era and design hotels and I hadn’t really ever thought about that very much. I thought we would take over a hotel, sort it out and then move on to the next one. But this design theme that runs through our hotels came from her and of course it helped in launching the group and publicising it. So we have had a very easy relationship all the way through. One of the great things about this new business, I actually spend a lot of time working with her. I don’t really interfere in what she is doing to any great degree. I mean I look at prototype rooms when we do them for a hotel and I criticise them more from the point of view of the guest comfort rather than from the décor side. If I don’t like something I will say so but it is not very often that that happens. So it has been a fantastic, it is one of the great things about the new business. My children, it is slightly different because they’ve all, they’ve all come into the business at a much later stage. They were all encouraged to work in their holidays like I was and I think they got a flavour of the industry as a result. None of them particularly initially wanted to come in to the business. Lydia who is here, she was head hunted to become the assistant manager in a new restaurant opened in Chelsea Green. The manager left after 6 weeks and she became the manager of a restaurant and ran it for about a year and a half. She got fed up with closing the till at 2.00 o’clock every morning so I said ‘why don’t you come and join me’ and so she says I was very surreptitious in the way that I did that and…

Elliot Moss
Unfortunately she can’t speak for herself here but she is smiling so maybe she is complicit. But how did you ask her? How did you… I mean when you, you know, these are delicate matters aren’t they?

Sir Rocco Forte
Well it wasn’t, we were having a casual conversation basically and I could see that she was fed up and so she thought it was a good idea and she knows a lot more about restaurants having run a stand-alone restaurant but a lot of people or a lot of people in the business, my business, knew at the time so that’s the area that she focusses on and does very well in. When she developed the spa philosophy for the company which we didn’t have before which each hotel did its own thing and now she has developed a line of skin creams, organic skin creams and my son joined me and he works on the development side finding new hotels for us to run.

Elliot Moss
So what intrigues me is obviously the, and this is public, you know, one fights with one’s family. One has confrontations, one has conflict. I think I watched a short clip of Irene, your other daughter who is not here again to defend herself so you will have to do it for her. But she said you know ‘dad really likes lap pools’ – swimming pools because he is a very keen sportsman if you didn’t know – ‘and really the lap pool doesn’t work in a spa there are other things to consider and we fundamentally disagreed’ at which point you smiled and she smiled and she talked about this phrase brilliantly euphemistic ‘generational collaboration’ which is basically a way of saying I disagree with my father. When the children disagree with their father, what does their father say?

Sir Rocco Forte
Well…

Elliot Moss
The edited version?

Sir Rocco Forte
No I don’t think we disagree about anything very much actually. At the end of the day I am still the boss so…

Elliot Moss
I think you have answered the question.

Sir Rocco Forte
So they have to do what I say. But no, but I think you know, they come at things from a slightly different angle. They are young, they have different views about what is going on and how things should be done and they make a very good contribution as a result and I am very willing to listen to what they have to say. I don’t necessarily always, always agree but a lot of the things they’d like to do, we implement. They help to keep the company fresh and young.

Elliot Moss
Do you sometimes see those conversations played out in the same way you had those conversations with your father?

Sir Rocco Forte
I am sort of slightly different because I think relationships in those days were much more, were more formal. Although we were an Italian family and a very loving one, I mean there was more sort of deference in the way you talked to your parents than my children show these days.

Elliot Moss
When is PP Arnold coming?

Sir Rocco Forte
But, but I am quite happy to debate things. My father said, if he disagreed with me, said ‘shut up you don’t know what you are talking about’. But my father was terrific. His ambition was that I should take over the company after him and he sort of groomed me to, to do that and I learnt a hell of a lot from him. The only conflict we ever had was when it was time to take over and he wasn’t quite ready to, to let go and that’s always the issue. I mean it is a very difficult one to handle. We were a public company than, he was 84 when he stepped down and it was very difficult. Your father is your father, and you love him and you can’t push him aside even if you have the ability to do so. So there was sort of a year and half of sort of, as you said early, I was sacked three times, I resigned another three times and so but anyway eventually we came to a conclusion. Actually the one regret I have is that I couldn’t find a way of keeping him in the business you know after I took it over in the sense that he was such a powerful figure and the Founder is a powerful figure and you know, I noticed that in my own business. I have to sometimes be careful what I say, if I make a joke sometimes some people decide to implement it. The… anyway things evolved.

Elliot Moss
Things evolve indeed, especially in relationships in families. Plenty more coming up from my brilliant guest, Sir Rocco Forte in a couple of minutes but first here’s a classic Jazz Shaper…

We are here in the heat of London in Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair, one of the 14 Rocco Forte Hotels with my Business Shaper, Chairman and Co-Founder of these luxury hotels, Sir Rocco Forte himself. I am intrigued about how a person like you who has been through so much in the world of business handles pressure and the pressure going back to, for a brief moment, to 1996 when the company was taken over in a hostile way by Granada, I read the last chapter of your father’s autobiography and it mapped out what you went through to try and defend the company, to try and hold on to it and obviously history tells the story which says it was taken apart afterwards and all the things you said were bad about the idea came true. At that time, if you recall, how did you cope? What were your coping mechanisms, what were you drawing on to ensure that you stayed sane and that a year later which I think is extraordinary, you started again?

Sir Rocco Forte
Well the whole process of a takeover bid is very, is very controlled and there is stages in the process which you have to follow and you are very limited in what you can do to defend yourself. The whole issue of course is creating shareholder value so it is not about saving the company for the incumbent management, it’s about achieving the best possible value for shareholders and in that we were successful in driving the share price up and also driving the bid up which created the biggest takeover bid at that time that there had ever been. I was lucky because I was fit, in those days, I was running marathons so I was very fit and evening I would run home from the office in Holborn to Chelsea where I lived and that sort of got cobwebs out of the system but I had a lot of stamina and a lot of resistance because of my fitness and a lot of determination to continue to take the company forward. It is a terrible process you are in, you are in two rounds of going to visit all the institutional shareholders that own your shares, you are dealing with the press on a continuous basis. A very high profile takeover but the… it’s two months the process, and you sort of whizz through it in a way, you are almost not aware of the time passing because it is from morning to night and even sometimes at night you wake up thinking about an angle which you might try or something, or something different that you might do but I think it is also, you know, you have to have a sense of determination and ability to want to overcome difficulties when they are presented and not everybody has that.

Elliot Moss
Was there a sense though that sometimes you didn’t quite want to be Sir Rocco who was in the public eye? Where there moments when you went ‘I just want this to go away and stop, I’d quite like to put my pyjamas on, close the door and just stay put’. Does that ever occur to someone like you? Where you just literally want to withdraw?

Sir Rocco Forte
No well I haven’t got to that stage. If I were to get to that stage I would withdraw I think you know but I think whilst I have the enthusiasm and the energy to drive the business, I would like this business to be bigger than it is today and I think we need to double the size of the company which won’t change its character very much, it won’t change the psyche of the company which I think is very important and will give us a bigger spread of properties, better utilisation of the central structures and therefore a sounder business as a result and sort of I have set myself a goal of trying to achieve that before I sort of hand over to someone else.

Elliot Moss
We talked about family in that business context and your relationship with your father a little bit and now your children and you talked about we are a very loving Italian family, was that support also important looking back and is it still important do you draw on that without sounding too fuzzy because it is slightly off the balance sheet as it were or do you think that support is something else that has enabled you to do what you do?

Sir Rocco Forte
Yes I think I you know, I believe that family is the bedrock of society and I don’t like a lot of what’s going on today because I think it threatens the traditional family and that way of life. Family is the only bulk word that gets the State and the all-powerful State so I think everything should be done to encourage the family to continue to exist as it has in the past. Of course you draw strength from the people around you. Obviously there are a lot of very dysfunctional families where things don’t work but I think if in families where people are brought up in the right way and so on there is always a level of support there when you need it and it is usually in bad times, difficult times that you need the support most of all.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for my final chat with Sir Rocco in a few minutes but now it is time for some more music, ladies and gentleman, please welcome back PP Arnold to the stage. There she is and there are her band sitting very patiently waiting to play. Just before we have some music, I just want to talk to you for a moment. It’s fantastic to have you here, home. I mean it is home, you are obviously American but you lived… how long have you lived in London over the years?

Oh no I am a, I am a British resident. I have been here since 1966 really.

Elliot Moss
It was a good year.

It was a very good year. You guys won the world cup.

Elliot Moss
Unfortunately I remember it because there has not been much since. I do yeah.

And yeah it was a very good year for me. I first came to the UK in 1966 with Ike & Tina Turner. I was an Iket and I was fortunate to be with them, they had a hit record called River Deep Mountain High. They were invited to come and support the Rolling Stones on their 1966 tour.

Elliot Moss
You are a musician, you are a singer but you were in an environment then of the most famous people on the plant. The most famous musicians. How do you keep sane through that? If you did?
Well you know I was so square. I mean I had had kind of a difficult life before then, I never planned to be in the music industry, it wasn’t an ambition of mine. Just a day in the life, changed my life, I actually said a prayer and asked God to show me a way out of the situation that I was in and you know about an hour after the prayer I found myself in Ike & Tina Turner’s living room singing Dancing in the Street.

Elliot Moss
We should all pray.

Yeah powerful prayer.

Elliot Moss
It was a very powerful prayer. And what about now, here we are, your first new material for a number of years. You are back, you are creating, how does that feel?

Well it feels great, I mean I have always been creating, I have just had to deal with the ups and downs of my career and of my life, I kept believing in myself and was fortunate enough to be able to collaborate with many, many, many great artists and I just keep singing. I love to sing. I sang my first solo when I was 4 years old, a song called Soldiers in the Army and I am a strong soldier.

Elliot Moss
I think we should have another track. We should have another song from the strong soldier. Ladies and gentlemen it is PP Arnold and band.

Thank you. This next song is another song from my latest album, The New Adventures of PP Arnold. It is a gift from Mr Paul Weller and it is a song about peace and love and it is called Shoot The Dove.

Elliot Moss
The wonderful PP Arnold and her brilliant band. We will be having one last track, I think it might be quite special and that will be at the end so hold tight. This is Jazz Shapers it is The Live Session, I am joined by Sir Rocco Forte here in his own hotel, in his own home at Brown’s. How do you relax? What does it take for you to be able to switch off? You talked about the general manager role and you said you live and you breathe it but you’ve got that role times not just 14, but the next, as you said, 20, 30 hotels you are thinking about in the next three to five years, thinking about all sorts of things. When do you actually switch off?

Sir Rocco Forte
Well I mean you do and you don’t. One of the ways I switched off is I took up triathlons and that sort of focuses the mind.

Elliot Moss
A very normal thing to do to relax.

Sir Rocco Forte
It is quite hard and in fact I did one Iron Man which is you swim 3.8km, you cycle 180 and then you run a marathon and the training for that was so hard, I was doing 26 hours a week, it started interfere ring with my work so that was a bad way to relax but no I think sometimes you need something to take your mind off, off the business. I play golf, that concentrates the mind quite. I don’t think this idea that there is a sort of necessarily work life balance, I mean it is quite correct if you are running a business, if you own a business, that’s your life, that’s part of you and if you don’t have it it’s a big gap out of your life so you are thinking about in one way or another all the time and when you are interacting with people they are looking at you in relation to your business, they are talking to you about your business so you never completely leave it but I don’t have any, I don’t have any problems with that and this idea that you know, you need time to think strategy and running operations, you haven’t got time to think. You think strategy all the time and you are thinking about it in the bath in the morning or when you go to bed at night. Sometimes you rest you know, because you are tired and exhausted and sometimes at weekends I feel… my wife says I am the most uncommunicative person that ever existed. She thinks I….

Elliot Moss
Sounds familiar.

Sir Rocco Forte
…am a complete zombie but where other people find me rather gregarious at times.

Elliot Moss
It just depends.

Sir Rocco Forte
So, so, so you know, I think these days everything is a little bit exaggerated in that way about the balance.

Elliot Moss
Yeah it is not binary and on that note, let’s open this up. Let’s see if we have got a couple of questions. I think we have got time for two.

Audience
Yes good even Mr Rocco. If being a notary entrepreneur was not your dream job, what would have been your dream job other than running hotels and repairing hotels?

Elliot Moss
So if you hadn’t been an hotelier, what would have been your dream job? Would you have been an actor?

Sir Rocco Forte
Well I nearly was an actor. One day I met Michael Caine and he said ‘did you used to be an actor?’ and I said ‘no’ and he said ‘well were you ever in a television play’ and I said ‘yes as a matter of fact, I said when I was 13 years old’ and he said ‘yeah I was in it too, before I was discovered’ and I had a talking part and he was an extra.

Elliot Moss
It could have all been so different.

Sir Rocco Forte
He said ‘I remember you very well’, he said, ‘you were such a polite little boy’ and guess what I played? I played an Italian waiter in an Italian restaurant which was very appropriate. After that I was offered all sorts of roles actually, this was an ITV production for its fifth anniversary in ’58, I was 13 then and I was offered the Rose Statue, the young lad from St John Barbirolli, a number of parts and my father wasn’t at all keen and he said ‘do you want to become an actor or do you want to work hard, go to boarding school, go to University and come into the business’ so I said ‘I want to work hard and go into the business’. So that’s the closest I’ve got to ever doing another job.

Elliot Moss
There you go, listen it has been brilliant talking to you. Thank you for having us in your home, please ladies and gentlemen put your hands together for Sir Rocco Forte.

We are going to close off this exceptional Jazz Shapers Live Session with a last song from PP Arnold and her band, thank you so much for all of you in the audience. Here she is, ladies and gentlemen with her band, it’s PP Arnold one last time.

So I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time when another great British artist, song writer, Mr Cat Stevens wrote a very beautiful song and gave it to me. The song is called The First Cut Is The Deepest and I recorded it about 10 years before Rod Stewart and I don’t think Cheryl Crowe was even born. So I am going to sing it to you now with my wonderful band here.

Thank you very much. Thank you so much.

Elliot Moss
That’s it from me and Jazz Shapers, have a great weekend.
We hope you enjoyed that edition of Jazz Shapers. You will find hundreds of more guests available for you to listen to in our archive. To find out more just search Jazz Shapers in iTunes or your favourite podcast platform or head over to mishcon.com/jazzshapers.

Sir Rocco Forte is the Chairman and Co-Founder of the luxury hotel brand, Rocco Forte Hotels.

With his grandfather and father in the hospitality business, Rocco’s approach to customers was shaped at an early age – treat guests differently because they are individuals. From spending school holidays working across his father’s company, the Forte Hotel and Restaurant business – later Trust House Forte, Rocco joined the Forte Group in 1969, succeeding his father as Chairman in 1992.

Following a takeover by leisure and media company Granada in 1996 that took away their right to use the Forte name commercially, Rocco and his sister, Olga Polizzi (Deputy Chairman and Director of Design at Rocco Forte Hotels), set about building a new business, RF Hotels, targeting the high-end hotel market. In 1997, the pair bought back The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh from Granada and 10 years later, the Forte rights were returned and the business was renamed Rocco Forte Hotels.

Interview highlights

The thing I am most proud of is the culture that we’ve created in the company.

There is a lot of hard work involved and a huge attention to detail in delivering the guest experience during their stay at a hotel.

Various departments have to work effectively for the guest experience to be a perfect one.

I am quite happy to debate things.

If you own a business, it becomes your life.

Family is the bedrock of society.

You have to have a sense of determination and ability to want to overcome difficulties when they are presented.

I don’t think anybody should come into this industry if they don’t love it.

Unless you have the passion and belief that you want to deliver, it is very difficult to do the job properly.

I visit each of my hotels at least twice a year to satisfy myself that what is being done is correct and within the standards and philosophy of the company.

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Jazz Shapers - 3 months ago

Shaper: Marcia Kilgore

Serial entrepreneur, Marcia Kilgore, is the Founder of Beauty Pie – the radical, luxury cosmetic buyers’ club as well as Bliss, Soap & Glory, FitFlop and Soaper Duper. Coming from humble beginnings, Marcia’s drive and ambition led her to Found Bliss Spa, selling a majority stake to LVMH in 1999. In 2006, she launched bath, [...]

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Jazz Shapers - 3 months ago