General manager of Oddfellows Hotels Paul Cookson: A Day in the Life

Fluff, cleanliness and a glass of sauvignon

Day in the Life of Paul Cookson, general manager of Oddfellows Hotels

Fact file

Name: Paul Cookson

Job: General manager of Oddfellows Hotels

Born: Newcastle-under-Lyme

Lives: Holt

Education: Clough Hall, Kidsgrove followed by Stoke on Trent’s Hospitality Course

Family: Married to Lisa for 24 years with three boys, Jack, 20, James, 18 and Daniel, 13

Paul with his son Danny in Santorini

I’m an early riser, up with the birds. I have breakfast with my youngest son Dan and a chance to spend some time with him before I leave for work.

I like to be at Oddfellows by 7.30am at the latest to walk the building, checking for anything that needs acting on. I have extremely high standards of cleanliness and repair – you can always tell a decent hotel manager as their pockets will be full of fluff and bits of rubbish they have picked up on the walk round the building.

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My first meetings are a catch up with the night manager at handover then Chris, our maintenance manager, to discuss the jobs of the day and week ahead.

I then touch base with Michele our financial controller to go through the checks and balances from the previous day.

At 10am, we hold what I call ‘ten at ten’ – 10 minutes with the senior operations teams, marketing and events to discuss the day ahead. Even just 10 minutes of formal communication between the team is vital to providing great service.

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Between 11am and noon, I’ll catch up with Jonathan Slater, the owner of Oddfellows Management Company, who run the hotel.

I’ve worked with him for many years at The Chester Grosvenor and we work exceptionally well together. We’ll discuss anything from strategy for our expansion plans as a group (we open our next Oddfellows, Oddfellows On The Park, in December this year and are looking for a third property) right down to the details of day-to-day operations.

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The afternoon is filled with appointments and internal meetings. I always take the time between meetings to talk to guests and to walk through the building.

It’s this hands-on approach that keeps me well-informed – I know exactly what is going on at all times.

By the time evening comes, I’m ready to handover to my team and head home.

I always get out for a walk with my beloved dog Alf. I live surrounded by fields and it’s just a nice moment of meditation after a busy day.

Paul with his dog

I catch up with my children. My two older boys are living their own lives now but all of them still live at home. Jack has followed me into hospitality which makes me very proud. Danny the youngest sometimes needs taking to cricket or football practice which I like to do if I can.

Paul Cookson with son Jack

Then, in the evenings I just potter around the house – talking through the day’s events with Lisa. And a well-deserved glass of sauvignon with dinner!

What do you wear to do your job? We’re smart casual at Oddfellows. In my previous existence, it was suits, braces and black Church’s. At Oddfellows, we’ve got a more relaxed vibe, so chinos, brogues and a jacket suit the hotel better.

What is the favourite part of your job? I’m really enjoying the strategical thinking that has to happen now that we are expanding our group of hotels. The chance to have an impact in the direction we are taking Oddfellows Hotels gives me great pleasure.

What is the least favourite part of your job? Unfortunately, as everyone in my position knows, you see the very best of people, but also the worst sometimes. I can’t abide bad manners and if I see someone disrespecting the building or my team, it makes me really cross.

What would be your dream job if you weren’t doing what you do now? I’d be a social worker – specifically working with children. I’ve helped out with teenagers before at the hospitality programme at Oaklands School in Winsford and it’s been deeply satisfying work.

How do you relax when you are not working? Walking the dog and hanging out with the family. We always try to have Sunday lunch together and that’s one of the highlights of my week.

Paul with his wife Lisa

What is your favourite film? I don’t really watch films. I love travel documentaries though and will watch them again and again. I think I have a little wanderlust still in me and I’m desperate to see some of the more undiscovered parts of the world.

What is your favourite book? Anything by James Patterson.

What is your favourite song? Anything by Coldplay or the Stereo-phonics.

If a film was made of your life, who would you like to play you? Ben Affleck in looks, Ben Stiller by nature.

Have you had your 15 minutes of fame yet? Not for myself, but you tend to rub shoulders with those who have. The Royal Family, Beyoncé, Kylie and Tina Turner have all been looked after by me. I even had the pleasure of meeting Monica Lewinsky.

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