Clare Davies is the Founder and Managing Director of Capstone Hotel Management and an Owner Manager Programme alumni.
This Kiwi Business Story is based on a podcast from 4 May 2023, and all figures quoted are from that time. You can enjoy the complete podcast here.
Tell us about the business?
Capstone Hotel Management has been operating for almost nine years. Prior to that I was a shareholder in a resort business here in Nelson. When I sold out of that business, I could see that there was a need for small hotels that weren't part of a bigger hotel chain that needed systems, support and management – owner operators who wanted to step out their business but didn't want to run the day-to-day.
The business has just grown from there, to be one of the country’s largest New Zealand-owned hotel management companies. We consider ourselves to be experts in regional tourism.
Over the years the business has transitioned and morphed, and we now have three arms of the business, including consulting services and sales and distribution programmes – working with hotels that might have an owner operator and good management team within the product, but need assistance with driving business to the asset.
How was your OMP (Owner Manager Programme) experience?
I did OMP 18 when we were just coming out of the GFC. I was the youngest person on the programme. I think there were about three females on the course and, altogether, it was such an amazing group of people. To this day we’re all really great friends.
When I did OMP I didn't have Capstone, but [I’ve] definitely taking the learnings through into this business. That's been really important – understanding that although we had a real range of businesses within the room, at the end of the day, we all have very similar issues and challenges and concerns.
Back then it was the best time to do the course – getting the tools to make those hard decisions, whether it's with your team or staffing or finances, exit strategy or what your vision is... just a reset really, a look at what you're doing, and have it peer reviewed, and have it challenged, because it can be quite lonely [running a business], particularly when you’re the sole director of the company.
Did you have any hesitations about doing OMP?
It was probably just lack of confidence really, of going into this room with all these successful businesspeople, and just nervousness around content and what's going to be delivered, what are they going to ask me about my business, and all those feelings around impostor syndrome. But, when you get there, you actually find out you all have very similar stories, which is great to hear.
How did OMP impact you from a personal and business point of view?
Sometimes it's just reaffirmation that you're doing the right thing. During OMP, I was exiting out of a partnership, so I found a lot of value from my peers and the facilitators on that process.
You know what needs to be done within the business to help it move forward, but sometimes it’s just having the confidence to go ahead and make some of those tough decisions that you might have put off.
OMP definitely taught me that foundation, even in business now, that it's okay to have to make those tough decisions – and we've had to make a hell of a lot of them over the last few years.
I know that even to this day, if I have an issue and need to call up Deb [Shepherd] or Liz [Wotherspoon] or Darl [Kolb], they'll take the call and have a good chat with me and help support me through any issue I might be having. That’s priceless and holds a lot of value.
You recently signed up to The Icehouse Owner Manager Exchange (OMX)?
We're going through a period of growth at the moment and it’s happening quite fast. So, part of my reasoning for doing OMX is to get a bit of perspective… ‘Is that the right direction?’, ‘Should we be being growing faster?’, ‘What's my exit strategy long-term?’ Not that I'm going anywhere anytime soon, but you need to have that endgame!
So, what does that all look like? And how do I grow without losing my team along the way with burnout, for example? It’s a real balance act.
At the moment, we're a B2B business, but that could change and we become a B2C business over time. Those are all decisions that we have to make along the journey. So, I’m always keen to listen to good advice, bounce ideas, and make sure the pathway is a little bit clearer.