9 Years on, I have finally won the Mayfair Power and Tower Race in aid of Galvin’s Chance!

I certainly did not start The Mayfair Power and Tower Race this morning with a first place in mind.  There are many reasons for this. I am too slow a runner, I did not train specifically for the race, my personal course time has been declining in the last 3 years and to be frank the past winners are way superior than I am.


In fact before the race I was telling Chris Galvin my strategy was to “run easy” and just do enough to beat fellow runner and CEO of Red Carnation Hotel – Jonathan Raggett. Then the whistle blew and we started running.

Surprisingly I felt fresh and strong for the first kilometre or so. I was breathing well and could feel my heart pumping calmly and slowly, the blood was going round and I felt at peace within.


To start with, I was in the first 15 runners and the only runner I wanted to beat was far behind me.

So I kept on running… Running while concentrating on what was going on inside – my heart and legs, my breathing, the blood flowing, my stride.

Already I was thinking strategically and took all the legal “short cuts” by either going wide or narrow on the course. Little by little I overtook most of the pack until I was number 4. Last year’s winner was in first place again and way ahead of me. He seemed untouchable just 2 kilometres from the entrance of the London Hilton on Park Lane. At that point I could now begin to feel the pain.

I kept going.


The teachings from the boxing ring kicked in. I kept on talking to myself : Relax, keep going, monitor your tank, run your race, stay strong, breathe, be tactical and take a “breather” as and when you can. 

I did just that.


I accelerated as fast as I could going downhill and just 500 yards away from the hotel, I overtook the race leader and I was now the one in front. I began to feel that I could win this but knew deep down I had to keep a cool head. Anything could happen still.

Again I accelerated going downhill in the tunnel crossing Park Lane, I then took a “breather” in and out of the tunnel and crossed the road to the door of the hotel as fast as I could while avoiding a collision with a huge black Mercedes…

I ran through the hotel lobby, I could see all the spectators but could not respond to any cheers. I was focus on three things only - running, breathing and winning.


I jumped 4 stairs at a time down to the lower lobby at the back of the London Hilton on Park Lane before going out and turning right onto the emergency stairs leading to the 28th floor at Galvin at Windows.


I took another “breather” for a few seconds on the stairs landing and started my ascent with 2 runners right on my heels. I looked back briefly and occasionally to know where they were.

I knew then that I could very well win the race or lose my lead or worse, be forced to give up of exhaustion in the stairs. I went as fast as I could to the 4th floor running up one or two stairs at the time and using the strength of my left arm with the balustrade to propel me up faster … both runners were still right behind me but they started to walk so I did that too. I was in front and ahead, I thought just like in the boxing ring – fight your fight – run your race. Just do what you need to do to win.


Still I took no chances and walked as fast I could, sometimes one stair at the time and sometimes two.


I wanted to vomit all the way to the top floor. I almost did that at least 10 times but I carried on. Being nauseas or vomiting while pushing myself hard doing sports happened to me many times before while boxing or running. I know the feeling very well, it’s ok, I can take it – the little voice in my head kept telling me to keep on going. YOU CAN WIN THIS! I started to believe it but could not begin to tell myself I would win for certain , so much could still go wrong!


Suddenly around the 14th floor the 2 runners behind me started to lose ground and so I moved tactically to the right of the staircase so they could not see where I was when looking up. I wanted to “take their heart” and discourage them and make them believe I was gone far already.


When looking back I could see they were close but once I reached the 24th floor I knew victory was mine.


There was no way they could catch me now.


My body was gone but I wanted it so badly and I would have raced them like a mad man to the top in order to get my Cup and Winners medal.  

I kept going and I won! First time in 9 years!



The Art of Service awards 2015

The Art of Service 2015 awards are about the people I follow and who inspire me, the places I like, the experiences I have had the chance and pleasure to enjoy and those individuals and businesses who impress me the most for their creativity, integrity and honesty, consistency, quality and champion’s mind set.

Best food – Dairy Clapham
Best local restaurant – Pedler (Peckham)
New comer of the year (restaurant) – Jose Pizarro Broadgate
Best Maitre d’h – Michele Caggianese
Most creative charity – Stand up to Cancer
Best trainer and presenter – Peter Strachan and Oliver Delany (Petoli)
Designer of the year – Ian Callum (Jaguar)
Most visionary CEO – Ewan Ventners (Fortnum & Mason)
Best service (restaurant) – Duck and Rice (Soho-London)
Best service (car industry) – Bentley UK
Best service (retail) – SUITSUPPLY (London)
Best service (transport) – Eurostar
Best service (taxi company) – GLH

Special awards 2015

Man of the year – Simon Vincent (Hilton Worldwide)
Woman of the year – Marina O’Loughlin

Keep up the good work and Make Excellence a Habit!


How many push ups can you do in one minute?

Within 5 to 10 minutes of waking up I do #301 push ups every morning.

The whole exercise takes me about 15 minutes on average from start to finish.

When I feel tired and can’t be bothered I think about Carl Froch who apparently does #350 every day.

I am very disciplined and I know this much, you can’t become a champion feeling sorry for yourself so I get up and I push up no matter what.

Recently I decided to give a go at the record of push ups one can do in one minute. So from time to time I attempt to break my own record.

This very morning I broke my record and did #86 in 60 seconds flat.

As I was going down the stairs to the kitchen to make a coffee, my sweet little daughter Andrea was coming up.

I asked her to guess how many I did today. She responded at once “#100?”.

My initial reaction was to think to myself “no, I can’t do that, it is impossible”. And then I proudly told her #86 but in my mind I knew at once I had to seriously rewire my thought process if I was going to ever be able to beat the world record and do #120 in 60 seconds.

It is all in the mind, I know that. I say that constantly. Yet I failed to work on it and make it a reality for me to beat my push ups record.

Nothing makes winners like winning.

Small victories always lead to bigger ones.

Only thinking in the right way makes thinking in the right way.

And this applies to life in general and to work and service of course.

To push up #120 I must have faith, I must believe I can do it in the first place. To actually do it I need to work hard and practise, I need to have a vision and be able to see myself do #120 or even #150. It will take time and I can only do small incremental improvements but I will get there as long as I do what I have just said.

It is up to me and only me can do it.

How many push ups can you do in one minute?

Make Excellence a habit.


Have you got your eyes on the ball?

In a restaurant it is easy to spot a good team and its star players just by watching and observing them work together.

A busy or quiet service are equally as exciting to watch because each offer their own challenges.

For me it is as entertaining as watching a Premiership match.

It is both fun and educational to relate football to restaurant and to draw the parallel with the skills level, the communication, the vision of the game, the positioning of each players on the pitch, the focus, and the strategy to name but a few.

In football you rarely see the players stop in the middle of the field and talk at length (about tactics or the game in play) to each other. They don’t because they don’t need to.

For 90 minutes they stay focused and keep their eyes on the ball. They play the same game. They know where he ball is, but most importantly they are naturally and automatically able to anticipate where the ball will be next.

Then they run in the tightest of gaps to try and score.

Only the other team who is defending is also anticipating where the ball will be next.

And so it can happen that the defender is there ahead of the striker. If however the defender is late, the striker gets the ball and score.

Anyway back to our topic, restaurants and to my point.

During service in a good restaurant, staff do not really need to hold endless meetings in the middle of the room.

Good teams play the restaurant game like a top football team plays in the Premiership. They have their eye firmly on the ball and anticipate where the ball will be next. Before a guest even think about it the G&T is served just as they like it, the order of table 3 is taken and table 16 is already reset for another guest. And water, bread and butter have magically appeared on table 7.

No long discussions, no debate, no agonising decisions, no unnecessary delays. Everyone is focused and sees the same things because they all look in the right direction at the right time.

Make Excellence a Habit!


I’m a dead man walking.

I’m a dead man walking.

It is just a matter of time before I die.

That is both a fact and a certainty like no other.

To realise and accept this was one the most liberating experience in my entire life.

At 43 I think I have come to terms with the reality of my own death and the ultimate fear.

The plain and simple truth is that I used to be scarred of so many insignificant things.

Despite my confidence, I have always been a constant worrier so fear was always present within.

Fear of the unknown, fear it might not happen, fear….

I am still a worrier, I do not think that will ever change.

In a way I don’t mind that anymore, I have accepted it. Worrying “softly” is healthy because it keeps me on my toes and alive and kicking.

The difference is that fear is not part of me like it once was, it is just there and it is my friend.

Life has become easier and making decisions and living by their consequences have never been simpler and more straight forward.

I don’t care what you think.

Don’t get me wrong, I do care.

But I don’t. Does it make sense?

What matters to me in life is to be good and make a difference.

Being a dead man walking has given me the most unimaginable lightness of being.

It is a great feeling to feel the breeze of freedom as I walk.


Never leave any customers alone with their thoughts.

Never leave any customers alone with their thoughts.

Businesses and organisations fundamentally produce goods, experiences, services and are made of two essential and distinctive parts:

The first part is the actual product. In its simplest form this will be the food and drink menus for a restaurant, the bedrooms for a hotel, the vehicles for a car manufacturer, the flights for an airline or the goods for a retailer.

The second part is the service (how a business makes people feel). Actually service is an integral component of both parts because service is both the main product as well as the supportive and complementary part to the main product.

Good businesses deliver quality products and a matching service based on TRUST. In religion trust is the basis of love. Without trust there is no love, without love there can’t be loyalty and without loyalty there can’t be longevity.

Service, as you know, is very subjective and as such the way it is perceived can vary from person to person. Customers (ie human beings like you and me) have all the same basic needs around the world. So from that basis, what we need to do to ensure 100% ( or very close to) customer satisfaction is, in my view, very clear, simple and straight forward . After all, we are all fundamentally the same!
Socrates famously said “a life unexamined is not a life worth living”. By that he meant we should look within, learn and know about ourselves, we should seek what we really want and aim to be better and good human beings.

Let’s apply the above paragraph to service that delivers 100% customer satisfaction.

First of all it is key (and non negotiable) that staff within the business know the product they sell inside out. It is also essential they love their brand and what it stands for.

“We” and all other human beings on this planet are all the same and want the same thing. We react in the same way to any negative and positive stimulus. Therefore if we know ourselves and what we like then we know others and what they like too. Only we must be actively thinking about it and want to please our customers in the first place, if we are to make a difference. We absolutely need to know what good looks like, what good feels like. We need to give before we take and it is our job to be charming and thoughtful first and not the other way round. This is about ownership and responsibility.

This is why I say, if you want to give 100% customer satisfaction : Never leave any customers alone with their thoughts. Make sure you give them the answers before they ask the questions and reassure any concerns before these are even addressed. If you are with your customers at all times they will invariably feel you care and that they can trust you.

What do I mean by that? Here are two examples below:

Imagine a customer going to a restaurant, the table booked at 1.45pm is not available and the Gazelle on Red Bull directs him to the bar for a drink until he can be seated for his meal. Rather than let the customer wait indefinitely for the table, just communicate simply and update the customer about the status of the table. This way he will know you are on it and that he can trust and rely on you.

Imagine a customer car is due for a service/repair. The parts required for the repair are not available. Before the car is collected from the customer’s home by the dealership driver, the service advisor will contact the customer, explain the situation and will keep him informed (using the preferred method of communication) of the parts status so that the customer can be confident you care and will follow up on the issue.

Never forget that customers can find themselves alone with their thoughts at any moment and at any point within the customer journey.

A true service professional will always anticipate and know how to spot anyone alone in their thoughts at any given point of the customer journey and how to deal with any situation. This is the only way to instil trust between the customers and YOU and the brand YOU represent.
More often than not it is as simple as stating the obvious ie “just to let you know this will take 15 minutes….”

Really and truly it is no different than any interaction or relationship we have in our daily private life.

How do your children know you love them?
How does your wife/husband/partner know how beautiful they are?
How do your staff/boss know they are doing a good job?

Because you tell them and state the obvious, they know. It is as simple as that. And it follows the Golden Rule of Service number 8 “Treat others the way you would want to be treated”.

Do not leave any customers alone with their thoughts (ever). Make the effort and show that you care. Open your eyes, look, listen and give them your full undivided attention. As Shakespeare said “They do not love that do not show their love”.

Make Excellence a habit!


The customer journey and touch points

Nowadays, everyone, every single organisation, no matter the sector or industry talks about the Holy Grail of business – customer service and customer satisfaction.

So few however make the efforts required to plan ahead, properly think and train their staff on the ultimate customer journey within their business.

So few do not know the critical customer touch points along the journey that make all the difference.


So few perform and deliver at the highest level and get it consistently right.
If one is really serious about customer service and want to be the number one, there is only one way – to think and act like a champion.

But first it is vital to make a journey of discovery and research within ourselves and ask some key questions about our real desire, our appetite, and our motivation.

  • What do we really want?
  • What do we want to be?
  • How much do we want it?
  • How much sacrifice are we prepared to make to get what we want?
  • What pains are we prepared to go through to claim the ultimate reward?
  • Are we really serious about putting our customer first?

What is even more important is to realise what we should be doing to get there : in the land of total customer satisfaction.

Clearly many organisations around the world are working very hard (or at least think they are) at it and spending a lot of energy and efforts to get the point across.

It is about creating the right culture within.

A culture that is consistent with a high level performance.

The Holy Grail : a company wide customer service culture.

A customer service culture however is first and foremost about each individual within the organisation.

And culture is about all the little things that we do and that make customers feel good. It is not about what we say or what we say we do. Culture is about action.

Culture is about high standards.

Standards are by definition standards. No matter the day, time or staff member they will be delivered at the highest level.

A service culture is about creating trust with customers so that they have faith in the business and know in their heart they can rely on our services because we will always deliver.

It starts and ends with us.

It is about reaching a higher state of consciousness, both on a personal and on a collective level.

It is about adopting a whole new business and personal philosophy where OWNERSHIP and RESPONSABILITY become THE words of truth inside everyone within the organisation.

It is about realising the power of positive thinking and positive energy and believing in the beauty of rigor and discipline to deliver excellence.

So if you are thinking about improving the service within your organisation (regardless of the size, sector or industry), simply think like a customer, put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it feels like to be on the other side of the counter or phone.

What would you like the service to be?

What would make a difference?

Rewind and go back to the very start of the journey and map out all the touch points.

Then think how you can add value to every single touch points to create an amazing journey – the very kind you crave for and deserve and would like ‘you’ to deliver to you.

Make Excellence a Habit!

The Art of Service offers a wide range of solutions for any businesses. If you need any help with your customer journey just contact us via the website.


The Art of Service 2014 awards

The Art of Service 2014 awards are about the people I follow and who inspire me, the places I like, the experiences I have had the chance and pleasure to enjoy and those individuals and businesses who impress me the most for their creativity, consistency, quality and success.

Most exciting and fun restaurant – Beast

Best overall restaurant – Le Gavroche

Most influential, hard working and active (behind the scene) Hospitality Industry person – Simon Esner (Baxter Storey)

Most dedicated and creative charity Director – Simon Sheehan (Hilton in the Community Foundation)

Woman of the year for her dedication to service – Jo Causon (CEO Institute of Customer Service)

London restaurant pioneer – Russell Norman

Best trainer and presenter – Jason Dawe (Bumper Media)

Educator of the year – David McKnown (The University of Sheffield)

Most visionary CEO – Jens Hofma (Pizza Hut)

New comer of the year (restaurant) – Fischer’s

Best service (restaurant) – Franco Manca East Dulwich

Best service (car dealership) – Audi York JCT600

Best service (banking) – National Westminster Bank Lambeth North

Best service (retail) – PC World Old Kent Road

Best service (airline) – British Airways

Keep up the good work and Make Excellence a Habit!


The Customer Journey

The customer journey (and how the customer feels during his journey) is the most important feature of any business.
Yet, all too often it is not thought through properly, it can ignored altogether or not followed up on nor monitored in any way.

Brands and businesses across industries and sectors keep on failing to understand the direct link between the company culture and the customer journey.

A company culture is what creates trust between a brand and its customers – the customer journey is what creates the culture. Customers like brands they can be confident in because they know that no matter what the brand will deliver.

This does not happen by chance, it is about having a vision in the first place. It is about having a deep belief and a conviction that THIS IS the way to do it because THIS IS what customers want and HOW they want it done.
Venture capitalists are well known do their initial investment calculations on a back of “fag pack”, there is no difference with the customer journey of a business. If one can’t write it on a simple piece of paper then one can’t be serious about the success of the brand.
For example here is how it starts for any businesses or brands anywhere in the world.

Meet and greet at reception

Hostess, Manager or any staff specifically responsible for reception to meet and greet customers as soon as they enter the premises.
The Golden Rules at reception are:
• I see the customers before they see me
• I smile to the customers before they smile at me
• I say hello to the customers before they say hello to me
It is very simple and basic but it takes A LOT of resilience, ownership and determination to see it through and ensure it happens every single times. When it does and it is delivered without fail the company culture begins to grow.
It is never too late to start.
Make Excellence a Habit.

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Inspiration from The World Cup – One on one man marking

Like so many people I have followed the World Cup with great interest and passion. Not least because I actually believed France would go on and win it. Unfortunately they were beaten 1-0 by a very astute and determined German team.
This defeat made me think of the broader role of managers and players in our teams.
Let’s start with the French manager Didier Deschamps.
Personally I feel he was not able to react fast enough and allowed the Germans to keep the ball and effectively “kill the game” once they scored the only goal of the match. Tactical substitutions were long coming, despite the obvious talent and natural flair of the team Deschamps did not manage to find the switch within his players. He failed to unlock the necessary urgency and will to win in his team which was so badly needed to beat the Germans. It seemed as if he had only one game plan!
Holland’s Louis van Gaal showed his class and great genius when his team played Costa Rica.

Substituting the goal keeper for the penalty shoot out was just a masterstroke! By doing so he demonstrated his man management skills, strategic capability and overall adaptability. He not only switched Tim Krul’s confidence on but managed to bring doubts in the opponent and effectively destroyed the trust they had in their own ability.

Prior to that he did not hesitate to substitute one of his best player – Robin van Persie for Klaas Jan Huntelaar.

The reason for it was simple: Van Persie was not performing.

The change delivered the results as Jan Huntelaar scored the winner against Mexico. Clearly Van Gaal is a multi dimensional manager and takes no prisoners. His strategy is clear to me, the team is bigger than any players and he is here to win the World Cup.
Scolari’s and Brazil’s defeat on the 8th July was a clear demolition of a disorganised and disillusioned team who played without discipline and rigour against a merciless and very professional German side.

I will not comment further on the match. The score says it all Germany 7 – Brazil 1.

In a nutshell, football managers must be able to pick the right strategy as well as adapt to a plan B, C or D if and when necessary. Their ability to switch their players ON as well as recognise and deal with speed and urgency those that are OFF is equally important and crucial to winning.

Players on the other hand must know how to man mark. The foundation of good defense is man marking.

The key to great defending in football are:
• Keep your eyes on your man and the ball
• Keep the player in front of you
• Don’t let the player turn when they receive the ball with the back towards goal
• Close down fast when the ball is in the air
• Funnel back towards the goal when chasing down a defender
• Stay compact as a defensive unit with your teammates
• Defend as a team – pressure the opponent when you have numbers
• Don’t dive in
• Wait for support before you go to win the ball
Similarly in service the key to great defending are:
• Keep your eyes on the customers
• See, smile and say hello to the customers before they see, smile or say hello to you
• Be aware of your body language and never be on duty without a smile
• Think customer first, look at customers, see what there is to see, act on what you see
• Engage and connect with customers so that a bond and TRUST can be created
• Only give ONE job at a time to any staff at any given time
• Be obsessed with TOTAL CUSTOMER SATISFACTION – only a score of 9 or 10 out of 10 is good enough
• Show and train staff how to you want the job to be done and keep on practising until it is perfect
• When it is perfect, keep on practising so the performance is always perfect
• The details make all the difference. Be obsessed with details.
Socrates ailed the pursuit of virtue as the meaning of life. Virtue is knowing what is good and bad. Knowing this brings knowledge and therefore goodness which in turns bring happiness.
In service there is no grey, either we deliver or we don’t, so we need to know what makes good service and what makes bad service.
This is the only way to ensure 100% customer satisfaction and happiness.
We must know by heart and instinctively what is good and what is bad!
Therefore we must focus on the details and on every members of our team.
So let’s take some inspiration from the World Cup and football and MAN MARK every players in our teams so that everyone understands the vision, values and objectives of the business. This is the only way to defend effectively and allow the free play necessary to score goals and win. Besides…. Christmas is coming fast and we need to be ready for the business surge.
Make Excellence a Habit!