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December 8 2013 Latest news:
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Maria Florou, general manager of the Cedar Court Grand Hotel in York, explains why she has no reservations about her career choice
What was your first job?
I began working in my fathers restaurant at the age of 13 and have been in hospitality ever since.
What lessons did that job teach you?
That determination and hard work pay off and you only get out of life what you put in. Customer service is key to everything we do, so if youre not naturally a people person then you better become one pretty quickly because otherwise you will fail in this industry. Get it right, and this career can be very rewarding.
How has your career progressed?
My family actually discouraged me from entering the hospitality industry. I even started an engineering and product design degree with a mind to becoming an engineer, but the 24/7 nature of hospitality and the buzz I get from it was just too strong, so I switched to an HND and then degree in hospitality.
I joined Cedar Court straight from university as a trainee but was fast-tracked to the management programme at Cedar Court Wakefield, where I gained vital experience as conference sales manager, conference and banqueting manager, and bars manager.
In 2001, the group took over the Hilton in Huddersfield and, six months later, I became deputy manager and remained so for nine years. I was determined to prove that I was capable of managing the hotel and was given the chance to do so when the general manager took over the Bradford property Cedar Court had just repurchased.
I was invited to apply for the GM role at Cedar Court Grand Hotel & Spa in York, charged with turning it into the citys first five-star hotel. It was a huge, high-pressure task, especially as we had declared our lofty intention from the start, but we achieved our five stars in November 2011. Now the challenge and its a big one is maintaining the incredibly
high standards we have set ourselves.
What do you enjoy about your job now?
Meeting new people and developing the business. The sheer variety involved in this role ensures that no two days are the same, so Im always on my toes.
Whats next for you?
Im going to work with my team to put The Grand on a par with the worlds most celebrated hotels. Were not going to rest on our laurels just because weve achieved five stars as a hotel and our kitchen has two AA rosettes. Theres so much to do, but Im absolutely dedicated to the cause. The only thing I have to do in terms of my own life is sell my house in Huddersfield and move closer to York to help retain a good work-life balance.
What advice would you give to others?
Always follow your dreams, be determined and have the courage to make changes, even if they scare you. You only get out of life what you put in, so make those changes for the better and constantly look to the future.