Taking 10 with...Penny Weston

Taking 10 with...Penny Weston

Sunday 17th June 2018

By Michelle Hammond

Q1 - How did your childhood influence your work ethic and attitude towards business?

I have been inspired from a very young age by my parents who had their own successful business. I grew up in a very hard-working environment where long hours, personal sacrifices and pressure were part of everyday life. This has led me to have an extremely strong work ethic where responsibility and accountability is paramount. This does however mean that I have missed out on having a huge social life but I feel that this has been worth it.

Q2 - What do you believe the principles of a successful business are today?

Communication is my number one business principle. However, communication must be in the right way which means listening to them as well as talking to them. I also believe integrity is important by treating employees with gratitude for helping the business achieve its key goals. Perseverance will also always be important; never giving up and always striving to better yourself and the business is what has bought me to where I am today. 

With changing times, digital is also important in order to keep up with the times, market in new ways, online visibility and have fresh and exciting content for the customers. I also strongly believe that extremely long term visions and strategies don’t work in today’s business climate. Having a purpose and direction is essential, and being consistent with your values is also essential, but being reactive and moving with the times (buyer behaviour & technology) is essential. This will naturally result in changing goals, strategies and new projects taking a different turn.

Q3 - Looking back, what was your best business decision?

Reflecting on the business, our best decision was going in to the wedding market. As an establish spa retreat already, we wanted to look for new markets that will be in line with our ethos but also give us something extra that we can offer. The unique location of Moddershall Oaks makes it the perfect setting for weddings. We opened in 2000 and as people were asking us to hire out marquee so we knew that this was the direction to go.

We invested over £1m into our venue which opened in December 2010 and we have been hosting weddings, conferences and events ever since. We reinvested in to the business in 2015 to launch what is the best outdoor wedding setting in the area, and its been hugely popular. We are also in a unique position where we can tie spa in to the weddings – brides can have pre-wedding treatments and all of our married couples have a post wedding mini-moon spa break.

Q4 - Who has influenced you the most through your career?

Both of my parents have had a huge influence on me during my career. I have always looked up to them and have always helped them with different areas of business. Moddershall Oaks opened when I was 14 so I was extremely involved and moulded by the way they ran the business. I essentially grew up with the business with my main goal to prove myself business-wise and also take the pressure off of both my parents. What was great and benefited me most was never having preferential treatment. In fact, I worked harder, longer and in many roles in order to push myself and the business further. I feel as though now I have grown into my own person with the knowledge and experience I have gained working here for 17 years now.

Q5 - What was your most difficult / worst business decision?

I wouldn’t say that there has been a ‘worst business decision’. Working in any sector and any business requires difficult decisions to be made but they are all part and parcel of the job. They also help to shape the way the business is in the future, even when tough lessons are learnt. A difficulty that we have found is in recruitment which I am sure many people in the fast paced hospitality industry will share.

Q6 - What would you say was the single most advantageous character trait for success?

Persistence. No matter what people say, how much people put you down, how many times you fail, how stressed the situation might get… always keep going. Never give up. I am self- motivated so no matter how many times I hear something judgemental or negative, it won’t stop me. However, not everyone is self-motivated. It is disheartening that people are so quick to judge and criticise. More people would succeed if there was more encouragement and positivity between us all.

Q7 - What happens when you’re stressed or overwhelmed?

Not very much on the outside! I am very good at holding it together, even if things are very stressful (which they regularly are). I don’t believe that creating stress around you, losing your temper or getting upset will help anything. I can keep a cool head and work to fix whatever is creating the stress.

Q8 - How do you invest in your own wellbeing. How do you look after yourself?

Keeping fit and eating well. Exercise is my number one stress relief technique. The release it gives is really noticeable. I find that if I work out first thing in the morning it sets me up for the day with a really positive and motivated attitude. And cuddling my dog of course!

Q9 - If you could change one thing about the spa and wellness industry what would it be and why?

It frustrates me that there isn’t a more clear-cut definition of spa and wellness in the eyes of the consumer. Hotels with a swimming pool and jacuzzi (whilst often beautiful) are not spas, and yet they can call themselves so. This makes for really difficult marketing, especially when customers compare us with this sort of venue who are often sometimes half the price. I also think that there should be more links to wellness in spas in a holistic sense, for example counselling, nutrition, yoga and meditation. There is so much more to wellness than relaxation and treatments (although it is certainly a good start!) We are opening a wellness centre this year after investing 3 years and over £1.5m into the project. It will offer a variety of exercise, stretch and relaxation classes, as well as a healthy food café, retail
shop, boutique gym and wellness therapies.

Q10 - Finally, what’s your favourite quote or the best advice you’ve ever been given?

“Don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try”

I am a born risk taker, I like to try new things and push boundaries. Settling is not in my nature, and I would like to encourage more people to ‘go for it’ and not regret things later in life.

FLASH FACTS - FOR FUN SECTION

1. What’s your favourite book ?

I love horrors or fantasies, anything that is far away from serious business, I would read to escape. I love the Harry Potter books too.

2. What’s your favourite film of all time?

Growing up it was Ferngully, then Jurassic Park, now I love action thrillers and enjoy a good horror movie now and then.

3. If you could have dinner with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?

David Attenborough, I love animals and have so much respect for him.

4. You get taken to your favourite place to be, where are you taken?

French Polynesia where we went for our honeymoon, or Queenstown New Zealand, amazing, beautiful place.

5. Your perfect dinner is?

Anything vegetarian, I love ‘pretend’ meat like ‘quorn bacon’ or ‘fishless fish fingers’.

6. Your go to drink is?

I love plain water, prosecco and rhubarb gin

7. Your favourite sweet treat is?

Milk chocolate, I like kinder chocolate too.

8. What’s your favourite essential oil / scent?

I adore Frangipani and I have the whole Elemis Frangipani range

9. You go for a treatment - what do you have and why?

Elemis Biotec Facial, there is a noticeable difference in my skin straight after the treatment.

10. What’s your favourite flower?

White peonies

11. You want to sleep deeply, what do you do?

I can’t sleep let alone deeply, but I am hooked on the Neom Scent to Sleep range at the moment for a bit of help.

12. You want to energise fast, what do you do?

Go for a run outdoors.

13. The theme tune to your life is?

A very fast, very loud, dance track!

14. What makes you laugh to your belly?

My dog when he is naughty and steals things (even though I shouldn’t laugh right?)

15.What’s your favourite season?

Summer, I find the sunshine makes you feel more positive & peaceful

16. What’s your favourite colour?

Grey

17. Your favourite time of day is?

Morning, whenever I wake up I am reset, ready to conquer the day and motivated

18. If you could have been anyone or anything else, what / who would you be?

A marine biologist, that was what I always wanted to be when I grew up, and maybe a DJ on the side.

19. What’s your current TV guilty secret?

Celebs Go Dating, on in the background whilst I am cooking / cleaning.

20. Magic dust - you can learn one new skill instantly, what is it?

Patience!

I am from Staffordshire in the Midlands and currently run Moddershall Oaks Country Spa Retreat. This is our family business and I have worked there for 17 years from receptionist to General Manager to Director. Alongside this I studied for a BSc in International Spa Management and at the age of 27 graduated again with an MBA (1st). I live, breathe, eat and sleep work, and am always striving to do better. I am about to launch a wellness business of my own which will offer classes, memberships, wellbeing workshops, healthy eating and wellness advice. I enjoy spending time with my beagle Bugsy and I use exercise as my stress relief & break from work.

Learn more about Moddershall Oaks

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