Sir Garry Hawkes CBE has been one of the major figures within the UK Hospitality industry over the last fifty years. He will also be known for his leadership of Gardner Merchant which he took to become a global force. However, that is only one part of the story. His story is one which is as important today as it has ever been.
Sir Garry’s story is candid and refreshingly honest. Sir Garry was a man ahead of his time in many ways. He grew up in post-war England, in Sheffield, but unlike many, possessed a real hunger for knowledge and to learn. He spent a number of years in Holland and Germany as he was being developed as a leader and his learnings from this period allowed him to think differently from many of his contemporaries.
Under his leadership, Gardner Merchant operated in over 40 countries. Maybe as importantly, it possessed a business model which many today would envy. It was renowned for its investment in its people, in possessing strong values and in breaking many barriers. It was ahead of its time in diversity and inclusion and the promotion of women to genuine positions of authority.
Why is the book of value and importance today?
There are many lessons for business and emerging leaders today to be learnt from the story of Gardner Merchant’s rise. The business was built on very strong pillars and was rarely short-term in its thinking.
· Sir Garry possessed very strong value sets and ensured that the company has a “sustainable” business approach even before the term was known.
· Gardner Merchant was also a global player before it became commonplace in a global economy
· Sir Garry’s own story is that of what makes a good leader. He possessed a growth mind-set and believed in continuous learning before it came to be a catchphrase in recent times.
· Sir Garry is a man of conviction and principle which has held him in good stead as a leader.
· As a leader, he not just built a strong board of individual talents but also possessed arguably the strongest shadow board in the industry.
· The book also outlines how fickle success can be.
· The story of Sir Garry’s life is also one which charts a course through post-war northern England to Europe rebuilding to the days of the 1970s strikes to Margaret Thatcher’s impact and beyond. Sir Garry talks openly as to his travels around the world, the various international cultures and economies in which the company operated from the USA to Hong Kong in the 1980s to India, to Europe.
· The book also talks of the problems within the education system, of working with the government and how change is needed.
The book provides rich content from which much can be learnt. It is deeply honest, often controversial and possesses strong content.