Thursday, 31 October 2019
Avril Owton owned and ran the award winning Cloud Hotel in Brockenhurst for 42 years but sold it in November 2017 and retired from the hospitality industry. Having overcome adversity to develop a highly successful hotel and rescue it from the brink of recession, she was voted Hampshire Business Woman of the Year 1995 and Shine Woman of the Year 2006.
Avril was left with four children, a failing business and no insurance protection after her husband died very suddenly. Selling the hotel they owned together wasn’t an option as it was the height of recession. After reading a powerful magazine article about taking control of your future, she took the bull by the horns and turned her life around dramatically.
With no academic qualifications, she instead used perseverance, determination and called on her skills as a dancer.
"Being a dancer really helped me as you can never be late for performance, always have to work at a team and look and do your very best. And these are just as important qualities for business.
"Customer service is a form of entertainment. When running the front of hotel, we are the performers. And when we go into the kitchen, it’s like backstage. We are entertaining and like a show, we should leave the customers wanting more so they come back and see us."
Avril insists her staff are just as important, if not more so than her customers.
Being a "good leader", "listening" and "compassion" are all key in keeping employees happy. And happy they must be as some have worked at her hotel for over 20 years and are more like “extended family” than colleagues.
It was whilst on a charity challenge that Avril realised she could do anything in life: "It was three days sleeping outside, cooking out of a tin can and walking 30 miles and the final challenge was having to go across a quarry on a zip wire. My first instinct was there was no way I could do that! But I ran, jumped and did it. And I even enjoyed it! From that point, I knew anything was possible".