Not a star, but a reasonably priced raconteur
Peter Hancock became Chief Executive of Pride of Britain Hotels in
2000. It is a collection of
independent luxury hotels and offers a wide range of marketing
services to its 50 members.
From 1988 to 2000 Peter worked for guide publishers Johansens, becoming a director of the company in 1996.
He began his career as a waiter in the late 1970s and went on to manage a succession of hotels and restaurants in Sussex and Hampshire. In all that time he neglected to save any money and hence remains available during his spare time for public humiliation.
Honorary St Julian Scholar
Honorary Master Innholder
Fellow of the Tourism Society
Freeman of the City of London
Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality
Regular columnist for The Caterer magazine
Ambassador for the Gold Service Scholarship
Fellow of the Academy of Food & Wine Service
Member of the Professional Speaking Association
Fellow of HOSPA (The Hospitality Professionals Association)
Fellow of the Guild of International Professional Toastmasters
Listed with: TheRightAddress.co.uk and Stand-and-Deliver.uk.com
Listed among the “50 most inspiring figures in the industry” published by Boutique Hotelier magazine.
To contact Peter, please call: 07734 513314
or email email@example.com
How Peter’s Public Speaking career began, and Key Talking
Points from Peter’s life
by Julian C. Demetriadi, PhD, FIH, MHOSPA
Peter Hancock – ‘not a star, but a reasonably priced raconteur’
Peter Hancock loves sharing anecdotes collected during a varied career in the hospitality industry (see: ‘Talking points from Peter’s career’ below) which has given him a unique insight into the often whacky and never dull world of hotel keeping. This and his life experiences have fuelled his keen sense of humour and his ever growing reputation for story-telling, one-liners and repartee that have been entertaining guests and delegates at business functions, awards ceremonies, dinners and conferences up and down the country.
Peter has worked his way up from the bottom in the hotel industry; and today he is Chief Executive of Pride of Britain Hotels – a consortium of 48 privately owned luxury hotels that includes many of the finest establishments in the UK – such as The Goring Hotel in London, the Chester Grosvenor Hotel, and Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa in Wiltshire.
Peter is not only a leading hotel industry practitioner, but also an expert on consumer guides to the hotel and tourism profession. Before joining Pride of Britain, he was Group Publishing Director for Johansens – responsible for the company’s prestigious UK titles: ‘Recommended Hotels’, ‘Recommended Inns’, ‘Recommended Country Houses’, ‘Business Meeting Venues’, ‘Historic Houses Castles & Gardens’, and ‘Museums & Galleries’. His time at Johansens included a good deal of presenting: to hoteliers, to the sales teams, to the board and at the company’s annual awards ceremony at The Dorchester, London, which gave Peter invaluable practice at addressing audiences. Whilst doing this, he decided to follow the example of the company’s erstwhile chairman, Adrian Bridgewater, by introducing a few funny remarks to keep everyone’s attention. He really grew to enjoy being asked to speak, and began to recognise from the reaction of his audiences that he had a natural talent for it.
Indeed, he found another outlet for his desire to entertain. Whilst with Johansens, he joined a local amateur dramatics group in Neston, Wiltshire; and for ten years performed in the majority of the group’s plays. Though he enjoyed it greatly, his eventual decision to pack it in was hastened by an unfortunate incident during a performance of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. Close to the end of the play, Peter had to deliver the line: “I always told you my name was Earnest, didn’t I Gwendolen?” Instead, he heard himself saying: “I always told you my name was Gwendolen, didn’t I Earnest?”
Peter may indeed not be a star, but he certainly is the reasonably priced raconteur!
How did his public speaking career begin?
Dr Anne Pierce MBE, Chief Executive of the Springboard charity, rang Peter out of the blue to see if he could compere her big awards dinner, just a few days’ away, as a well-known TV performer had just backed out. Despite protesting that he wasn’t up to the task, he was nonetheless persuaded. Armed with 10 minutes’ worth of memorised funny stories, he got the evening off to a flying start. He found hosting the awards both easy and exciting – with ad-libs, as if by magic, popping into his head at suitable moments. In short, he was hooked.
Thanks to the Springboard dinner, he soon got asked to speak at other events within the hospitality industry, which boosted his own profile and that of Pride of Britain Hotels. One of these was at a banquet for the Master Innholders, after which an hotelier urged Peter to introduce himself to Bob ‘the cat’ Bevan – a hugely successful after-dinner speaker. Encouraged by Bob, he approached a couple of speakers’ agencies – both of which have since put him on their books: The Right Address and Stand & Deliver. Through these, Peter has been engaged to speak at an extraordinary range of dinners and other events – both inside and outside the hospitality industry.
Key talking points from Peter’s life
• On 7 April 1959, a reasonably priced raconteur was born to Elizabeth and John Hancock. Life began for the young lad in a huge house in Purley, Surrey – made possible by the entrepreneurial skills of his father, who had made a rapid fortune as co-publisher of Spick and Span magazines, containing racy stories about the wholesome young bikini-clad ladies photographed within!
• Ten years later, when the family moved to Sussex, their next-door neighbour was the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, who had an identical Bentley Continental to his father – except one was dark blue and the other orange. You can guess who had which. It was never going to be a boring life for Peter.
• His early years were blissful. Following in the footsteps of his car-loving father, his pride and joy was his brand new Austin, but this was a peddle car as he was only four. However, it was his shared love with his two brothers of TV’s ‘Sooty and Sweep’ that provided the first clues of his mischievous sense of humour. He found Harry Corbett’s endless self-inflicted injuries hilarious; and to this day he can recall episodes and do an excellent Harry Corbett impersonation!
• Though he failed to excel at school, he was “not entirely socially inept”. With not the slightest interest in sport, aged 15, he managed to get run over crossing the road and broke his femur, providing a great excuse to skip games! He Left school with 3 unimpressive ‘A’ levels, but this led him to the local Job Centre and work behind the bar at Pontins Holiday Camp in Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex – he never looked back.
• His first live-in job: working all hours at the Roman Way Hotel & Country Club in West Wittering. He progressed up the ladder to Head Waiter, then – at just 21 – General Manager of the hotel. He had a lucky escape in the pre-computer days of paper hotel reservations charts – equipped with a pencil and a rubber on a string – when his predecessor failed to inform him of a wedding reception noted in his own diary, but not in the main reception one that Peter relied on. This led to two weddings receptions being accidentally booked on the same day, which the hotel did not have the capacity to stage. Recently promoted, Peter did not want to admit to the owners the mistake as he didn’t want them to think he couldn’t solve a problem. Luckily for him, following a fortnight of a great deal of personal anguish, a most fortuitous death occurred – causing one of the weddings to be cancelled!
• Peter became General Manager of a larger hotel – the Newtown House on Hayling Island. Whilst deputising for the night porter, Peter realised that operating the antiquated telephone exchange was beyond him. It was an ancient system with a tangled mess of plugs and wires that enabled calls to be connected to guest rooms; and the guests to call reception. Bells rang and rang, whilst the guard dog incessantly barked; and customers bore down on reception to complain. Then the ingenious Peter had a ‘Eureka’ moment: he discovered a little grey button, marked ‘bell-off’ – problem solved!
• Professional low point for Peter was a disastrous career call. He went into business with a former colleague at a pub in Chichester, where he worked harder than at any previous time in his life for virtually no money. In the end, he had to sell his car to keep afloat. The experience led him back to the Job Centre and a remarkable career change. In no time, he found himself at the St Ivel milk processing plant – clad in white overalls, white wellies, and white cap with a fetching hairnet underneath. His new role involved pushing levers, turning valves and climbing up ladders with heavy sacks of ingredients. The plant produced soufflé, mousse and blancmange by the metric ton; and Peter’s claim to fame was to be the only worker who refused to join the trade union as he had already decided to blame the country’s many ills on the socialist governments of Wilson and Callaghan, and to admire Mrs Thatcher’s tough stance against the likes of Arthur Scargill!
• A move to London with his girlfriend Nina led to a job behind the cigar counter at Harrods, where Peter’s incentive for excellent sales afforded him the dubious reward of a constant supply of cigars to sample. Nina was offered the chance, by her London interior design employers, to manage their new shop in Bath. So Peter left London with her and they moved to a village in Wiltshire, where Peter still lives today. On arrival, he was lucky enough to walk straight into a job selling wine. That was not the only good news – he and Nina got married and produced two lovely daughters.
• 1988-2000: A colleague at the wine company – employing Peter – was recruited by an old friend, Derek Johansen, to help him compile his annual hotel guide, following the grave news that Derek had cancer of the spine. The upshot was the sale of the annual hotel guide to Cambridge-based Hobsons publishing; and immediately there were plans to grow Johansens into a series of guides. Peter was asked to spend part of his weekend free-time visiting and signing up places to appear in the guides – a task well suited to his skills and experience; and it wasn’t long before he was offered a full-time position. Hobsons became a PLC and then sold to the Daily Mail & General Trust, which put a rocket launcher under the whole operation. Peter climbed the greasy pole, eventually to become Group Publishing Director – a position he relinquished in 2000 to join Pride of Britain Hotels as Chief Executive.
• A near death experience: Johansens’ headquarters moved from Cambridge to London and, ever more deskbound, Peter became a frequent commuter – cheating death on October 5th 1999 when the carriage he was travelling in came adrift from the rest of the train in what was later called ‘The Paddington Rail Crash’. It was the most frightening experience of his life and he was so lucky to walk away from the carnage, with nothing more than a couple of broken ribs. He said it was worse for his dear PA, Carol, who had to be sent home that afternoon suffering from shock.
• In the summer of 2000, Micheal Yeo announced his plan to retire as Chief Executive of Pride of Britain Hotels. Knowing Michael and all his member hotels through his Johansens job, Peter decided to apply for the CEO role, though he didn’t really think he had much of a chance. At the interview, Peter’s answer to lots of the questions was: “I’m sorry I don’t know anything about that”. Later, he learned this had swung it his way. Apparently, the other candidates had implausibly claimed to be experts in everything; and the Board were more comfortable with the idea of working with a clueless idiot, so long as he was honest! That was 15 years ago and little has changed – except, of course, that Pride of Britain is now in a much stronger position and is able to provide its 48 members with a drastically improved set of marketing services.
• By 2004 Peter’s marriage had hit the rocks and ended in divorce, paving the way for him to fall head over heels in love with Michelle who is both his second wife and closest colleague. She is also his toughest critic and will often cause him to drop whole sections of a speech if it isn’t deemed funny enough.
• With his inimitable wit and enormous breadth of experience, skills and insightful observations, Peter has become a highly respected commentator on the hospitality industry, with a regular column in The Caterer – the leading UK weekly trade publication for the profession.
• …and he has quite a smart dinner jacket too!