Niall Rochford is the general manager at Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford Castle. Beginning his career working in The Royal Hotel, Tipperary Town at just 16, Rochford never left the hospitality industry. The hotel was voted one of the first five-star properties in Ireland on the Forbes list.
What was your first job?
My first job was working in The Royal Hotel, Tipperary Town, collecting glasses when I was 16. I think it was the fun and camaraderie I experienced in that job that gave me a love for hospitality early on. In fact, I never left the industry.
What pushed you to pursue a career in this field?
I knew that I loved the hospitality industry from an early age; it was always the right fit for me and there was never any doubt in my mind about the career I would follow. Hotel management was my dream job and my singular career goal since my teenage years. I absolutely loved what I did then, and I love what I do now, it’s as simple as that.
What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?
I would say my greatest achievement is the past nineteen years working with an incredible team through good times and some very tough times.
I’m an ambitious person and while I always had hoped to manage a hotel of such calibre, realising my ambition is more than I could ever have hoped for. If you had asked my teenage self what the future held I’m not sure I would have envisaged running a hotel that was voted Forbes first five-star property in Ireland! To say I’m proud is an understatement.
Career wise, would you do anything differently?
There is nothing I would change as fortunately every decision I’ve made has brought me to where I am today. I still have the same passion I started out with, and I can’t imagine that will change any time soon.
In one sentence, how would you define success?
Happy owners make for happy guests, which make for happy staff.
I also have a saying on my Twitter page, ‘positive persistence pays off’ and it’s true.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Some of the best advice has come from the people I work with. One piece of advice that always stuck with me was given by Mr Tollman,
owner of Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford: “Forget about what others are doing, focus on what you can do best for your customers.” Simple, but very effective and something I remind my staff of on a regular basis.
How do you motivate yourself and your staff?
By remaining positive and remembering that positive persistence pays off. If you really believe in something, stick with it and persevere but make sure you’re always positive about it too.
I also make every effort to get to know each member of staff and understand the contribution of every single person to the success of Ashford Castle. It’s not just about overseeing the operation of the hotel; it’s about providing valuable mentorship and being there with a friendly ear when it’s needed.
How do you handle adversity?
What’s very relevant at this time, and something I tell my team quite often, is that it’s not how fast you fall, but how quickly you pick yourself back up. We’ve been presented with challenges that we could never have imagined, and at times might have seemed impossible to overcome, but it’s how we deal with these challenges together and how quickly we address them, that determine future outcomes.
How do you relax?
I thoroughly enjoy cooking, sports, listening to podcasts while walking the dog most mornings before work and of course, family time.
What are your aspirations for the future of the business?
The response and support from the domestic market have been phenomenal since reopening Ashford Castle but we do hope we can get back to welcoming international tourists very soon, as they are such a big part of our business.
We are also very much looking forward to the opening of our boutique hotel Hatch Hall in Dublin, which will be the 20th addition to the Red Carnation Hotel Collection and the 3rd hotel in Ireland in our portfolio. It’s very exciting to be bringing our passion for hospitality and exceptional service to Dublin and we’ll be announcing our plans on that very soon.