Members of The Week - Claire and Michael Tingsager

Meet PLATF9RM's favourite couple (bar our founder Seb and his wife Jo, of course!) Claire and Michael who co-run Hospitality Mavericks. We’re thoroughly impressed by their ability to both live and work together so we caught up with them to uncover their secret and to chat about resolutions, role-models and aspirations.

Hello Claire and Michael. So hearsay tells us that you met through both working for Mcdonalds... is that right?

Michael - You go, ladies first.

Claire - Well we both used to work in HR for McDonald's, I was in the UK and Michael in Denmark. We were both responsible for running the employee survey and we were both trying to do clever things with the data, working with Lancaster University. We used to have phone calls about correlations and indices!

Michael left the company, came to London with his friends for the 2012 Olympics and I took them out on the town for the night in Camden. Then the rest is history!  

We did long distance for a year and a half and then Michael moved over to the UK.

Normally when you work in HR you’re never going to meet your partner at work because no ones asks you out - no one hits on you at the Christmas party if you’re in HR!

Michael - In big companies people think we’re the secret police.

Claire - Everyone thinks we’ll say ‘It’s not appropriate for you to ask me out at work’.

So can you tell us a little bit more about your ‘people over profit’ approach at Hospitality Mavericks?

Claire - So we adopt the notion that it’s people as the root to profit, you can’t overlook profit but our focus is on people.

Michael - So I spent my whole life in hospitality. I was raised in the hospitality business by my Mum and Dad. Then I worked for McDonalds and certain other companies and what I learnt from my years as a manager was that good people don’t leave businesses, they leave managers. And problems run down from the top. It starts with the way you lead people and how you care about people.

The most successful businesses I’ve been a part of and when I’ve been most successful myself is when people are put  before profit. It doesn’t mean that you don’t take profit seriously but it comes as a second. 

When working with data Claire and I found out that restaurants with good people practice - so managers with really good leaderships skills - had better long-term results. This is proven by a very famous study by Harvard University called the ‘Profit Value Chain’ by a professor called James L Heskett.  We were very inspired by their approach so we adopted it for ourselves and created our business and our consultancy approach towards our clients.

That’s why we’re going from Tingsager Consulting to a brand called Hospitality Mavericks is because we’re pooling people, both Claire and I, but also other associates who believe in this approach of putting people before profit.

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So what are your top tips for successfully working and living together as a couple?

Claire - My top tips would be:

  • Have meetings about things and agree goals and tasks you’re both accountable for just like you would working in a company, it’s very easy to just roll along otherwise.
  • Decide who’s in charge of what and then let that person be in charge and have the final say.
  • Break the circle sometimes - when you know each other really well, it’s hard to keep perspective. Get feedback from outside people, bring someone else into the team.
  • And getting along very well and being able to have frank conversations is a massive help too.

Michael - An advantage of working together as a couple is the flexibility it gives around your life so you can juggle things.  For example if one of us has to commute for a job - we had a situation where Claire had to commute for a job - you can take the pressure off that person. The Flexibility is a real gift.

Has having a space like PLATF9RM helped?

Claire - It has definitely helped: it got us away from a domestic setting and it feels like we’re ‘going into work’ which both help us to make a mindset shift. Also, being surrounded by other people reminds us to speak to each other like colleagues rather than family (no bickering about who’s going to do the Tesco shop!)

What are your resolutions for 2018?

Claire - Mine is sleep. I’m a complete night owl and I come alive at 10 O’clock at night and then I’ll have to get up at 7 am. So mine is to have a healthy sleep pattern that involves not reading till 1.30 am. And starting to exercise for the first time in my whole life!

Michael - I think it’s being able to focus better because that's actually what the whole HOSPITALITY MAVERICKS Journey is about. To focus on really getting the most important things done. Claire and I are really good at starting a lot of things, for example we'll talk about all the places we’re going to go on holiday so much so that we don’t actually get anything booked.

I think maybe a holiday is our resolution. To make sure we plan 4-6 weeks holiday - That’s definitely a goal I have in my head, that was some unfinished business from 2017. Planning holidays is very important when you’re self-employed.

What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?

Claire - I think it would be to go away with Oscar before he starts school on a massive one month or six week trip - somewhere like New Zealand or Australia - not Europe, somewhere on the other side of the world where it’s really different.

Could we take Oscar to Vietnam or Thailand or somewhere like that…?

Michael - We could take him anywhere.

Claire - Talking about it has made me think we should just book tickets and do it no matter what’s happening!

Who are your role-models - the people who inspire you to be the best you can be?

Michael - That’s a good question - there are definitely a couple of people. If I were to take one person I would say my mum and how she ran her businesses; she is quite a role model. She’s no Richard Branson but she ran her businesses with a heart-centered approach.

Claire - She’s a machine, she’s a real dynamo.

Michael -  She was definitely successful. She’s an inspiration. Also she had very bad back problems which meant she had to sell her business when it was at it’s peak. She built the business up over many years and had to sell it for peanuts because of her back problems. And still today she never complains, she just moves on.

Someone else is Danny Meyer, the founder of the Union Square Hospitality Group, they created Shake Shack. He just won a prize for the best approach to people.

So, Michael you are from Denmark, what do you miss most about Danish culture?

Claire - Bread?

Michael - Cycling. Ok  in Brighton you can cycle a lot, in Denmark you can cycle everywhere. And bread.

And I miss how organised we are as a society in how we deal with the public sector. I think sometimes it can be a bit extreme but I can see the benefits of having a very organised culture.

Grace - I recently bought a book all about the Danish concept of ‘Hygge’

Michael - Well that’s something totally ingrained in danes. I don’t even think about it but when you mention it I can see it’s a very unique thing to Danish culture. ‘Hygge’ is an environment created through physical elements but also the way of life -

Claire - The spirit of togetherness.

What are you guys looking forward to over the next 10 years?

Claire - We only moved to Brighton a year ago, so we’re looking forward to getting settled properly, building our life here and seeing our son grow up.  

Michael - Last year was like starting a new chapter. Living in london is massively different to living outside London. I think there are more good things than bad things but you still need to make the transition - you have to build a new network and set your business up differently.

Claire - Also growing our business.

Michael - And maybe moving to a foreign country.. I don’t think we’ll stick to one place.

And now for a ‘couples’ question. What is your favourite aspect of each other’s personality?

Claire - Mine might not sound very exciting but it’s very rare and very valuable.

Michael - That I like to clean?

Claire -  He loves cleaning and is really good at it and does it spontaneously. That’s not my favourite thing about him but it is a good asset!

But also Michael is the most straightforward person I know - you never think ‘What’s Michael really thinking?’ If you’re annoyed with Michael you can just tell him and he understands and it’s gone. He has clear values and consistently acts in line with them. There’s never any second-guessing with Michael (and it helps me to be that way too).

Michael - I had quite a culture shock when moving to England actually. I joined a new company and  I had only been there a few days, and I said ‘These are the challenges, these are the problems and this is what we’re going to do’ and I was very direct and there was silence in the room.

Claire - Here no one wants to know what you actually think.

Michael - Claire has many qualities, it’s hard to chose one. What is great is she is very much my opposite and she is very good at stopping me. I need people to stop me because I can continue not only in work but in life in general. I get very consumed in what I’m doing and forget to be present. So Claire pulls me into the present; she brings out the best in me by bringing me back to the now.

Thank you Claire and Michael!

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