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Secrets to Success with Sean Gallagher

Deirdre’s Diary

Secret to success - sean gallagher, inspiring stories, harveys point

Celebrating the launch of ‘Secrets to Success’ with author Sean Gallagher

There aren’t many in the business world who won’t have heard of Sean Gallagher. From Dragons Den to the Sunday Independent, Sean has been sharing his experiences of growing a business for many years and is a champion of Irish Entrepreneurs. So when you get a call from Sean to say he would like to feature Harvey’s Point in his new book ‘Secrets to Success’ then of course the only answer is yes!

Secrets to Success

It’s only when you are talking to someone like Sean about your business that you truly get to sit back and appreciate just how far you have come. With Harvey’s Point 30 year anniversary approaching next year, being highlighted as an ‘Inspiring success story’ alongside a host of leading businesses gives the Harvey’s Point family a real sense of pride and achievement. The success of Harvey’s Point has always been its people and our story within the book has our staff and customers at its heart.

Read ‘A Marriage made in Hotel Heaven’ – The story of Harvey’s Point below (excerpt from Secrets to Success by Sean Gallagher)

A Marriage made in Hotel Heaven’ – The story of Harvey’s Point

“Most tourists who visit Ireland explain that among the things that impress them most about their stay is the natural beauty of our scenery and the genuine warmth of the people. But like many other businesses in recent years, the hotel and hospitality sector has had its fair share of hard times.

With this in mind, I took a trip to beautiful Donegal to visit one of Ireland’s leading hotels and to try and get an understanding of what business is like for them now.

Located just 10 minutes’ drive from Donegal town, on the shores of Lough Eske and at the foot of the Blue Stack Mountains, Harvey’s Point Resort Hotel is certainly something special. The winding roads that lead me the last few miles to the hotel and the surrounding lake, trees and mountains all conspire seamlessly to create the perfect hidden oasis.

Run by Deirdre McGlone and her Swiss-born husband Marc Gysling, the hotel has won many awards – it has been voted the No 1 hotel in Ireland by TripAdvisor’s army of reviewers from 2013 to 2017 and won Georgina Campbell ‘Hotel of the Year’ in 2017.

I’ve only just arrived and already I’m beginning to understand why. Noel Cunningham, the hotel’s general manager, is immediately on hand and greets me with a warm smile and a friendly handshake. Before long Deirdre appears, she too is brimming with zest and enthusiasm.

“Is everyone here as friendly as you pair,” I ask playfully.

“They are of course. Sure it doesn’t cost anything to smile,” she replies in a chirpy and upbeat tone.


Friendly and Warm 

Consisting of 64 suites, Harvey’s Point has a real family feel to it.

Deirdre explains that their customers are drawn mostly from the Irish leisure market. These consist of couples taking a break away together, as well as individuals and groups who come to participate in some of the many activities available in the area such as golf, angling, hiking, surfing and even painting courses. Many others simply come to unwind.

“We also have a thriving wedding business and a growing conference trade,” adds Deirdre as she give me the grand tour. I discover that all the staff are indeed as friendly and engaging as she

The decor is warm and soothing and the traditional turf fires throughout create an earthy smell and a homely feel. The ballroom is large and has been exquisitely laid out for a wedding the following day. The bar is a subtle mix between trendy and classical and the restaurant, with its open kitchen, has some magnificent views of the lough. The bedrooms are possibly the largest in the country.

Harvey’s Point was originally the brainchild of Deirdre’s now brother-in-law, Jody Gysling. He first visited Donegal in 1983, fell in love with the place and bought an old cottage on 20 acres of land.

Over time, Jody did up the cottage and extended it to cater for an increasing number of Swiss friends who loved to come to fish, walk and drink his beer. So frequent were their visits, that Jody built a small guesthouse. Before he knew it, his guest house had turned into a 20- bedroom hotel with a bar.

Realising that he needed help, Jody reached out to his younger brother Marc, who was living in Switzerland, and invited him to come over and help him run the place. Marc started out in the kitchen doing everything from scrubbing pots to helping the chef prepare and cook the food. He quickly found that he had a talent in the kitchen and by 1995 had taken over as head chef.

Deirdre had grown up not far from the hotel. After completing a course in European Studies and languages she returned home for a summer break and was invited by Jody and Marc to help out in the hotel during the busy season.

“I never envisaged for one moment that Marc and I would end up owning the hotel,” explains Deirdre.

But that is exactly what happened. The young couple fell in love and later married. In 1996, they bought the hotel from Jody who, along with his wife Renate, lives beside the hotel and still remains an integral part of the team.

Over the intervening years, the couple continued to invest in the hotel adding a further 56 rooms in 2005, at a cost of over €5m.

“That transformed the place from a restaurant with 20 rooms into a superior hotel,” explains Deirdre.

But the story of Harvey’s Point has not been without its challenges. “For many years, our location in the North West was a major problem, as tourists tended to head to the West or South West,” explains Deirdre. “Today however, our location, with its unspoiled natural beauty, has become one of our unique selling points,” she adds.

Deirdre, Marc and Jody seem to have a knack for turning challenges into opportunities. In an effort to make the ballroom pay for itself, they started offering a Sunday carvery which has now become famous in the area and attracts hundreds of diners every week.

Similarly, in order to help fill midweek capacity, in 2000 they introduced a Summertime Cabaret. Running every Wednesday evening from June through to October, this has proved a great success with full houses every night.

The Team - Harvey's Point

“Our staff are key to our success,” explains Marc. “There is a strong sense of family here, of belonging, of caring for each other and this culture manifests itself in our customer care and in the general ethos of the hotel,” he insists.

“Every one of the team is prepared to go that extra mile and with a smile. They have all played an integral role in the development of the business and our customer feedback measurement systems continually show our staff are definitely our biggest asset,” adds Deirdre

Harvey’s Point began as a cottage hidden in the hills of Donegal. With imagination, love, and considerable investment, it has evolved, over time, into a holiday home, guest-house and now, an award-winning hotel. There is definitely something magical about this lakeshore oasis. But, like many businesses, it is the friendliness of the staff who work there that really makes it special.

I think I’ll leave the last word to one of their customers whose words I read on TripAdvisor. “Wow! Stunning, fabulous, outstanding, blown away, absolutely brilliant and a little piece of heaven,” were just some of the glowing recommendations I found.

I think I might just have discovered the new benchmark of excellence for the Irish hospitality sector.

It’s called Harvey’s Point” – Sean Gallager, Secrets to Success

Read full article www.independent.ie/business

Read More about Secrets to Success by Sean Gallagher www.independent.ie/business/10-secrets-to-business-success

Deirdre McGlone

June 2018

Deirdre McGlone

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