Soap suds and sweat – how to get started if you want to clean up in the hospitality industry
For most 13-year-olds, the prospect of washing dishes in a hotel kitchen may not seem like the most exciting opportunity.
But not for William Gorol, who found it sparked a lifelong passion for, and career in, the hospitality industry.
The founder and managing director of Edinburgh-based, hospitality-focused software firm Procure Wizard says he got the chance to roll up his sleeves at the Ardlui Hotel at Loch Lomond as his parents had a caravan in the area.
“I absolutely loved it,” he explains. “It wasn’t hard work at all — it was brilliant. I loved the buzz of the kitchen, and from that second I was just hooked. I suppose from then I almost knew that that was what I was going to end up doing.”
He left school with “very few” O levels, but “a great deal of ambition, and I suppose that’s all you really need”.
Making his way up through role after role, including waiter, accounts assistant and trainee chef, he says it’s essential to be able to connect with people.
Evidently this was something he was very good at, explaining that before the days of TripAdvisor, to get noticed you had to get customers to put pen to paper, and he “probably instigated about 100 people writing to head office saying how nice I was”.
Buoyed by his fan mail, he was given a trainee manager’s post at The Marine Hotel in Troon, and this was followed by becoming general manager, aged 28, of the Old Waverley Hotel in Edinburgh.
Significantly, our interview takes place at The Carlton Hotel nearby, which he visited as a 17-year-old and was so impressed by the whole “truly inspirational experience” that it convinced him he could one day work there.
A few years later he did, as operations manager. “I like coming back — it’s quite nostalgic,” he says.
As for what has propelled him through his career, he jokes: “I’m not very good at anything. The secret is to try and not do very much yourself and be good at getting other people to do work for you.
‘Be really motivational with it and encourage people to do the best they can because that just makes you look good.”
However, he’s playing down his achievements, which include taking his inside-out knowledge of hospitality to set up Procure Wizard in 2009, having written down “all the things that I thought software could help with”.
He spent two years developing an e-purchasing platform enabling hotels to modernise the procurement cycle, delivering improved efficiency and reduced costs to “revolutionise the hospitality sector”.
It now counts several major hotel brands among its customers and has almost 10,000 active users who collectively spend more than £12 million a week in purchase orders and invoices via the portal.
Having remortgaged his house to start the business, he says that “thankfully I don’t have that problem any more” and stresses that he never faced any doubts about whether it would work.
“I’m a little bullish in everything that I do, so I set off with complete certainty, and I don’t really suffer from any concerns. Even sometimes when I should, I tend not to. Deep down inside I always had a great sense of self-belief.”
His first-hand understanding of the spectrum of hospitality roles provides a key advantage when he pitches Procure Wizard.
He says that when he meets potential clients, “they say ‘it’s so refreshing that you’re not an IT geek, and you just talk about the industry. You talk about a problem and a solution in the same sentence”.
The firm has grown to 25 staff and is “quite confident” of getting to 35 relatively soon.
“We’re really growing at such a pace,” he says, and its progress has been recognised with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation.
“I was genuinely absolutely gobsmacked when it came through,” he says. “You could have knocked me over with a feather.
“I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, a software person, so to get recognised in that space of innovation is just incredible.”
Gorol, also chairman of ‘sandwich shop with a difference’ Social Bite, adds that the award marks the fact that “the first step of the ladder’s been achieved”.
He adds: “We’ve worked hard, we’ve been recognised. Now we need to push ahead and take it to the next level — we’ve got so much further to go.”
Education: Ladyloan Primary School, Drumchapel, and Penilee Secondary School, Cardonald
Ambition while at school: To secure a mechanic YTS apprenticeship, although I feel lucky that it didn’t work out so well!
Car: Audi Q5
Favourite mode of transport: Driving
Music: Bob Dylan
Kindle or book: Book
Reading material: Autobiographies of inspirational people
Can’t live without: My phone
What makes you angry: getting told no, although enjoy turning a no into a yes.
What inspires you: People! My partner Sara for her ability to juggle the kids, work and look after me. Every general manager I worked for made me want to push myself
Favourite place: I lived in Edinburgh for a long time, but love going back to Glasgow.
Best thing about your job: Working with my team who are truly fantastic and making our customers happy.