William Mackay, General Manager, Four Seasons Hotel The best thing I liked about my schooldays in Britain in the 1960s and 70s was that it gave me the basic educational tools in order to become the person I am today. The worst thing about them was playing rugby in a cold and damp place, being covered in mud and being no good at it. I was appallingly co-ordinated and never really excelled at team games. I had very pragmatic parents of Scottish stock who had immense integrity. Dad was a headmaster with flawless diction while Mum was a psychiatric social worker whose stories about the disadvantaged rooted us in the real world. He was quite stern while she was warm and tactile and they led very Christian lives, based on service to the community. We weren't allowed to indulge in self pity or soul searching; we were encouraged just to get on with it and we weren't pushed in any way. I went to Clifton Preparatory School in Bristol first where I wasn't an exceptional student and I remember that time most for my art master. He was terrific and very creative because he made fun of people through drawing. Everybody loved him for that. I think we're all programmed to do certain things and a lot of time is spent in trying to get people to do things that they're not cut out for. I was a terrible artist but through him I learned I had a feel for design which helps when you build a hotel from scratch. You need to be able to have an eye for detail. I went on to Clifton College where the most significant person was my oldest friend's father who was a housemaster. He was this English eccentric who was very passionate about life and a great believer in trusting students while staying on the sidelines but he was far too politically incorrect to become a headmaster. I wasn't naughty at school but I loved imitating my teachers. I always knew I was on pretty safe ground when I was asked by them to mimic their colleagues. Sport-wise I was a rower, while I also edited the school magazine and enjoyed the theatre although I was never very good at it. When I was 15 or 16, I spent the holidays working at an aunt's country house hotel stocking the bottles in the bar and doing odd jobs. I'm sure that probably helped me decide on the hospitality industry. Even though I never considered myself academic, I ended up applying for a hotel management degree at Surrey University. It included one year spent in the industry. I applied to the Connaught Hotel in London where I ended up working in the kitchen. The hotel at that time had the highest standards and reputation in London and I returned there after graduating. I firmly believe that you should aim high and learn quality from the beginning. It's easier to relax your standards of quality. I get a lot of people from four-star hotels who'd like to join the Four Seasons but I tend to be very wary of them. That's because they might just walk by the things I tend to get worked up about - whether the pencils are sharp enough or whether the aircon is at the right temperature. Being general manager is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's fantastic yet demanding and it's a way of life as much as a job. If I laid the expectations end to end I think they'd amount to 50 hours a day. What I like about it is that it's about dealing with people. I wasn't much of a reader at school but I've become a voracious one these days, particularly of management books. In this job you have to develop a management philosophy and I think mine is about trying to be both task and relationship orientated. You certainly have to know how to motivate those around you, which I do, yet the irony is I don't think I was ever really motivated at school.