Mash meets...
John Rowan and Partners

Mash meets Paul Sherwood

We love finding out about our people and in this issue of Insight MD Mash Halai sat down with Head of Hospitality and Leisure Paul to talk football (yes, there’s a link!), his favourite projects and a surprising hashtag…beer for one anyone?

Heading up our Hospitality and Leisure team, Paul is no stranger to hopping on trains and planes to travel to destinations all over the world to help our clients run their projects smoothly. Here, he talks to Mash about what he does and what he loves about his job at John Rowan and Partners.

So Paul, after almost 24 years, I know you pretty well, but can you tell me a bit about your background and how you came to work here?

Well, all that time ago a colleague I was working with, came over to me and said: “Hey Paul, this job’s for you.” And he showed me the back of Building magazine and it said ‘Quantity Surveyor wanted. Wednesday afternoons off for suitably qualified footballers.’

At the time I was playing a bit of football and I thought well that sounds like a good job for me. So I applied and I was offered a job back in the days when we did quite a lot of retail work, which wasn’t quite right for me at the time. But then another opportunity came up a year or so later, and that’s when I joined the hospitality and leisure team.

And what’s your role here at John Rowan and Partners?

I head up our hospitality and leisure team and we focus on hospitality projects in the UK and across Europe. We help an owner and operator at the feasibility stage when they first purchase the hotel. Then we put a development plan together and deliver that capital project.

Our latest project is the renovation of the Ambasciatori Palace hotel in Rome, where I’ve been for about 15 months, and where I am now! The hotel is open and trading and looking beautiful. I haven’t been here for a few months, but I’m back looking at a few remedial issues and a few additional works that the owners are looking at possibly delivering.

Exciting. I’ve seen your Instagram posts, #BF01 (beer for one) which has been very amusing to see!

I’ve impressed myself by the way I’ve been able to keep myself entertained of an evening while away from the family. It’s a beautiful city, there’s a lot going on. Just having a beer and watching the world go by in the evening after a longish day is a good thing.

Absolutely. Following that, what do you really enjoy about your job?

Well, I’ve got to say, from the heart, it’s the people, isn’t it? I’m fortunate working in the hospitality team because the beautiful thing about it is most people you meet in the industry are actually hospitable. We’re also often in a position where we’re entrusted to build the team for the client to deliver a project. And we have a say in who we work with, to an extent, so get to build a team who we work closely with. We’re also lucky that we deliver wonderful projects in beautiful places, and at the end of those projects, you can stand in them and enjoy them. So, it’s a mixture of the people and completion of the projects.


What challenges has the hospitality sector faced over the last 12 months?

In recent years, the pandemic has been the biggest challenge the hospitality sector has ever faced. And there’s still some legacy around that. There are huge challenges which are now still unfolding as the government is still using a lot of hotel rooms for asylum seekers, for example. And as that tap turns off, that’s going to put more rooms into the market which will make it challenging for owners and operators. I think the hospitality industry also has a similar challenge to the construction industry in so far as labour – a shortage of good people and retaining good people. Again, I think that’s partly residue from the pandemic where people who previously worked in hospitality have been forced or had to go and do other jobs while hospitality was fully closed.


How are you helping clients overcome this and trying to keep them happy?

The pandemic has left and there’s pent-up demand for travelling, which means hotel occupancy, particularly in London, is high. And the average daily rates are high. So that means that any renovation projects that are going to happen are going to displace significant amounts of revenue. It’s therefore important that we manage the projects tightly, closely and efficiently to make sure that not only do we deliver a great capital project, driving good value, but that we don’t displace a lot of revenue. That means working closely with the hotel operations teams and making sure the projects run smoothly.


You touched on it earlier that you’re in Rome as we speak and you’ve worked on some amazing projects around the world. Which ones would stand out for you and why?

Great question. I’ve been lucky to work on some great projects. The first hotel I worked on was the Burj Al Arab – an iconic building. So that was a wonderful opportunity. And again, working with a great team and some great people on that project. More recently, I really enjoyed Fairmont St. Andrews. A lot of travel up to St Andrews at a time when both my children were quite young, which was challenging, but it was good fun and again delivered a great product.

We did a bar and restaurant renovation in Budapest at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace hotel. There was no expense spared there – it’s a beautiful bar.

I think I’ve got to say the London and Birmingham Metropoles because they were managed through the pandemic – delivering £75 million of capital investment, three principal contractors, 400 plus people on site. There was a lot going on with that project and it was intensive, but at the end, we’ve made a fabulous asset and it’s a stunning hotel.

And the Ambasciatori Palace here in Rome, where I’ve had a very fortunate role working with Westmont as a project director. There have been challenges but, again, it’s a beautiful place to be in. The hotel has a buzz and a feel about it.

Out of interest, how far is the Trevi Fountain or the Spanish steps from where you are now?

We’re in Via Veneto here, so they are both about 10 minutes away. A brisk walk Mash. I’ll have a quick stroll down to the Trevi Fountain and send you a picture!

Lovely, looking forward to it…