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From high school dropout to hospitality magnate

Interview with a hotel buyer 

Dermot “Doc” O’Carroll
High school dropout, took night class in hotel management, bought first hotel at the age of 32.
Key tips:
Success comes only to those with focus and an absolute commitment to what it is they want to do.
Typical price range of hotels for sale:
$100,000 +

Meet Dermot “Doc” O’Carroll.

I’m a high school dropout. I left home when I was 18 and ventured to Canada. A bank was unfortunate enough to hire me, and that was my first job. I was always inspired by the country-house type hotel. As a young man, I would visit the local gorgeous old country house hotels and I guess that’s when I first fell in love with the idea, it was firmly planted in my mind because I never lost the attraction. 

I made a few investments and eventually went back to school. I had to do that at night because it wasn’t possible to take the time off from the bank or I’d lose my job. I was studying accounting but ended up missing out on that program and took hotel management instead because it also included accounting.

I graduated in that after a three year course. Very quickly thereafter, I bought my first hotel. I was 32. That was known as the Terra Cotta Inn, a beautiful inn on the banks of the Credit River, close to Toronto. It was a gorgeous old world inn which was over 100 years old. Afternoon teas were a big thing there. 

On Succeeding in the Hotel Industry

I think the thing that really makes it possible for any one of us to succeed in an industry or endeavor is commitment - an absolute focused commitment of what it is you want to do. And you don’t ever lose sight of that. You dream about it at night, it’s the last thing you think about before you go to sleep. First thing in the morning, you go over your program. If you create it, it becomes a reality. You envision it and then it becomes a reality.

The only person standing in the way of you achieving absolute success in this industry or any industry is yourself. Take a good at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself the question, “Why not?” And if you are determined enough, money isn’t an object. I started off coming to Canada with $75.

Money doesn’t stand in your way. Make sure you have a game plan and of course back it up with qualified people on both sides, such as a lawyer and an accountant, who are both familiar with the hotel industry. 

On the Demands of the Hotel Industry

The hotel business is a very demanding industry. If you are really committed to it, then you are going to apply yourself full time. And that can be six in the morning to one in the morning, so it’s never ending. There’s always little crisis, and you deal with them on a day to day basis. It’s exciting, fun and beautiful and you get to enjoy all of the benefits of the resort while entertaining guests.

Of course, it’s not always that way because many of your staff will have problems at different times and really the person to fill in is the owner-manager. I got my first baptism by fire in the kitchen when I had 130 people waiting for dinner and the chef walked out. I think all of these things are part in parcel of owning a small resort hotel or a small hotel. 

It’s not all honey and sugar. There are good times, and there are bad times, and you have to be prepared to swing with them. That’s the reality of life, and the most important thing you can learn in life is to let go: to not hang on to issues and to be present. Loving people is what the hotel business is about. If you really want to know what is the ingredient is, I think loving people and wanting to serve is the real thing.

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