Running serviced apartments (first in York, and now in London) marks the fourth major career transition for Shaun Clark. With a CV that highlights jobs in engineering Sales and Marketing in London, salmon farming in Scotland, Black Tiger prawn farming in Indonesia, along-with stints working in Iran, Bahrain and more recently Dubai, and Oman, it's clear Shaun's skill-set is highly adaptable and he can turn any new situation into an opportunity.
"I moved back to the UK five years ago having spent many years living and working out in the Middle and Far East. I'd lately been working on a major building project but with the banking crisis all of the finances came down like a deck of cards."
"When we first had the flats in York (at the height of the property crisis), we bumbled along to be honest. Initially the idea was long-term letting but although we had good tenants, we ended up partially subsidising the business. Then, when we decided to move towards serviced apartments, and then signed-up for Laterooms (at that point the biggest and most powerful OTA), the whole thing just took off. We were phenomenally successful with around 30-40% of our bookings from international visitors, and were pretty much booked out at least three months in advance.
"I think our perfectionist tendencies worked to the business's advantage to be honest. Our guests regularly commented on our spotlessly clean accommodation and this helped us secure a 9.7 rating on Booking.com, and win awards from Laterooms and Tripadvisor."
"In a way, we were victims of our own success, and juggling our own diary with the Laterooms bookings became impossible 24/7. When we then suffered the embarrassment of a couple of double bookings, I knew we had to find an online solution and move to a centralised diary system. After some research I signed up with freetobook."
"In my mind, freetobook is the best company on the internet. The knowledge and service is second to none. We also use freetobook as a channel manager for Booking.com and their managed Expedia connection."
Shaun's newest business venture is the three-bedroomed Seagull-Lane Serviced Apartment that can sleep between four to eight people. Just a few minutes walk from the ExCel Centre in London's east end, the property is in fact owned by his eldest daughter. The arrival of Shaun's grandson, and his daughter's desire to relocate to a house with a garden meant the flat could be turned into a going business concern. "I'd noted the nearby Ibis hotel across the road would charge up to £279 per night at peak times so this made me realise the potential" explains Shaun. Geared up to appeal primarily to the business traveller, this serviced apartment also boasts a much coveted free parking space immediately outside of the property.
"We are now using a similar business model to the York properties. Seagull Lane apartment went 'live' just this month (May 2016) and it already has guests lined up from Spain via Booking.com and a couple of business bookings via Airbnb too - including Australia. I'm aiming to achieve at least 150 room-nights in the first year for this property."