Holiday Snaps - featuring Graham Hodgson
Founder and Chief Executive of Verdant Leisure Limited and runs a group of 10 parks in North East England and Southern Scotland. Born in Morecambe, Lancashire, Graham is married to Louise and they have two sons, Martin and James.
WHAT WAS YOUR CAREER PATH INTO THE INDUSTRY?
As an HSBC Bank Manager I had several caravan park operators as customers, one of whom was John Morphet and his business, South Lakeland Caravans. In 2001, John tempted me away from the bank to join him as Chief Executive and so started my second career in the caravan industry. We quickly set about improving and professionalising the business before selling it towards the end of 2007, just before the financial crash, at a handsome profit. This enabled me, alongside Bev Dixon, who was then Operations Director, to set up Verdant Leisure in 2010, with a new Finance Director, Andrew Wall.
HOW HAS THE MARKET CHANGED?
The quality of both the parks and the accommodation that we offer in this industry has improved on all levels. Fundamentally, our customers still want the same thing, a place of their own to relax and get away with family and friends and our strap line ‘Relax, Explore, Experience’ remains as relevant now as it was when I started.
HOW DO YOU THINK THE INDUSTRY HAS RESPONDED TO COVID 19?
I think our industry has reacted fantastically to the pandemic to date. There was a lot of work going on collaboratively between the larger park operators including ourselves, and our trade bodies including the BH&HPA, NCC and UK Hospitality. I think that this coordinated approach was instrumental in enabling parks to re-open quite quickly following Lockdown.
BEST PIECE OF INDUSTRY ADVICE?
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” While I think that this applies to life in general, it is equally appropriate to anybody in business. Too many people are focused on an end goal but that is just one moment in time. Whilst I certainly have a plan, I try to enjoy each experience as it comes, and, with hard work, success has followed.
HOW DO YOU FIND YOUR OUT OFWORK TIME?
I have always enjoyed lots of sports although playing has been replaced by watching over recent years! I spent 22 years as a Director of Morecambe Football Club, and this remains a big passion of mine
IF WE COULD GIVE YOU THREE GUESTS? WHO WOULD LIKE MOST LIKE TO SIT DOWN TO DINNER WITH AND WHY?
Winston Churchill – A flawed leader who achieved the most amazing things; Peter Kay – Always hilarious and would lighten the mood if the conversation became too intense; Mohammad Ali – One of the greatest sports personalities ever – and much more besides
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LIKELY TO BE LISTENING TO IN THE CAR?
Often ridiculed! I enjoy the classic groups from years ago – Dire Straits; Fleetwood Mac; Queen and the like. The music I grew up with has never really left me – some would say I should move on
ANY CLAIMS TO FAME?
I can juggle!
WHERE DO YOU PREFER TO TAKE YOUR HOLIDAYS?
Barbados is my ‘go-to’ destination. I love it and hope to be able to return there soon.