A Day in the Life… Keith J Reilly, operations director at Montalto Estate
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
As operations director of an incredibly busy estate, my daily duties are varied. When the decision was taken to open the estate, my role changed to focus on preparing the business for this. Since September 2018, my position expanded to oversee the many elements of Montalto Estate including events, catering, gardens, HR, ticketing, marketing and a lot more besides. Working closely with, and maintaining a synergy between, these departments is fundamental to ensuring the successful and smooth running of the estate. If I wasn’t as fortunate to have such an outstanding team alongside me, Montalto wouldn’t be what it is today.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
Like many students, whilst studying, I had a number of hospitality-related jobs. This was a great introduction to the level of work and dedication that is required to work in this industry. I originally joined Montalto as manager of The Carriage Rooms back in 2012. I was responsible at that stage for all of the events that took place up until my role changed in April 2017. It has been a wonderful journey to have made the progression from managing a luxury wedding venue to now running a five-star visitor attraction.
WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?
I first came to know of the estate when I was 16. I met my future wife Rachael at that time, and it was her parents that bought Montalto back in the mid-1990s as their family home. I am incredibly thankful to work for a family business which lends itself to a great work-life balance. I take great pride in having been involved in the Montalto brand from the very beginning. It has been a fulfilling experience, not least of all when I see so many people coming to enjoy this award-winning attraction. It would be remiss of me not to also mention the advantage of working in such a picturesque setting.
WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT THE SECTOR?
In recent years, tourism across the island of Ireland has been enjoying a growth period but many factors have brought uncertainty into the tourism marketplace. As with many other companies in this sector, a growing labour and skills shortage is another big challenge facing the industry, especially in the catering element. Montalto Estate is a little different to other visitor attractions as a large percentage of our customers are from the local area and return to us time and again. We have therefore had to be adaptable with our offering to ensure that we regularly have something unique for our customers so as to stay ahead of our perceived competition; for example, ensuring we have seasonal interest in our gardens.
OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY
I typically work normal office hours, but this can change depending on the needs of the business. I often attend industry workshops and conferences to ensure I am informed about not just trends but the legislative and procedural requirements of the business. I take responsibility for much of what happens at Montalto and, as such, I require agility in my role to allow me to take on whatever task is required that day; for example, working on plans for further development of our play area. This flexibility allows me to have regular discussions with all departments and that gives me a situational overview on a daily basis.
PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE
Professionally, the official launch event for the estate in September 2018. It felt like all the researching, planning and hard work had finally paid off and we were excited about opening and introducing the public to Montalto. Personally, on our opening morning, I walked into the café and saw our first two customers having breakfast; it stopped me in my tracks for a second. I have never been involved in something from the very beginning like this and to see people enjoying what we had envisaged was very satisfying.
BEST THING ABOUT BEING INVOLVED IN THE SECTOR
Working in tourism is about helping people to enjoy their time off. So many of us have stressful lives and the industry we work in is about offering the opportunity to step away from it all, especially so at Montalto, where part of our ethos is about reconnecting with nature and making memories with family, friends and loved ones. It’s about providing a complete experience, and this means there is a variety of areas that we will continue to develop.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK?
With four children between the ages of three and 10, most of my spare time is spent with family. I love endurance running, however, and have completed a number of marathons and ultra-marathons. I am on the Board of Governors for Spa PS, and also coach Mini Rugby on Saturday mornings for Ballynahinch RFC.
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY KNOW
Despite working in the hospitality industry for many years, my academic background is actually in science. I have a biochemistry degree from Queen’s University and worked for almost 10 years in clinical diagnostics.