Dale Smith

Dale Smith

What’s it really like to run a business with family? Can you navigate growth, transformation and tough decisions without the family drama? And is it possible to get around the dinner table without talking shop? Dale Smith lifts the lid on life at the helm of his ambitious family business.

What our business does:  Host & Stay operates luxury holiday homes across UK, mainly centred in the area from the Scottish Borders to South Yorkshire. We’re a family-owned business and we’ve built ourselves up from a single property to 1,100 holiday homes and a team of 400.

How it all started: We bought our first holiday let in Saltburn in 2017 and by the following year we had nine properties. That’s when we decided to build a brand and really go for it. Host & Stay was launched in January 2019 and we’ve had a rapid growth in five and a half years. More than half of our employees are based in Redcar & Cleveland which is where our head office is based and we are really proud of our commitment to providing local employment opportunities.

It’s very much a family affair: My mum, dad, sister, brother-in-law and wife have all worked in the business or are a shareholder, so it’s a shared passion for our whole family. I’m the CEO of the company so I’m at the front end of decision-making and delivery but we’re all very much involved and connected to the business still as a family. Over the years, we have all had our own part to play, and although those roles and responsibilities have changed over the years, it has absolutely contributed the growth and success of the business.

We all bring something different to the party: We’ve all had professional lives before setting up this company so each family member has brought unique experience and expertise. I think this is really important to ensure the business benefits from a range of perspectives. Prior to this, I played football in the academy at Middlesbrough FC, before then going on to play golf at collegiate level in the US. I then joined Peter Vardy’s motor retail group in marketing where I worked my way up before joining the board of directors. I was lucky enough to benefit from the mentorship of Peter and to this day I use his wisdom and work practices to benefit my business, such as sending a video every Sunday to all of our staff.

People are always fascinated to know what it’s like to work with family: They often ask: “How do you do it? I couldn’t stand to work with my relatives!” I appreciate it definitely isn’t for everyone. But we have always been a close family who enjoy spending time together. They are the people I want to be surrounded with so to have that backstop in business is really nice. It’s like we’re on a journey together. Nobody knows the destination but you can jump off when the time is right! It’s great to share the excitement of that journey with the people you care about most. There’s nobody I’d rather be with when times are hard or when they’re great.

The fact we’re family means business quarrels are quickly resolved: We can’t always be on the same page. Everyone is naturally going to want something different out of the business so balancing views and opinions can be a challenge. But we’re quite comfortable with heated discussions and we never really fall out. The next day it’s always business as usual. I think we can reach that level of understanding with each other because we know each other so well and we’re not left second guessing what each other meant. There’s nothing we can’t say to each other and that’s a huge benefit.

Work is often a topic at dinner: It’s not easy to escape work chat. I have no tips on how to create boundaries because we’ve not figured that out yet! But the truth is, we all enjoy chatting about the business because it’s a shared passion so it’s not really a problem. Even my three and six year-old are part of the business. When we have work celebrations and events they come along and are very much a part of it all. I think it’s great for kids to see their family working together, solving problems and celebrating achievements. It instils a strong work ethic and shows that work, family and life can work brilliantly when blended together.

We’ve exciting plans ahead: Our growth strategy will see us increase our properties to 2,000 by end of the year and 5,000 by the end of 2025. Fifty percent of that growth will come from the acquisition of other property management companies – acquisition is a key growth strategy for us. It’s a big ask but we love big goals and I appreciate for family’s trust in me to deliver it.  

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