HUMANS OF HOSPITALITY | NICK DAKING
I love the challenge and the excitement of the hospitality industry, but I haven’t always been involved in it. When I was younger, I studied engineering where I also got a cadetship with a very large firm. I almost completed my studies then but then decided I didn’t want to be an engineer. I ended up as a car salesman on the Gold Coast of all places!
I enjoyed the sales industry and after a few years I moved into finance and insurance, where I then met my boss over a beer in a pub! I then spent the next 4 years working with an international funds manager and my engineering background was extremely helpful. I regularly travelled all across the country with a high intensity business and high performance was required. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the industry but when the GFC hit my role became very difficult to execute and wore me out, so I decided to step into the Hospitality industry, because isn’t every man’s dream to buy a pub?
At the time I was living at Nobby Beach on the Gold Coast, 176 steps to the Nobby Beach Surf Club Bar from my bed. I was a great supporter of the club and got asked to join the club’s supporters board and accepted. The people on that board were great mentors for me. They were people who were extremely successful, and still are. I got to mix with them socially, and they’re just normal people like anyone else - they’ll go for a beer with you and they remember who you are.
It was a great way to get management experience in hospitality, and it was very different from the operational roles I was used to and had just come out of.
I learned a lot from them, and learned a lot being a manager in hospitality. The General Manager of the company was very open and taught me a lot. I asked a lot of questions, ‘cause if I don’t know the answer, I’m not afraid to ask questions, and this guy had been in the industry 30-40 years.
I always enjoy a beer, and enjoy a conversation, and always wanted to have my own business, so there was a logical solution to connect all those dots. My Dad owned his own business, and so did my Granddad, and I just wanted to too, even though it’s bloody tough sometimes.
So I was back in Launceston for a visit, and went and caught up with an old family friend outside the Sportsman’s Hall. He encouraged my ideas of having my own business, and really pushed those thoughts to the forefront of my mind. Not long after that night, Sporties came up for sale and I jumped on it as quick as I could.
I thought to myself “it’s a lot easier to get into business where you have friends and family”, and Launceston’s clean and safe, it’s the best place to live in the world.
It wasn’t long and I had the key to Sporties in my hand, and I was terrified. I thought “What have I done here?”. When I first walked in as the owner, I’d barely poured any beers, and I hadn’t even operated a till. I knew I had to bluff my way through and it would work out.
The staff and the regular customers were the ones who really tested me. They looked at me as if to say “Who are you?”. It took a long time to really become my pub. I knew it was mine once the regulars had changed their mind about me. It took about 4 or 5 years but now there’s customers who have my back, and are as protective of the business and the staff as I am.
So much has happened since I bought Sporties. I’ve been in charge of a few places during the past few years, but it’s just Sporties and Henry’s now. I’ve learned a lot in the past 9 years in the hospitality industry. I’m not the baby-faced nervous guy in the Sporties kitchen for the first time anymore. I even give advice to my friends about the industry now.
When I look back, I wouldn’t do anything differently. I made some bold choices that some people might question, but I’m never afraid to make a decision. I always say “You’re only one decision away from a good one”. And I love the industry, and I’m so happy I got involved with it.