Highfields Manor is a large country estate which makes for a truly unique Corporate Event or Big House Party experience. What does it take to have this success? What is it like to be ‘a double act’ in the hospitality industry?  I caught up with Colin and Ros Pilcher to find out.  Kelly Robinson

Ros Pilcher – Women in Business

What is your career background?
Having graduated from The University of Sussex with a degree in French and African and Asian Studies, I was thrown into the corporate world when I joined Mars Confectionery, where I worked in Sales and Marketing. When I left to start a family, I had no thoughts of returning to work, but knew that Colin and I – I met my husband at the Fresher’s Disco – needed a second income and that being a stay at home mum was not something I was happy to become. With a baby and toddler in tow, I began a small business, which grew to the point that Colin left the bank to join me. I have never regretted becoming self-employed, but equally acknowledge just how invaluable was the brief time I had with a Corporate giant. Funnily enough Mars is one of our corporate clients!

How has your role evolved?
So often guests ask not only about the history of the property but also how the idea of the Big House Party evolved as a business, in what was once our family home. Our son Daryl suggested that Highfields Manor was the perfect venue for country house parties and that Colin and I would be the perfect hosts. If Colin is the ‘ Jack of all trades’, I must be his Jill! I love my role, which is very much about making certain that Highfields Manor, which holds so many fond memories, not only for us, our friends and family but now holds the same for the many guests to which this property with a huge heart now so enthusiastically plays host.

What challenges have you had since starting the business and do you think being a woman has had any bearing on those challenges?
I too would be the first to acknowledge that running a small family business in today’s world, where global giants tower above us, is not without its own particular challenges. As a woman it is always difficult to successfully manage a family and business, all the more so perhaps when it is very much what can be certainly termed a lifestyle business. I certainly am the more creative partner and if I am the one who generates the ideas, Colin is certainly the finisher/completer, which must say something about the male/female psyche.

Colin Pilcher – Men in Business

What is your career background?
Having graduated from The University of Sussex with a degree in French and European Studies, I joined Lloyds bank as a Graduate trainee. When my wife complained that she was running a growing business and caring for a growing family, I thought “Happy wife, happy life”, gave in my notice and joined her! I would be the first to acknowledge the invaluable grounding working for one of the High Street Banks gave to me and the confidence to go it alone.

How has your role evolved?
Our business has always been a lifestyle business, which makes huge demands on both my time and abilities. I have necessarily become a ‘master of all trades’, essential if I am to meet the daily demands which running a large country estate for private or corporate hire entails. I am as likely to be seen with a tool bag as at my desk completing the VAT return. If Ros is the accelerator in the partnership, I am very much the clutch and sometimes, when she is completely blown away with some ‘amazing idea’, the brake. We have very different roles, which we both see as both necessary and important.

What challenges have you had since starting the business and do you think being a man has had any bearing on those challenges?
Starting and indeed growing any business is never without its challenges! My most recent challenge must be overseeing a new website and Facebook page which, given the importance of social media coverage in the hospitality industry, necessarily must be maintained. Highfields Manor has become a very eco-property and we are in the process of installing a new sewage treatment plant for which my wife is only too happy to hand over total responsibility! Perhaps there are certain aspects of life which will always be part of the male remit!

Certainly being part of a husband and wife partnership makes its own demands, not least because my wife maintains that she is invariably right! And her profile picture is much prettier than mine!