A Day In The Life Of A General Manager

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10th Apr Business

Jacqui Ashton – General Manager

As General Manager of The Woodlands in Heaton Mersey, Jacqui manages a team of six duty managers, a maintenance technician and two housekeepers. 

What are the main responsibilities of your role?  

My role is about pulling everything together to ensure the welfare of our homeowners, to enable our team members to operate to the very best of their ability, and to maintain the smooth running of the building 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I ensure everything is as it should be. 

One aspect of that is making sure our community looks the way it should do. First impressions count and I want people to know what we’re about from the first moment they walk through the door. They can see that we operate at a high level and the expectation we have of ourselves.  

We have a lot of activities here. The duty managers are responsible for the day-to-day running of them, but I attend as many events as I can and I’m always available to provide additional support. My normal hours are 8.30am to 4.30pm, but I like to work a few late shifts, from 3pm to 10pm, so that I can catch up with our homeowners and support the events. 

A couple of weeks ago I attended one of the take-away and movie nights and we’ve got an Italian night coming up in a couple of weeks, so I’ll work that. 

If any of the homeowners have a birthday or a special occasion, they’ll ask for a bit of help putting together a celebration, which we’re always very happy to do. 

The team regularly go the extra mile. One of our duty managers is excellent with IT so will often help our homeowners out and another is very good with things like tuning TVs in. If somebody’s been unwell or out of sorts, we all make sure we check in on them. We’re lucky because our homeowners are really supportive of each other and there are some very good friendships that have been made. 

We have a wonderful community at The Woodlands with 67 homeowners here now and more due to move in over the next few weeks. There are only eight more apartments available. 

What do you enjoy most about your role? 

I like the health and safety side of things. I enjoy the structure of it, making sure that we’re adhering to the legislation or the guidelines set out in our policies, ensuring that everything’s in place and up-to-date so that everyone’s safe.  

I also really enjoy the social side with our homeowners and making sure that the community is thriving. I try to please as many people as often as I can. If somebody asks for something that we can implement, we will. We’re facilitators and quite often little things will make a big difference to our homeowners.  

One of our homeowners wanted to lead his own weekly exercise class so we bought all the equipment and the hand weights that he wanted. We have an activity budget, so we can do that. We regularly buy new jigsaws because they’re so popular. We’ve also got a bookshelf, which our homeowners run themselves. They use a system with little dots on the books, so they know how long they have been there for, so we can regularly update them. 

I’m trying to find an art teacher at the moment because some of our homeowners are very keen to have an art class. In the summer we do garden games. We do a lot community-wise and I think that’s what makes us. 

Some of our homeowners love to join in, some dip in and out of the activities and others never join anything, but really enjoy living in our community.  

How did you get into the role? 

A big part of the role is customer service and hospitality, which I’ve done, since I was 16. 

Having studied hotel management and catering at college for four years, I started off as a receptionist in a hotel and worked up to become an assistant hotel manager. I worked in large country house hotels in the South of England for many years before becoming a training manager. 

After that, I moved back to Manchester and had my four children. When I returned to work, I went into school catering and then became an area catering manager for a facilities management company.  

They had an events side, so I moved from the school catering side to the events side and became a catering manager / building manager running big events and weddings. When Covid hit, I ran testing and vaccination centres across all the town halls in Tameside and satellite vaccination centres in the region. We were staffing those and cleaning them down. It was quite intense. 

During that time, I got to know Tameside care and decided to move into care.  I’d looked after my Step-Dad for quite a long time with Alzheimer’s and I knew I had the capacity for it. I really enjoyed working for Tameside care but when I saw the advertisement for a Duty Manager with Adlington Retirement Living it looked like the perfect role for me. I read the job description and could see that everything I had ever done was wrapped up in that role, so I thought I’d go for it and I’m glad I did. I love it. 

What attracted you to this role? 

You spend a lot of time at work, so it’s important that you like it. I did a bit of research about Adlington Retirement Living and I really liked the ethos of the business. 

I’m quite an ambassador for Adlington now. It’s a great company to work for. We’re getting bigger but it still feels warm and friendly. Somebody’s always at the end of the phone to help. It has that personal touch and at the heart of all of that, it’s about the wellbeing of our homeowners. That really does come through. I think when anybody is recruited to join the team, they have to see that genuine warmth and care in everybody. 

It’s a really vulnerable time when you get old. Our homeowners are in a very good position, but they still have the same insecurities about adapting to old age. It’s a hard road to navigate and if we can make that transition easier, then that’s what we’re here for. 

What are the most significant challenges in your field of work?  

Making sure our homeowner are all happy can be challenging, because everybody’s perception of happiness is different. We want to ensure the community is a thriving, happy community that is well-run. 

I’m lucky because I’ve got a great team here. They know that my door is always open and if there’s ever something that they’re struggling to do, I can jump in if they need me. 

What gives you the most satisfaction from all of this?  

I think it’s the strength of community spirit here at The Woodlands. Everybody has integrated really well. It’s a very supportive, welcoming group and a thriving community, which is what we’re all about. 

Here we’ve got a really good book club and we’ve got a monthly poetry evening. There’s a local community history month so I’ll try to arrange for somebody to give a talk on that. We have a French Club and a movement and exercise class. There’s always lots going on here. 

General Manager with homeowners

We play to the strengths of our team. One of our duty managers likes darts so she organises a darts night once a month on a Saturday. Another member of our team is very good with arts and crafts. She made origami tulips last year with some of the homeowners and she’s leading a knit and natter at the moment making little Easter chicks. The knitted chicks will be given to a local hospice. They did something similar last year and raised £550 for Macmillan and £350 for the Wellspring centre, which supports homeless people. 

There’s a really good sense of community here. We get a lot of people visiting from other communities to see ‘best practice’ so I’m really proud of that but that’s not me, that’s the team. They’re very good. 

What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned in your career so far, and how have you made use of it? 

I think it’s important to be flexible and to really listen to people. Not everybody’s the same, so it’s important to treat people as individuals. Compassion and understanding go a long way too.  

My job role is to facilitate. If somebody comes to me, I need to find a way of doing whatever it is they need, whether that’s a homeowner, a contractor, a member of the head office team or one of my team. I try to be positive and supportive. 

Quick questions 

Tell us something most people don’t know about you 

I’m a qualified beekeeper. 

What would be your ideal night out? 

I love the ballet and the theatre. I went to see Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall in February. It was amazing.  

What three songs would you choose if you were stuck on a desert island? 

Anything by Coldplay or Post Malone and anything with a cello in it. 

What’s your favourite place you’ve been to on holiday? 

I like to go to a different place each time. I went to Croatia last year. I liked Dubrovnik.  

What are you looking forward to this year/in the next few months? 

Going on holiday. I’m going to Tuscany for a week. I’ve never been there before. 



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