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Essex East of England

IoD Essex: Case study company visit to Lifehouse Spa & Hotel

John Granneman 19 Apr 2018
IoD Essex Lifehouse

On 19th April, IoD Essex were guests at Lifehouse Spa & Hotel where they received a very warm welcome and fantastic hospitality from staff and from CEO and owner Peter Murphy.

After being treated to a delicious cooked buffet breakfast, Peter shared the lessons learnt from his business journey; covering more than 20 years experience in senior management roles representing hotels including The Park Lane Hotel in London and the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh, to his current role in the revival of Lifehouse Spa & Hotel from bankruptcy to the enviable position it is in today.

Set in rural Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex, Lifehouse Spa & Hotel is just over an hour from London by train, making it a convenient quick-luxury getaway for many, including some well-known celebrities. The retreat prides itself on aiding corporate wellbeing through a raft of dedicated offerings. Businesses are able to re-energise their staff at the retreat, which believes in being able to improve engagement and performance following treatment. Attendees  benefit from tailored programmes making use of specific techniques, dietary suggestions and lifestyle tips.

Sealing several industry accolades, winning endorsement from Virgin Holidays for its corporate wellness programme and having the business named among the top 6 British spas by the Sunday Times travel magazine demonstrates the recognition they have received, both from the industry and their customers.

However this hasn not always been the case. In February 2012 the hotel was close to collapse and it wasn’t until partners Peter Murphy and Donald Elmslie took over and made some drastic changes that the hotel became the success it is today. Thorpe Hall Leisure, a company owned by Donald and Peter, purchased the Lifehouse Spa & Hotel out of the administration fromTangram Leisure in 2012, leading to a drastic upswing in fortunes over the past years. They took on the challenge knowing the risk to their careers and reputation and this visit provided us with an insight into the journey they have been on and the lessons learnt along the way.

Before Mr Murphy and Mr Elmslie took the reins the hotel was closed to the public, with no opportunity for customers to stop by for a coffee, lunch or a manicure – this was one of the first things they changed. There were also no dinner, bed and breakfast packages – something else they added immediately. Additionally, the partners decided to change the strap line of the hotel from Lifehouse, to Lifehouse Spa & Hotel and found the difference was noticeable straight away. The turnaround has been achieved through a number of measures and initiatives shared with us, including dramatic cost-cutting, the dedication of both the management team and staff, as well as "good-old fashioned hard work." Additionally, they have focused upon adding value to their hospitality business by implementing proven management systems, focusing on revenue generation, improving operational performance and delivering enhanced levels of customer service. The team at Lifehouse and Peter in particular, have a wealth of experience throughout the business and by putting in common sense systems, a strong focus and lots of effort they have reached the stage where recognition is starting to come.

Our thanks go to Lifehouse Spa & Hotel for such an interesting, enjoyable and refreshingly honest presentation, with Peter giving details of his journey and answering the Q&A in such a frank, open and genuine manner.

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