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Week at the top

Shane O'Reilly is managing director of O'Reilly's Rainforest Guesthouse in Queensland, Australia, which has been in business for 77 years and is currently managed by the third generation of O'Reilly's. The guesthouse, situated in Lamington National Park, a world heritage site, has 70 rooms and is rated 4-star; it also runs its own small vineyard – Canungra Valley.

Into the office at 6.30am. I like to start early to prepare for the day ahead and think while it is still quiet. O'Reilly's Rainforest Guesthouse is in its 77th year of operation and has many traditions, which together form a mixed set of intangibles that differentiate us from other resorts. One of these traditions is that one of the family is there to make toast for the guests each morning. So at 7.30am I go down to the dining room and stand beside the toaster. I also get to introduce myself, find out where the guests are from, if they enjoyed dinner the night before and generally how they are enjoying their stay.

This takes only a minute or two for each person, but is valuable and timely, first-hand feedback. As we can have 150 guests at any time, it does take a while though. Luckily, our guests eat early because they want to get out to explore the rainforest of Lamington National Park. The morning is spent reading reports from the weekend manager on operations and trade at the guesthouse and from the vineyard manager on trade at our small vineyard – Canungra Valley – over the past week.

At 6pm it is off to the bar – again it is tradition that at least one of us is in the bar before dinner each evening to mix and talk with the guests. As we do not have televisions in the rooms, the bar is a good place to meet and watch the sun set over the distant Great Dividing Range. Home to my mountain flat at 8.30pm.

Today I am in the office at 6am as we have a 6.30am meeting. Our key staff – about nine in total – meet every two weeks to focus on strategic issues. It is called a Performance Management Group and they share in a bonus pool that is generated once the company's performance reaches budget. The meeting is for two hours, but my brother Peter leaves at 7.30am as he is rostered today to "do toast".

After lunch I meet my cousin Greg, who is our financial controller, and we go through some capital requirements for the vineyard. That afternoon I drive to the Gold Coast, where I am on the tourist board. I stay over at the apartment that I share with my partner, Genevieve.

This morning I meet with our marketing team in our office at Nerang at the back of the Gold Coast. My cousin Catherine O'Reilly is going to Sydney to call on our inbound suppliers and needs to review my recent Europe sales report with me. We use the family in front roles for sales as much as possible – again it makes us more personal and different from other resorts.

In the afternoon I go to the vineyard to meet a visiting journalist from Germany. She had just visited the guesthouse and was interested in the platypus in the stream at the vineyard and wanted a photograph. Luckily, the platypus understood the importance of this photo and turned up. Back to the coast and to the gym for some much needed exercise.

Leave the coast at 5.30am – on my motorbike today – and make the office in good time at 6.30am. I don't ride the bike in winter because at 1,000 metres, even in southern Queensland, it can be quite cold in the mornings. As I arrive, about 10 guests are waiting for the guide at the front entrance for the morning bird walk. The guide is my brother Tim – probably one of Australia's best naturalists for his age, but he is always a few minutes late. I stop and have a chat with them.

Later I have to drop Tim off with a group of eight guests who are going on a walk to Elebana Falls. Driving the 28-seater 4WD buses is a prerequisite here and I am often called on to drop off or pick up groups of hikers. Lamington National Park has over 160 kilometres of walking tracks and over 500 waterfalls.

This afternoon a group of tourism wholesalers from Europe and the US are coming to see the guesthouse. Peter and I meet them at 4.30pm for a 4WD bus ride to one of our beautiful lookouts, Moonlight Crag – a sheer cliff face overlooking the world heritage-listed wilderness of Lamington. We have drinks and some bites, and watch the sunset.

Back to the guesthouse for dinner in one of our private dining rooms. I also make a quick detour into another room where a group of 12 retirees are having dinner. They are staying for four nights and tell me how some came here in the 1950s when my grandfather was running the business. After dinner to the slide show in our theatre; tonight it is about the rescue of the survivors of the Stinson Airliner Crash in 1937 by my great-uncle Bernard O'Reilly. The slides are always shown by one of the family – tonight it is Bernard's daughter, Rhelma O'Reilly. Home to bed at 10pm.

The wholesalers leave straight after breakfast – they are trying to see almost all of Queensland in five days. Today I am writing a report for our board meeting in 10 days' time. I speak to our chairman about the agenda and the issues we want to resolve. Tom O'Brien is not one of the family, but knows us very well. He is very supportive and understanding, yet firm and direct – he also chairs our family meetings. I collect all the executive reports and send them out to the directors.

Friday afternoon and I head to the coast. We take turns at being the weekend manager – this week it is Greg's turn. His brother and sisters also work at the weekends and help keep the O'Reilly face on the front line among our 70 staff.

When not working, weekends for me are spent going for a walk on the beautiful beaches, riding my bicycle in the early mornings, visiting the gym and even getting in a game of golf occasionally. We have great supplies of fresh seafood and we often cook at home. The beach scene is very different from the mountain scene, but I enjoy the contrast.

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