Ben Bullman is a man who likes to be by the water. He started his career as a student barman at the multiple award-winning Royal Pier in Aberystwyth interspersed with summer stints creating cocktails on the south coast of Spain.
Now, aged 29, he is the man at the helm of the Thames-side Boaters in Kingston upon Thames.
He was also one of the first licensees to sign up to Inapub's Next Generation project, which brings rising stars of the trade together to meet peers and learn from senior industry professionals.
He views it as a way to gain knowledge and make contacts as he builds his career.
"It's a fantastic opportunity to talk to people in a similar position to me, either those who have started their own business and are looking to grow or those who are in branded operations," he says.
"It's that ability to get out of your business and engage with other managers who have that same kind of mindset. It's very easy to get stuck in your own little world and, as managers, it's key that we get out there."
It was during those shifts at The Royal Pier that Ben realised his future could rest in hospitality rather than either the financial services business his family worked in or something connected to his degree in international politics and military history.
"I did work experience but I hated being behind a desk," he explains, "I enjoyed taking clients to these awesome restaurants and bars and I thought 'I don't need to be in finance to do that'."
He joined Young's and spent three years learning the trade at various sites before taking on the Boaters with Greene King's Metropolitan business a year ago.
The aim is clear: turn around a pub that was in decline into one that is delivering for locals and increasing its turnover.
"It had become a bit of a summer pub so we wanted to reconnect with the community," he says.
This has been achieved by sponsoring the local rugby team, funding new lighting in the park the pub backs onto, introducing a loyalty scheme for locals and making the pub more family and female-friendly.
He wants to build a business that his assistant manager can develop further before he goes on to other projects, which ultimately he hopes will lead to owning his own pub.
"Eventually I want my own business but I don't think I have the knowledge base quite there yet," he says. I want to be 100 per cent sure on what I want because that has to be a long-term investment."
Skills for the next step
Projects such as Next Generation, along with learning from the experienced operators he has worked with, are helping him gain that know-how and confidence - as of course is the day-to- day management of the pub.
A skill he has had to learn is taking tough decisions such as moving staff on when they are not aligned to the direction the business is going in. "It is one of the challenges but it is also one of the realities of life. It is something you have to deal with in this industry if you want to progress. You are going to come up against these obstacles," he says.
And while Ben is gaining experience from senior figures in the industry he also understands the importance of developing the careers of those in his own team.
"I treat my staff well, I remember what it was like being a barman on minimum wage. I wouldn't ask them to do anything I wouldn't do myself. You are a team and you need everyone pulling in the same direction."
Doing so means that both Ben and the Boaters are sailing off in the right direction.
The Boaters Inn
Kingston upon Thames. London
Style: Riverside dining and drinking with regular events
Busiest trading period: Sunday lunch
Best sellers: Wine, cask, fish & chips, lamb three ways
Next event: Sep 13 2016, Manchester
Next Generation has been set up to bring rising stars of the pub trade together. Events featuring industry professionals and brand leaders are open to licensees, managers and deputies who want to make more of their business, establish new contacts and help drive the industry forward.