John and Lis McTaggart.


55, Lis a little younger!

What is your business called?

The Woodside Hotel.

Where is it based?

Aberdour in Fife.

What does it produce, what services does it offer?

Accommodation, food, weddings, meetings and conference facilities.

To whom does it sell?

The great Scottish and international public!

What is its turnover?

Over £500,000.

How many employees?


When was it formed?

We bought the hotel in 2017.

Why did you take the plunge?

We opened a café, McTaggart’s in Aberdour in 2013 which has been successful. We’ve always loved The Woodside, where we had our wedding reception in 1996. It felt the hotel wasn’t as busy as it should be and given its location and its character there was the potential for a modernised hotel to be successful. Buying the hotel was not a sentimental move but it was, and is, personal. With Lis’s love of food and my love of event management we felt we could bring The Woodside back to its former glories.

We’ve found working together no problem at all. We’ve been married nearly 23 years so we know each other pretty well. We know the things both of us is better at so the organisational division of labour has happened pretty naturally, a bit like how it works at home! Lis tends to deal with food and staffing issues while I see to marketing, events, suppliers and financial matters. We like to get a coffee together in the café at some point in the day to refresh the to-do list and share news. We actually rarely fall out both at home and at work. We both know pretty instinctively how each other would react to particular things and just try and avoid doing those things. Life can be hard enough and having conflict is just too much hassle!!

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

We were both teachers, heads of faculties; me Social Subjects and Lis Modern Languages. We felt if we were ever to do something different with our lives, this was our chance. Teachers have a lot of transferable skills. There’s a great deal in common between running a hotel and running a school department. You need to treat people; staff and ‘customers’ as individuals, get to know them if you can and meet their needs. If you set the right standards and work hard, the rewards come.

I decided to give up the day job first, earning a living through my Modern Studies and Politics company, and as many self employed people will tell you, once you taste the freedom of being your own boss, it is very hard to go back.

A lot of our former pupils are now a decent age, with their own kids and it’s great meeting them again. Several have booked the hotel for family celebrations, others just drop by, buy a coffee or a drink and wind us up by saying “do you not remember me?”, but they look a lot different at 40 than they did when they were 15!

How did you raise the start-up funding?

Partly our own funds, some help from family and friends and an RBS business loan.

What was your biggest break?

Having former Love and Money frontman James Grant play for two nights in November 2018 helped us attract customers from across Scotland. He was brilliant as a musician and person and returns for two nights in November this year.

What was your worst moment?

We had that a few years back when our son was seriously ill. We got through that and any parent will tell you, nothing really matters compared to that kind of worry.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Seeing people happy. Providing jobs for people and seeing them happy at their work. For our customers whose personal time is important, seeing them enjoy a meal, a stay or the entertainment we put on.

A few former teachers think it’s a bit odd, us owning businesses in the private sector when we spent so long as public sector employees. The reality is, If we’d stayed in our old jobs we’d be earning over £100,000 between us (pre-tax). We earn nothing like that now, but we’re happier, we look forward to every day and you can’t put a price on that. Not that I don’t think teachers earn every penny. Most people don’t know the half of the hours teachers work and the stress of the job.

What do you least enjoy?

Things that break down.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

To continue to improve our facilities, standards of service and to really establish the meetings and conferencing side of the business, with the environment on our doorstep we have to offer.

What are your top priorities?

Financial security; to improve our profile locally, nationally and internationally; staff training; the bar renovation and to get away for a family holiday.

What single thing would most help?

Business rates which reflect financial performance rather than geography.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Cut Value Added Tax or reform it so that, like they do in the states, the sales tax is transparent. A lot of people are unaware that 20% VAT is built into every room, meal and drink we sell.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Cash flow is king!

How do you relax?

Me, golf in the summer, running in the winter. Lis, reading. Together, watching late night Nordic Noir TV!