Talent Development: Interview with Mr. Roland Fasel, Dorchester Collection’s Regional Director for UK and General Manager
Dorchester Collection (overseeing The Dorchester, Coworth Park and 45 Park Lane) and general manager of The Dorchester. Mr. Roland Fasel's career with Dorchester Collection began six years ago during which time he oversaw the launch of two of the UK's most successful luxury hotels, 45 Park Lane, Dorchester Collection's contemporary hotel located in the heart of Mayfair and Coworth Park, a luxury country house hotel and spa in Ascot. He was previously general manager at Intercontinental London Park Lane and has worked for the prestigious Badrutt's Palace Hotel in St. Moritz, Four Seasons and Regent Hotels. Swiss born, Mr. Fasel trained at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne and has five-star hotel management experience across three continents. Mr. Fasel here shares his experience and a real insight into Dorchester Collection with aspiring hoteliers. YHS thanks Mr. Fasel for the opportunity to interview him last Wednesday, February 26th and is looking forward to having Dorchester Collection onboard as a Royal Partner at the 2014 Young Hoteliers Summit. - Interviewed by Ksenia Em, YHS Media Officer
On the company…
As a company, what criteria do you consider when choosing a new hotel forDorchester Collection?
Dorchester Collection is a portfolio of unique and iconic hotels. We are the only hotelcompany in the world with a consistent portfolio of true luxury properties. Our focus is on building the brand loyalty that has been established since the portfolio was created. We are committed to growing to 15-20 hotels in the next five years and aim to become an international brand, with hotels in all of the world's key capital cities frequented by our existing loyal clientèle. The main focus today is New York, and I think in general, like everyone else, we look for prime locations only. The location within the destination must be the most prestigious address in the market, where the hotel should be able to sustain a number one revPAR position. The architectural design of the building must be original and iconic, reflecting the essence of its location, accompanied by a fabulous design.
What does The Dorchester value the most in the partners it works with?
Our success is driven by our people and culture. Our small size allows us to deliverpersonal senior-level attention to all our hotels and owners. The executive team is involved in every new project, from design to launch, to ensure our culture and values are embodied in every hotel. We look for partners that want to be part of the Dorchester Collection, who have a clear strategy and vision around achieving a certain level of individuality and authenticity and who have a real sense of the ultra-luxury and, most importantly, someone who is really committed to developing our people in the business, who have long-term visions and aspirations.
How about your suppliers?
We are very committed to food and beverage. If you look at our Collection, some of thebest restaurant operators in the world are working for us and with us. That is one thing. I think a partner would have to be committed and really want to create a competitive advantage around food and beverage. For the rest, like amenities, I think we maintain individuality and have the same amenities where it makes sense; for example, in London two out of the three hotels have the same amenities. However, generally, we want to keep individually and authenticity, so things like operational issues, such as plates or amenities or uniforms are up to the hotel and would be selected in the context of the location where the hotels operate.
For recent and future graduates what would be the most interesting area wherethey could be involved?
A graduate with a fantastic educational background and a very strong brand,behind them may have an advantage, but, ultimately, what really needs to be displayed is a little bit of time to learn some of the basic skills in our trade, you need to be a little bit patient. You will grow in the business fast and grow rapidly within the ranks if that is what you want to do. Right now, the business is changing particularly with regard to marketing distribution; the digital platform is evolving. So I think recent graduates can help the relatively traditional hospitality business quite a bit; they could bring in and inject new ideas, new energy into an industry, which may not be moving as fast as it should. A graduate today can have a real impact, an input with regard to how to lead and manage generation X and Y better. A talented graduate will have the potential to really inform and shape the future of the industry.
For those who want to start their own business what new developments couldthey deliver to your company or a luxury hotel in general in the next few years?
It is all about being entrepreneurial. We are trying quite hard to do business in thehotel industry where there is a "sea of samenessness" so I think the 'ultimate' brand or collection of hotels or an individual hotel really gets the next level of innovation and really understands what the needs of the customers are. Successful hotels are those that can position themselves very quickly and continue to move forward. Therefore, I think that graduates who are coming out of school and who want to start their own business can really help 'the business' to be more creative and more entrepreneurial. As an entrepreneur, you have to take different levels of risks but I do think our business needs to start to have a more entrepreneurial look at things.
Would you suggest pursuing further education?
Personally, I did. I went and worked for five to six years and then went back to schooland did my MBA. I strongly believe that further education is very important, but I would put a few years of practical experience in between. And the reason to get experience is that when you do your MBA, the MBA can add some serious value in your career, it can really bring together experience and theory, but if you don't have any experience it is very difficult to optimize the models of the theory. The time I spent working after getting a degree gave me enough practical experience and understanding of the challenges of leadership; they were necessary for the theoretical models MBA teaches and the research you need to do around an MBA itself. So I would highly recommend a Master's degree, but I would also recommend putting some work experience in between.
Should it be managerial experience?
If you can get managerial that is good, but any experience would be better than movingdirectly to a Master's degree.
Are there any programmes that particularly stand out in your opinion? Forthose who want to be in hospitality, should it be a hospitality related programme?
I am not one hundred percent sure that aMaster's degree has to be hospitality related. I did a non-hospitality related Master's programme. I mean, obviously, if you want a hospitality specific programme, Lausanne, Cornell, Michigan – all have fantastic programmes. Ultimately, you need to make the decision for yourself. I just believe that what is truly important is the idea of people expanding their horizons. And if you will be doing a Master's programme, it is really the network you create with your fellow students that will add a lot of value for your career in the long-term perspective.
On further development and favourite books…
I think reading is crucial. An average CEO reads one book a month. It does not have tobe all business books, it can be different genres, but it is important that you do read. If I look back over the years at the books that really had an impact on me, I definitely remember "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey – a crucial piece I read, and "Built to Last" by Jerry Porras and James Collins – a fantastic book. Every year there is another model, or another discussion, or another book coming out, so it is important to stay informed. I would also suggest subscribing to Harvard Business Review and to read some HR-related articles. I think it is important to have the TED app on your phone, so that every time you sit somewhere you can listen to one of those fifteen-minute speeches. Overall, I feel you just need to really stay on the learning curve and books are just one part of the opportunity to grow.
Friederike VON BUNAU
opportunities for young talent in hospitality. It is the first entirely student focused and student run hospitality summit, designed to reduce the gap between the key stakeholders – industry, academic institutions and students from leading hotel management schools around the world. Creating a platform for knowledge and idea exchange, networking opportunities and a friendly competition, it works to foster a dialogue on employment related topics between these stakeholders. Its flagship event, the annual 3-day Global Edition Summit, is held at the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne. YHS is truly a unique opportunity! www.yhsglobal.com
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