Another 5 Hoteliers Offer Their Insight on How to Become Successful in the Hotel Industry
By Dr. Lily Lin, Author of "Interviewing Successful Hotel Managers"
"union due" to join the Success Club. What is it like to be a general manager of a major hotel brand? How do they do it? What golden rules do they follow? What should you expect if you are inspired to become one of them someday?
Here are some tips from those who have made it:
- Originally, I wanted to be a chef. I enjoy cooking. During the weekends, I would kick my wife out of the kitchen and cook for the family. But I guess I am not really talented enough to be a top chef. When I studied at the Economische Hoge School – Hotelbedrijf C.O.O.V.I in Brussels, Belgium, I had to do internships in hotels, which I enjoyed very much. After I graduated from the Economic Higher Institution, Hotel Management Studies, I went to work for the Hyatt Regency Brussels as the Assistant Food and Beverage Controller for five months. I then had to do my compulsory military service in Belgium. After my military service, I became the Assistant Restaurant Manager at the Hyatt Carlton Tower London in the UK. I progressed to become a Banquet Manager, Assistant Director of F&B and finally, Director of F&B in various Hyatt hotels. So, I guess I became interested in hotel management early on.
William Mackay, the Regional Vice President & the General Manager ofFour Seasons Hotel Hong Kong talks about the most important qualifications for a GM: It is a multi-dimensional job demanding a combination of knowledge, skills and aptitude:
- Financial knowledge and being business "savvy";
- Technical knowledge.
Skills & Aptitude:
- Hard work and stamina;
- A positive mindset;
- Good social skills; an ability to motivate and engage with people at all levels and of all cultures and an ability to build strong relationships;
- Extroversion; a successful GM of a five-star hotel has to infuse a hotel with personality and energy as well as efficiency;
- An ability to put yourself in the shoes of others;
- A marketing mindset, seeing the business 'from the outside in';
- Keen interest in the outside world and an ability to adapt to changing circumstances;
- An ability to think analytically as well as to recognize patterns;
- Ability to think at both the conceptual level and at the detailed level;
- Good judgment;
- Refined taste and a genuine interest in food, wine and design;
- An ability to communicate well;
- A good sense of humor.
He offers further advice to those who are inspired to become a general manager in a first-rate hotel:
- Those who are inspired to become a GM must be realistic about the trade off in time and effort that is required for the job. Commitment translates into active involvement, and involvement takes time. You also have to have a thick skin, particularly in situations where we stand to lose the goodwill of a customer. It is never easy for principled people to learn to accept that a search for truth may give way to an apology for having done nothing wrong! The job of the GM, in this case, is having the perspective to understand what is important and what's not! Nonetheless, it's a great job, and I feel like the movie director, David Lean, who once said "I hope the money men don't find out that I'd pay them to let me do this!"
- I am, and always have been, a hands-on person. I would not let things go without first making sure that everyone has a clear understanding of my message. I don't mind taking the time to explain it over and over.
- I believe I am firm but fair. I am close with my staff in the work environment and enjoy dining with them whenever I can, so that we have a two-way relationship. By respecting them, they reciprocate by respecting me for the knowledge and skills I offer them. I lead by example and demonstrate my ethical commitment to professionalism in the hospitality industry. But when all is said and done, work is work, and they know I expect them to follow the same profession discipline I apply to myself.
- I would say that I am a perfectionist, and that I am considered as a workaholic by others and hopefully in a positive way. I go to bed around 2:00 or 3:00 o'clock in the morning. I don't take time off, and in my 24 years of working in this hotel, I can honestly say that there has not been a single morning that I did not feel enthusiastic about coming to work. In the evening, I switch on the TV and I continue to work, occasionally looking up if something interesting catches my attention on the screen. If I am indeed a workaholic, I don't feel it. I really enjoy my work, or perhaps I should call it a professionally committed passion.
- Lead by example;
- Ensure that communication is transparent; no secrecy in good or bad news;
- Invest in employee training programs;
- Recognize and compliment good effort;
- Give constructive criticism;
- Be a good listener — listen to your employees just like you listen to your guests;
- Of course, too much democracy is not good (it's a sign of lack of leadership).
- If you are good to your employees during the tough times, they will make the necessary sacrifices if you ask them to.
- I think being a good listener to his/her employees and guests and acting on their feedback is a key component and a very important factor in being a successful GM. Walk in their shoes and make it easier to implement different ideas.
- You need to be 100% committed and love what you do, and the human factors, such as personal touch and willingness to deal with guest and employee issues should come from the heart.
- I often see that young people choose a certain profession because of their parents' or friends' influence. To be successful, you must choose the field that you love. Don't spend the rest of your life doing things you don't like.
- Your heart and soul will not be there! An old Chinese saying states that: "If you like what you do, you won't ever have to work in your life!"
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