7 Commandments Every Hotelier Should Follow
By Dr. Lily Lin, Author of "Interviewing Successful Hotel Managers"
Young hoteliers and graduating hospitality students often ask me: "What do I have to know to be a successful hotelier?" To a graduating student who is looking forward to entering the hotel industry or a young hotelier who has just begun his/her hotel career, there seems to be so much to learn in order to become a successful hotel manager. At times, it can feel quite overwhelming. However, knowledge and skills are cumulative and if you make a concerted effort to master the basics for your first career step, the next step will not be as difficult. Jumping in head first without mastering the basic management skills may seem exciting and challenging for young hoteliers, but most first-class international hotel brands spend a lot of time and effort to groom their top talents.
1. KNOW Thy Self
If you aspire to become a successful hotelier, the most important thing is to knowyourself. That is, your passions, your strengths and just as importantly, your weaknesses. Remember one thing: Your strengths will not make you fall off your career ladder but your weaknesses just might!
Know what is important to you. Is it money? Recognition? Power? Wisdom? Social status? Knowing what's important to you will help you to direct your efforts in the right direction instead of chasing rainbows.
Tom Donovan, the former Vice President and General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua in Hawaii and the current Managing Director of Waldorf Astoria in Maui Hawaii offered the following advice:
"I would advise those who are inspired to become a GM to set a clear goal about what they want to achieve. I set a goal that at 30 years of age I wanted to be in the Operations Management and at 36 I wanted to be a GM. I missed my first goal by four months and the second goal by six months.
Success is a journey. Make sure that you have great fun getting there."
Since there is no such thing as a free lunch, what are you willing to sacrifice in order to get what you want? Too many people want everything but are not willing to give anything in return.
Are you an avid learner? Every successful hotelier I have had the fortune to meet is passionate about "learning". Hotel business is a fast-moving business. The ability of adopting new ideas and practices is essential in making a successful hotel business.
Finally, Martin Rinck, the President of Asia Pacific, Hilton Worldwide gave this advice:
I believe that you must stay true to yourself and keep your humility, no matter what position you have or what you do for a living.
2. KNOW Thy Business
Hermann Elger, the General Manager of Montage Hotel Beverly Hills, California said:
"I believe that the hotel business is a combination of art and science. One can learn the technical, "science" side in a classroom, this might include finance or IT disciplines. The "art" side of the business requires a hands-on approach, being visible and involved, and many years of guest interaction. We must always remember that we are here to serve our guests."
3. KNOW Thy Standards
Rainer Burkle, the Regional Vice President and the General Manager of the Ritz-CarltonShanghai Pudong in China, shared his thoughts about maintaining service standards:
"A GM is on his own unless his people share his views. At the same time, you don't lower your standards — even if you are challenged by the situations or by your employees."
4. KNOW Thy Guests
Tom Roelens, the General Manager of Four Seasons Resorts Lanai in Hawaii talkedabout knowing his guests:
"The single most important issue in hotel management is that we must adopt innovation to meet our guests' needs. For example, social media has changed the way we communicate with our guests and employees. In fact, we recently created a company Facebook account for our employees, so that their voice could be heard. It's all about tuning in to what our guests and employees are saying."
5. KNOW Thy Employees
Laurent Chaudet, the General Manager of Pullman Hotel Dubai, United Arab Emirates,and now also the Vice President, French Business Council in Dubai, said in his interview:
"I used to talk to students who were inspired to become a GM. I told them that school is important because you will learn all the theories but we are a service industry and in order to manage people, you need to realize that employees are the soul of the company. It is very important that you recruit the right people and train them well. To manage them, you need to acquire maturity and empathy, and these are developed as you gain more work and management experiences."
Jesper Bo Henriksen, the General Manager of Radisson Royal Hotel Moscow with 1300 employees offered his thoughts on knowing his employees:
"I believe that the best tool for being an effective leader is walking the floor and talking to the staff and guests in order to have my finger on the pulse. I spend half of my time asking the staff about what they are doing, who are they talking to, what do they need, when did they last talk to guests, etc."
6. KNOW Thy Management Company or Boss
If you feel that the management philosophy of your company or your boss iscontradicting your basic beliefs and values, find another company to work for. Compromising the core of your values and beliefs is not worth it in the long run.
Rutger Verschuren, who is the Chief Operating Officer Hospitality Division at the Shun Tak Holdings Ltd. in Hong Kong & Macau, spoke about his values and beliefs:
"I like employees who show honesty, loyalty and have a good character. Skills can be trained but character comes with the employee. Also, I like to see that our employees take interest in dealing with our guests with their heart."
7. KNOW Thy Industry Trends
Jurgen Ortelee, Vice President Revenue Performance, Pan Pacific Hotels Group in Singapore, expressed his opinion about knowing the industry trends:
"The world is moving so fast that it's incredible! Not only do you have to know what the current developments are, you also have to know what comes after the current developments. Therefore, you must have future thinking mentality. If you look at education today, much of what students are learning now will be outdated by the time they graduate. Knowing the current trends or practice is just not enough; students need to acquire the ability to recognize the signs of the future. For example, we are already looking at what will come after social media."
For more "should knows", read my book "Interviewing Successful Hotel Managers" where I interviewed 44 hotel executives from top international chain and boutique hotels. Click here.
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