Advice of Top Hoteliers to Build A Successful Hotel Management Career
By Dr. Lily Lin, Author of "Interviewing Successful Hotel Managers"
Ricco deBlank, the CEO of SHKP Hotels, Sun Hung Kai Properties LTD in Hong Kong, has built a successful hotel management career since his graduation from the Hotelschool The Hague. He considers the following characteristics important in a hotel manager:
- Being hardworking: The harder you work, the more you learn about the hotel business. So, being hardworking and having knowledge in the hotel industry are two sides of the same coin.
- Being highly intelligent is important but "smartness" is more important. There is a difference between the two.
- Being loyal: People cannot rely on you or trust you if they don't feel that you are loyal to the company.
- Being a visionary: You must develop the ability to communicate to your organization where you are going.
- Leadership ability: A good leader has charisma and people skills, so that people would trust him and be willing to follow in his footsteps. Your customers, employees and shareholders all judge you [in your leadership ability]. You can only do your job better than anyone else if they place their trust in you.
- Management skills: You will acquire them through hard work alongside the right mentors.
- You need to be humble. Walk with your chin up but not your nose up. In other words, walk with confidence but not with arrogance.
- Never forget where you come from. Give the younger ones a chance. Remember that when you first started, someone gave you a chance.
- Always hire smart and intelligent people, so that you can create an environment for quality performance.
Jurgen Ortelee, the Vice President of Revenue Performance from Pan Pacific Hotels Group in Singapore said that the person he would hire would have to possess:
- Analytical skills: He/she must be able to deal with numbers, understand them and know what they mean. At a higher level, he/she should be able to turn available data into a strategy.
- Work ethics: Investors only look for exceptional companies. They do not appreciate mediocrity.
- Ability to think logically: Decisions should be made based on objective information.
- Curiosity: If you don't ask questions, you are not curious enough. You need curiosity to detect problems and find solutions. You also need curiosity to be able to pinpoint underlying signals on business changes.
- Ability to look at things from the perspective of the employer as well as the employees.
Peter Verhoeven is the former Chief Operating Officer of ibis Brands Europe at ACCOR Paris and the current Chief Executive Officer Hotel Services Northern, Central & Eastern Europe, Accor. When asked, "If you were to hire a General Manager, what would be the most important qualifications this person should have?" He answered:
It depends on the type of hotel, size, brand, etc. In general, I think it is important that the individual:
- has a hands-on mentality,
- lacks arrogance,
- has the ability to think on his/her feet,
- is good with communications,
- is willing to be exemplary to his/her employees.
If the individual has these qualities, I would then look at his/her education — of course, I am exaggerating here! But I do believe that interpersonal skills are very important and of course, they must be guest-oriented!
Karim Tayach is the former General Manager of Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place, Indonesia. Currently, he is the Opening GM of the Ritz-Carlton Bali, Indonesia. When asked to give advice about building a successful hotel management career, here is what he said:
- 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 see so often 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!"
- Never stop learning. I am learning every day!
William Mackay, the Regional Vice President & the General Manager of the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong offered his views on the most important qualifications for a good General Manager:
It is a multi-dimensional job demanding a combination of knowledge, skills and aptitude:
- Financial knowledge and 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 the hotel with personality and energy as well as efficiency;
- An ability to put oneself 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;
- An 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 gave further advice on becoming a GM (or building a successful hotel management career):
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!"