Congratulations on your recent win at the Hospitality Awards for the property you manage and have managed since pre-opening. What have you personally brought to this property?
The modern design aesthetic, courtesy of Paris based Atelier Archange and interpreted by local firm Pruzinski Architects, sets the theme for the environment we offer. I have personally tried to ensure that this playful yet fun nature translates into everything we do. This is shown by things such as the multi coloured cast iron pots which adorn our breakfast buffet rather than your typical chaffing dishes and staff wearing red converse shoes as part of their uniform. Most of all, I have had input into every staff member that has been employed at the hotel. We have worked hard on creating a guest centric culture at the hotel and everyone needs to ensure that they fit in with this. Guest satisfaction is too important and you cannot afford to get it wrong.
Are there any initiatives that you are most proud of?
I am most proud of the culture we have created at the hotel that focusses on finding the yes for our guests no matter what. This has enabled us to be ranked 5 out of out of 59 hotels in Adelaide on Tripadvisor. This is an achievement we’re particularly proud of considering the only properties ranked above us 4.5 and 5 star hotels. We were also thrilled to be named one of the Best Budget Hotels in Australia according to 2015 Gourmet Traveller Magazine’s Hotel Guide Awards. As of last Friday, we have also been voted Best Economy Hotel in the HM Awards for Hotel and Accommodation Excellence in Australia. None of this would have been possible if it was not for the team’s focus on our guests.
In your recent graduation speech you asked the question to all the BMIHMS graduates: Why rush your trip to GM? What steps do you believe are critical for an employee to master before taking on senior management roles?
I just want to say firstly that there is nothing wrong with being ambitious. I am ambitious and have always wanted to be a General Manager. As I said in my speech though, when you get there, you certainly want to feel that you know what you are doing. Chasing a title in my opinion is not a good move. Chasing experience is a much better alternative. To be a great General Manager, you need to have an understanding of all departments. You don’t necessarily have to have worked in all departments prior to becoming a General Manager, but you must know how they operate. If you have this understanding then you can make informed decisions that may assist in driving revenue or reducing costs. I look back on my career and when I started in the industry, you either rose through the ranks in Food and Beverage or Rooms Division. My career was more like a zig zag. I kept swapping departments each move I did. It kept me in the loop with new trends and let me constantly reinforce my learnings from previous roles. Master the roles you are in, be the best and you will know when it is time to make a move.
For you personally, when you first lost your ‘comfort blanket’ of the general manager and became the general manager yourself what did you find the most challenging?
The most challenging thing for me was the realisation that I was solely responsible for a multimillion dollar operation. Failure or glory solely rested in decisions that I would make. This is quite daunting initially but as previously mentioned, you revert back to the skills you have learnt as you progress through the industry. The first task I had as a General Manager was to do a contract for a new staff member and provide them with the necessary paperwork and complete their first day induction. I had never worked in HR before, I had no idea what contract paperwork they received or what I was meant to discuss from an induction point of view. I had worked with several HR managers in the past. A simple phone call to an old HR Manager helped me complete that first contract and induct that first staff member. Once I knew that I could resolve something I had never done before so simply, it gave me a lot of confidence that I would be able to resolve any issue moving forward.
Can you see yourself staying within the hospitality industry? What does a GM inspire to do as the next career step?
Having the title of General Manager does not mean that you have made it. You have simply reached a level of responsibility. It is now up to you to ensure that you experience various GM roles whether it is an economy hotel, a luxury hotel, in resort or a hotel with a CBD location. There are plenty of opportunities to keep learning and I am only at the start of the process currently. The next step for me is to find a hotel that will teach me something I do not already know or allow me to turn a weakness into a strength. Once I have exhausted these opportunities, who knows… it’s too far ahead to think of presently!
What do you use for inspiration, for new ideas that will continue to make your property number 1?
I read a lot of hospitality magazines, stay regularly in hotels and eat in restaurants, whether it is fine dining or casual. I am constantly looking at what these places are offering and determining if I can incorporate their ideas into ibis Adelaide. When I was in Sydney for the HM Awards, the hotel I was staying in had some cool little elements on their breakfast buffet. I took photos and have presented them to my chef to replicate on our buffet. Most importantly, I reply to all guest feedback. I see what our guests want, what makes them happy and what they dislike. I get this information directly or via third party sites so the feedback is quite varied. Reading this feedback and responding to it gives you a very good indication of where you sit with your guests. Problems can then be resolved quickly and efficiently and services that our guests like can be further promoted or changed to make them even more appealing. Having this real understanding of what your customer wants will be one of the key factors in ensuring that you stay top of your game.
How would you describe hospitality in 5 words or less?
Dynamic, Stressful, Rewarding and fun.