Top tips on becoming a hotel general manager
We ask three general managers for their key pieces of advice for aspiring hoteliers
For many young hoteliers entering the industry, the ultimate ambition is to eventually rise to the position of general manager, overseeing the operations of a hotel.
Coming out of a hotel school or starting out in a low-level position, this may seem a distant ambition, yet is one that the CVs of top hoteliers around the world show is possible.
HotelierMiddleEast.com asked two current general managers, and one former general manager who built up a formidable resume, for their tips on rising to that position.
Their words of advice speak to both professional and personal development, and provide a glimpse into how they became high achievers themselves.
Continue to the next page to meet our first general manager…
James Reeves, general manager, Desert Palm by Per Aquum
Reeves became GM of the Desert Palm resort in September 2011, having previously held a number of senior positions at Starwood Hotels & Resorts properties, as well as wth a destination management company in Vietnam.
The key to becoming great at anything is practice. Becoming a general manager requires practice as a hotelier and the only way is to put the hours in. The hours when you start out in your career are the most important; you will not get time later on as you climb the ladder. These hours are not the 'lobby lizard' hours of just being present, these are the hours you spend working with your teams and speaking with your guests.
Only through this can improve your judgement, take risks, make mistakes and learn. You have to be able to think on your feet. Take an active interest in other departments too, even if it means cross training and extra hours. It will bode you well for the future. There is no shortcut or magical formula. The best footballers had talent when they were 10 years old, they did not become great until they were in their mid to late 20s. The 10,000 hour rule applies to everything.
Continue to the next page for Reeves’ second tip…
Work for a great hotel or hotel company, do not think about the money at the beginning. Work for free if you can during your holidays in iconic restaurants, kitchens or hotels in rank and file positions so that you can learn from the best and see what makes them great. You will be recognised for your effort, eagerness, dedication, learning ability and integrity. Always have integrity and always be tenacious.
It is a great hotel or group that will teach you most of what you need to know to become a great leader, the rest you will have to teach yourself through books, documents and online. The leaders at these hotels will tell you when you are not performing and tell you what you need to do to improve. Seek training, seek information, ask lots of questions and learn what it is that has made the hoteliers you respect successful.
The only time you should consider leaving is when you stop learning or have out grown your position and there is no space above you.
Continue to the next page to meet our next general manager…
Georges Farhat, General Manager Crowne Plaza Dubai
Farhat’s story of rising to become general manager at Crowne Plaza Dubai is perhaps like no other in the region.
As documented in Hotelier Middle East’s recent interview with him, Farhat has been with the hotel for over 20 years now, and finally made it to the top earlier this year.
His experience shows that the general manager does not necessarily have to build up their resume around the world, hopping from one hotel to another.
To develop yourself and your skills you have to be patient and humble. You will gain experience by learning from others and by accepting advice and criticism as an opportunity to grow. Be ambitious and fight for higher positions but always play fair. Try to constantly improve and keep your feet on the ground rather than your head in the clouds.
Continue to the next page for Farhat's second piece of advice...
To develop your identity within your company, colleagues, seniors and business partners have to recognise you. Deliver your promise, be reliable and make things happen.
You have to develop your own leadership style and always set a good example for your team. Your company wants to grow talent that lives the values of the brand.
Business partners want to work with reliable people they can trust.
Establish a reputation that fulfils this criteria and you are on the right way to success.
Continue to the next page for advice from a former general manager…
Rupprecht Queitsch, CEO, senior partner, INHOCO Group
Now offering his services as a consultant, Queitsch built up more than 40 years of experience in hospitality including 24 years as a general manager.
Among the hotel where he held this position were Paris Marriott Hotel Champs Elysées, The Ritz-Carlton Berlin and JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, the world’s tallest hotel, which he led the opening of.
We are in the ‘people business’, serving people, both internal customers (staff / own team), and external customers (guests and key customers). Understanding and acting on their needs, and good communication on all levels and to all stake holders is crucial to success.
It involves both pro-active listening skills (not hearing, but understanding) and to communicate in simple ways on sometimes complex issues.
Continue to the next page for more advice from Queitsch…
Balancing five key stakeholders’ priorities:
-Delivering on owner and investor needs and fostering good owner relations; meeting owner priorities are key to any project;
-Have a winning team, with excellent players, and good labour relations, including respecting local traditions and relations - indispensable success factors for any operation;
-Satisfying guest and top client aspirations and needs – excellent, and pro-active guest and client service and relations are crucial to generate revenues;
-Adhering to company policies, bringing to life the hotel’s brand messages and implanting ethical values - keys to gain competitive advantage;
-Living by family values – it’s a people business and living by personal values (treat others as you like to be treated) will create respect and embed strong leadership qualities.