Hospitality is a full-time business which makes enormous demands upon the time of everyone involved. If anything, it is a way of life rather than just a job, so it’s no surprise when hoteliers find other family members following their lead into the industry. Pattamon Mekavarakul serves as Vice President of the city’s Cape Dara Resort, and she recently took the time to tell all about her work, her family, and how to avoid conflict when the two are combined.

What do you think was the most challenging moment of 2016 in running a hotel?

2016 had everything. It was quite a full year for me in terms of personal life, work, changes in the organization, market challenges, and unforeseen circumstances. Actually this question sends me back through my Facebook photos of 2016 to see what were the significant events and achievements I recorded. Right now I just feel so glad I survived 2016!

As many of you may know, a hotel is a business that once it’s opened, never closes. The same goes for all its problems and difficulties, so it’s a job that keeps me as a Vice President busy almost 24/7. However, the biggest challenge for me in 2016 was about human resources, or people-related issues. The first challenge was to source the most suitable GM candidate, but I still couldn’t find anyone who matched our needs – so eventually I reached the point where I stepped back and looked around and realized that my department heads were strong enough to work effectively and efficiently without a General Manager.

I’ve also been re-engineering my organization a little bit. Since Cape Dara Resort started operating from its first phrase in August 2012 right up until today, I saw it was time I stepped forward to do something in the bigger picture. It was also time for my elder brother to come in and handle the General Manager role. So I moved my marketing communication office to the Mike Shopping Mall (our headquarters) and started up my own marketing and branding agency. This was a big challenge, not because running an agency is difficult, but because it was time for all the properties under the Mike umbrella to undergo renovation and retouching or rebranding. In addition, my father had the desire to open a few more properties. But everything regarding marketing and branding is now my responsibility, and Cape Dara Resort has also become one of my clients.

Then we ended the year with the greatest loss for our nation; everyone was in a state of grief, and many visiting groups cancelled in both the leisure and corporate segments, which was understandable. I was having a hard time pulling myself together too, but as a leader, I had to make sure we survived and were still able to provide the most memorable holiday for our guests in a difficult situation.

How much involvement do you have in day-to-day operations?

Normally we – and I mean the department heads and my family – have a management LINE group where we share all our updates in real time. So in terms of giving advice, the owners are there all the time. In terms of presence, I used to go to the resort every day but since I started up a marketing and branding agency and moved my office in September 2016, I only visit the resort for meetings, key staff interviews, and welcoming VIPs and VVIPs. My tasks are undefinable. There is no limit or scope of involvement, but everything I do is related to the staff and their roles.

The department I’m most closely involved with as it falls under my responsibility is Marketing Communication. Mostly I make sure we have consistent awareness on media, and we have in-house promotions and co-promotions with other parties going on all the time, so that our name will always be present and active in the market. Besides that, I also sometimes have to choose colors or materials for decorating items, and sometimes I need to get my hands dirty and help my housekeepers clean guest rooms in ad hoc situations.

The thing I always feel thankful for is that my staff, both front and back of the house, are always willing to give a hand to help in making sure our resort is well presented and to give the best service from our hearts, even if some of the things they do are not listed in their job descriptions.

What’s your own specialty in your hotel and how do you encourage people to follow your work ethic or approach?

My specialty is marketing communication, PR, and sales (mostly online). In everything I do I do it with full commitment, so that’s the way to show my staff about my working values. I think the best way is that they learn our values and eventually they share those values. It’s not exactly brainwashing – more about instilling our approach. I also have the chance to write greeting messages in our staff newsletter sometimes. That is also a channel I can use to share my values and how I go about my life. The key is to show them your human side, your personality and wisdom, not just work work work.

Can being an owner and working for the hotel be an advantage or disadvantage for the business?

Both. For advantages you can very quickly resolve problems when there are cases which need a higher authority to be fixed. Service comes from the heart because the owners care about their business in the long run and they tend to make sure staff carry themselves in the same manner.

The disadvantage is that when you’re involved all the time, you can be worried sick when traveling away from the property, even though that’s the time you should be relaxing and enjoying life. Another problem is that staff can be unwilling to make big decisions by themselves because the owners are always around to make decisions for them. Staff may doubt the scope of their authority.

How can you keep the balance between work and your relationship with your father while working?

I’m very lucky that my father has a big heart to let me do things even when he knows it might not work. He would be an advisor if I needed one, and if not he would try to give advice anyway just to make sure that when I fell it wouldn’t hurt so much. So I listen to him in the manner of a good daughter, but most of the time I’m the kind of girl who would rather give it a go first and accept the consequences because I know I have done my best already. It’s better than being scared of taking chances and regretting it later because the opportunity might not come again. My father might say, “I told you so,” but we know how each individual is. It takes years to grow to maturity, but the important thing is parents do understand that fact and realize they can’t protect us forever; we have to learn from mistakes too. In the end, work is work, family is family. Sometimes we need to respect his decisions as he’s the boss, but we also can’t forget that this is our father, who has feelings and needs our love, care, and respect as well.

What would be your advice to other hotel owners who work within a family business?

Respect for each other is the key here. No matter how close your relationship with other family members, never speak your mind too freely especially when it concerns something in their area of expertise. Remember why each member is taking care of a particular department in the first place – with all their experience accumulated over the years, every decision must have had a lot of thought behind it. So even if you just got a degree in their field, you should still avoid interfering in their work.

For those who’ve only just joined the process, try to spend the first year observing how people do their jobs and learn about work ethic and discipline first. Then after a year, you can start to respectfully input your ideas. That is the way you will gain respect as a professional young executive. In the end, though, there is no point in winning an argument over anything that’s less valuable than your family.