Irish-born Mark O’Sullivan has been at the helm of Avani+ Riverside and Anantara Riverside in Bangkok since 2018. Having graduated from Shannon College of Hotel Management, Mark began his career in Europe, with various placements in Ireland, Switzerland, and England. His first management role came at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus, Ohio, and his first Asian experience came exactly a decade ago at Club Coco Palm in the Maldives.
Since 2011, he has left his “mark” managing internationally renowned hotels and resorts including Centara Grand in Krabi, Vana Belle in Koh Samui, and W Maldives. He was then invited by Starwood Hotels to open the new St. Regis flagship resort in the Maldives, which was a notable success. Eventually, however, he was lured back to Thailand to take the reins at Anantara Maikhao Phuket Villas, and to begin a fruitful spell with Minor Group which has finally brought him to the banks of the Chao Phraya River in the heart of Bangkok.
What's the most challenging aspect of running your complex?
Getting through everything I want done in the time available to me.
What are the top three qualities you think a GM should have?
It takes a lot of different skills to be a leader, and maybe others will have different opinions about this, but for me, the three most important leadership qualities are:
- Humility: We should all remember where we came from and dial down our egos. Too much ego is so unhelpful to what it is we are all trying to do.
- Forward thinking: We are working in a very fast-paced environment where things constantly change. It’s important to be thinking ahead, pre-empting change, and getting out in front of it quickly. To remain competitive you need to always try to be ahead of the curve.
- Resilience: You face tough situations every day. It’s important to not let things get to you. You got to know how to let go of things that you can do nothing about.
What kind of skill sets are you looking for when hiring a management team?
I usually look for leaders who are entrepreneurial and who can think outside the box. Also, humility and respect are important qualities I look for in leaders. I don’t want too much hierarchy in the organization.
What's the best way to manage the relationship with an owner or operator? Do all owners only care about the bottom line?
Show them that you care about their business, not just the bottom line, which is important, but also about the people working in the business who have given years to building it up. Show them that you respect their asset (the hotel) and keep it in a good condition. Also, it’s important to be honest and give the facts, don’t try to spin it.
What's your advice in difficult times?
Operate as efficiently as possible, keep the morale of your team high, identify the opportunities - because there are still opportunities even in difficult times - and seize on them, plan for recovery because it will come, and be the change champion in the hotel.