Some years ago, I was at an event hosted by Starwood & Marriott. I was struggling with a drink in one hand and a phone in the other, trying to take a selfie. Sarinya, or Rin, showed up and offered to take the photo for me. I didn’t know who she was, but I knew she worked there.
Rin had actually worked in many hotels before she had to excuse herself to take a full-time job as Director for her family-owned company, The Ninesotel, which owns Swissotel, Renaissance Pattaya, and its own hotel, LIV Phuket.
Having previously been an employee brings its advantages. Not only can Rin empathize with her associates because she was once in their shoes as she learned her trade through two of the very best brands, but she also knows who could be best candidates for her own hotels today.
“My owner representative, Tom S’prayon , is my ex-boss from when we both were working at JW Marriott. My family was developing a project for Renaissance in Pattaya and my mom wanted professional help so I suggested that she talk to Tom,” said Rin. “And that’s how Tom became the owner representative for The Ninesotel.”
I asked how it feels to be working with an ex-boss, and Rin replied that it’s not just one ex-boss, but two: Bruno Rotschaedl, who is now the Swissotel GM, used to be the F&B director at her previous hotel.
“It feels like I'm still working with friends,” she said. “Work is work but after work we still hang out, have a drink or two. In the beginning I will admit it felt a bit odd, but through time you get used to it and it also gets easier to work with them because once you’re in their position you understand them a lot more. I’m never giving anyone orders or demanding the impossible. I like to request and also ask for their opinions.”
“So you never boss people around?” I joked.
“I’m not a bossy person,” she replied. Not being bossy works well for Rin. I asked if she applies democracy in her boardroom?
“Not really. We vote but we give our opinions. If you truly believe that your idea works, and really insist on doing that and you have done it before and it worked, then we let you do it. It’s never like we have three votes and you have one, so you never win, because sometimes three of us might not know as much as the other one,” she explained.
Respecting people’s opinions has been the key for Rin’s management style. She had certain experiences when working for others and she believes that leaving space for employees to do their jobs shows better outcomes. With an amazing team, Rin has seen the results in figures.
“At Swissotel, we are doing great at the moment. 2018 was one of our best years since the hotel opened. The revenues and operation have been gradually building up to 2018, to the point where it’s been our most successful year. So at the moment we’re pretty lucky to have a five-star rating in this area (Huai Khwang). At the Renaissance Pattaya, we have been open for a year, and people have been talking about the hotel. With this brand, it already pulls people in. 2018 has been a happy and successful year and the team and staff have been extremely professional.”
Both Swissotel and Renaissance Pattaya are franchised to The Ninesotel, which has been working well for Rin, but she does mention that having a good and experienced owner representative is a good idea.
“Brands will want to have it their way. They want to protect their brand. Owners like us also want to protect ourselves and we have our own ideas. Having an owner representative helps in going over contract, helping in negotiating terms, and such. We are happy with our franchise contracts. We get to recruit our own team and it’s been working well for us,” she explained.
Since Rin has put her owner representative, Tom, in the limelight more than a few times, I wondered if she wasn’t afraid of losing him to competitors. She laughed, and said she liked healthy competition, adding that Tom has always had his own company and is consulting for other hotels.
Unlike many owners, Rin isn’t so secretive about having a professional owner representative.
“I don’t see why it has to be a secret, or I don’t see it as a negative thing. When you don’t know how to do things you ask and you learn and you get better. It’s as simple as that. We have a good relationship with our team. I work well with Tom because we have that relationship. He sometimes still thinks he’s my boss. He would walk into my office and comment about my messy room.” Rin finished the sentence with a laugh.
Although Rin believes that you should seek professional advice when unsure, she says that learning everything yourself is also a good way to go.
“What I really recommend is that you go there and learn it for yourself. If you are able to do it yourself it will be easy. Being an owner, sometimes you think you have all sorts of people to do things for you, and at the end you don’t even understand what they’re doing to begin with. And when a problem occurs you don’t know how it happens or how to fix it. People in our age range, we’re still young and have the opportunity to learn new things. Running a hotel is not easy, there are so many details. If you really don’t have anyone to help you it won’t work. Hotels are easy to build but it’s the money in maintaining it where it gets hard. So my advice would be to learn everything first, get some knowledge.”
The kind of real-life learning experience that Rin advocates is precisely what makes her tick. She’s a savvy marketer and hotelier as a result, and she sure can take some great photos. I don’t remember asking her to retake any photos that night!