A degree is no guarantee that you’ll be successful in running a business, and neither is having a lot of money. Having years of experience on the other hand can certainly help you to get better at what you do, but to gain that experience you must first get your hands dirty – and by that I don’t mean sitting in your hotel office and ordering people around, or scrubbing floors during your internship days. You have to learn from the beginning, picking up direct experience of every aspect of the hotel’s operation: it involves a lifetime of learning and sometimes you will have to learn things the hard way.
Going to hospitality school might get you a degree but it won’t necessarily make you a good hotelier, especially if you’re not prepared to put the work in. We’ve all seen cases where your parents already own hotels and they don’t care if you get an A or an F because you’re hired anyway, and I’ve even seen ‘students’ who paid others to do their internships and got away with it. Even if we look beyond the ranks of the complete slackers, we’ve also seen plenty of graduates who think that picking up a shiny new certificate is more important than picking up the knowledge and skills that will actually help them to do the job.
With a degree and a little bit of experience, you may think you can run a hotel – but a sure-fire recipe for disaster is when you think you know it all. Pattamon Mekavarkul, the owner of Cape Dara in Pattaya was adamant that the very moment you think you know everything marks the beginning of the end, and added that maintaining a degree of humility takes you a long way in this industry.
There is this beautiful property that’s managed by this one management company, and the owners have absolutely no idea what’s going on. The GM is often asleep on the job, or off to the gym, or hanging out with his ‘media friend’ in the hotel bar, and all along the owner gets taken for a ride by the suppliers that the management company recommended. The GM pockets the service charge and … the owners remain completely in the dark because they’re too busy with other business to follow things up properly.
There are lots of management companies out there. I can’t tell you which ones are good, and which ones aren’t – well, actually I can, but I won’t. You need to find the one that best fits your property, and your style, and has a good track record.
Even when you find a management company, in many properties the owners will also appoint their own representative to cross-check the actions of the managers just to be on the safe side. There are also associations like HOFTEL that you can join if you want to exchange opinions or learn from the experiences of other hotel owners.
Good hoteliers know how important it is to build good relationships when their property is under management. As a hotel owner, establishing a relationship with your GM is essential. Although the GM will be a direct employee of the management company, you as a client often have influence over any moves or changes. If you decide you want a particular GM to stay with you, then they often will. Build your trust and loyalty with them and they will have your back.
Always remember that you don’t know everything and use that fact as your inspiration to seek out advice, insights and information, and never be afraid to ask for help if needed.