How I got here:
At first I wanted to be a chef. I catered for family celebrations and parties back in South Africa where I grew up before attending a food service management course at hotel school. But whilst I was there I decided I wanted to learn more about general hotel management, so switched courses and added a PR course to learn some sales skills.
In 1998, as soon as I finished university, I came to London. I saw it as a city of opportunity.
After stints working with Hilton Green Park as a restaurant supervisor and then as a front of house manager at Jury’s Inns, I was headhunted for Thistle Hotels and brought in as a coordinator to implement operating procedures and conduct audits. After a few months I was promoted to an area revenue management role looking after several properties in London, including Thistle Heathrow, where I later became operations manager.
I saw operations as a direct route to becoming a general manager so I took the opportunity with open hands. That was a very big jump for me.
I then was tasked with running Thistle Hyde Park, which had some major issues, before being asked to open our first Guoman self-serviced apartments in Fiji and handle two refurbishment projects in Malaysia.
But I was eventually brought back to the UK to be the area general manager for the Guoman Charing Cross and Grosvenor hotels, both of which are also currently undergoing a refurbishment.
Working for Guoman-Thistle:
Guoman is definitely the best company I have worked for. If I wasn’t in this company I wouldn’t have progressed so far. I’ve been very fortunate with the company to have had all these opportunities and I’m very grateful.
I’m the longest standing manager in the group in London, and have worked under four chief executives at Guoman. London sees so much change it’s a very diverse market and general managers jump from property to property. I’ve been fortunate that every time a new chief executive comes on board they keep me on. It’s been great because every time I finish a job I go one step up. I’ve never gone sideways. They’ve always helped me perform and climb the ladder.
My biggest challenge:
Handling the simultaneous refurbishment of two hotels is extremely challenging. You still need to make sure your guests are happy so you can continue to make money. The refurbishment should never get in the way of that.
How I work:
I strive for five star service and standards at all times. I have the highest customer service scores for Charing Cross than any other hotel in the company, and that’s down to my eye for detail and understanding what the customer wants.
The most important thing I’ve learned:
Performance is crucial. If you’re driven, dedicated to your role and loyal to your company you’ll succeed in your career.
My future plans:
I want to go international and work in a five star hotel category. Guoman is predominantly four star and Thistle is mid-range, so over the next four years going into a deluxe chain is something I strive for.