Sunday, 5 June 2011

Rafayel's simple principles for success and career growth

I always highlight one thing – that knowing the answer makes a person a great subordinate; the ones who ask the right questions will make great bosses. My question is: Do you ask the right questions?

Topping a class is a sign of trouble for me.  The mediocre academic descent of many a great successful man only goes to tell me that all of them asked the right questions, which is what matters the most in life. If you don't ask the right questions, you will never find peace within yourself.  

Be inquisitive and curious. Ask and know! The University of Life serves its cards in a very diverse manner and form.

Instead of self-destructive obsession in proving one’s self-importance through shortcuts, one should immerse in the quest of true knowledge. You can’t make progress until you know your weaknesses well. You build your vitality by protecting your Achilles' heel.

Not just curiosity, but imagination and dreaming with it are very important. “Everything you can imagine is real.” The first issue is to confront your own demons.  Ask yourself plain and clear, why are you stuck here if you really don't want to be here?  Have you invested enough in life and are you bold enough to stand for what you believe in and whether you have the courage of failure? That all you stood for so far may have been misplaced and wrong? Most of us are unable to answer these dilemmas.

“Should I go after my dreams?” And the answer is, “Can you live with the consequences if you fail?”  If you can live with the consequences if you fail, then you should go after your dreams, if you are unwilling to deal with the consequences of failure, then cease your pursuit.  We often get side-tracked, derailed, or “depressed” on the road to success.  Instead of pushing through we give up.

“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”
Sometimes things get worse, before they get better.  Even after you climb one mountain, you have to venture into a deeper valley to climb the next mountain.  Life happens in cycles; sometimes you have to tear down before you can build up.

Our task is to surround ourselves with optimistic people and ignore those who bring negativity and pessimism. Taking the ‘evilest’ out of us is the ugliest of tasks. Say what you mean and do what you mean; don't say “yes” you when you mean  “no,” and don't say “no” when you don't mean it either.

We are confronted with a ‘glass ceiling.’  A ceiling or a wall exists to limit us and keep us out; these walls of hindrance and failure should come down! The only way to bring these walls of underperformance is to address our own demons.

You have to think bigger and clearer.  If you don’t, the glass ceiling will remain, and you will remain exactly where you are right now. You expand your mind by constantly associating with people who think in a different way; if someone is not challenging you, something is seriously wrong. It is from your worst critics you learn your best. You are a product of who you associate with. You should be known by the company you keep and the best company you can keep is with ‘knowledge’ and impart it well.  Don't selfishly accumulate knowledge; it only is effective when dispersed.

Talk “big” to yourself. “I am always doing that in which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” - Picasso

Learn every day; nothing can take the place of experience.  Do what you’ve never done, to get what you’ve never gotten.  You have to expand your horizons; you have to enter new waters.  When you do, you will grow, and you will change.

Succeeding at any given task is at least “twice as hard” as you think. Associate it with Picasso's “Action is the foundational key to all success.”

The reason many people don’t succeed is because they underestimate the amount of work requisite for success.  Those who play with timing and allocate rotas to their work ethics will only end up as subordinates.  Those who learn everything all around and are seekers of knowledge will break the barriers of ignorance and become stalwarts.

Success usually requires at least twice as much work as you think.  Oftentimes it requires three, four or even five times the amount of work. The price of success in high.  Maya Angelou said: “If the grass looks greener on the other side, you can bet the water bill is higher.”

The formula for personal and professional success
  1. 99 percent of your results will depend only on 1 percent of your tasks. So quit wasting your time on unproductive activities, like idle chatter - idling should be constructive. 
  2. Focus your life on the activities that produce the greatest rewards of human endeavours.  Focus on your priorities by sharing knowledge and experience; optimism and positive outlook will help you grow. 
  3. Get the best out of your team by giving the best to the people around, become an icon of change. 
  4. Let people look forward to you for change that you can bring by your talks and ideas; be an “idea” man. Most people only accomplish a fraction of what they could accomplish because they spend majority of their time working on meaningless tasks. 
  5. No two days should be the same. If you want to have a successful day, you must plan your day.  Planned days are productive days!  Think what you achieved out of the whole day, anything optimistic will add to your armoury of experience; all unconstructiveness will destroy your career. 
  6. You must fight for want you want!  Don’t get “depressed” when things get hard.  Remember, it’s darkest just before dawn.  Tough times will come on the “road to success,” …but you have to keep on moving!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Why is employee turnover so high in the Hotel industry when each candidate is interviewed thoroughly by multiple panelists?

The era of diplomatic, sugar-coated answers in an interview to impress potential employers has just gone. We need to define new avenues of recruitment in this interconnected world of service industry.

Employee retention is a sum total of the ‘Management approach’ to work and the ability of senior management to translate into easy words ‘the dawn of a new era of service’ to a mass of very young people who think saying ‘hello’ is some kind of curtsy.

‘Mindset change’ is the first hurdle that every senior manager faces and that is the first hurdle that a prospective employee needs to pass with flying colors too.

Menu for the perfect candidate 
The moment of truth is that the industry has to redefine its recruitment biases.  The old ‘model questions’ need to be chucked in the dustbin and prospective employees should be tested at the altar of:
1.      Personality
2.      Articulation
3.      Openness
4.      Versatility
5.      Adaptability to change
6.      Academic interest to grow
7.      Team player

The above seems to be the menu/requirement for a big man, but these qualities are widely available in the larger catchment of the talent pool. The industry has to recruit from outside the limited ‘profile’ raised by hospitality schools; a lot of people out there with plenty of ambition can be attracted to the industry if we create the right environment and sell them the big picture.

Hospitality industry will have to move forward and accept that the training grounds for skill are not the schools alone but their own organizations. Great hotels have produced great managers who started as bellboys.

 The ideal symphony
‘Exponential high curve of learning’ is what employees should be trained in by the ‘high and mighty sitting in the offices.’  Employers should recognize that an employee must understand his role as an integral part of the orchestra with the General Manager as the conductor. A GM who is not out and about and not part of the daily chores but locks himself up in his posh office is partly responsible for a high turnover. The whole idea of perks and more perks for the GM is sickening.  It is his role as a conductor to reach out to all and sundry to share his vast experience, teach the nuances of the fine trade to everyone in what is a very difficulty industry to survive.

Hero worship is out.  And those with a dynamic profile, which most are gifted with, reaching out should be given the top chance, even if we have to train them for bigger challenges. No single hand is ever responsible for the big trading numbers; it is all about the team work.  You need to search for a conductor who can compose his ‘music’ well in the song of global connectivity and changing requirements of new global service/travel industry. Anyone unable to give credit to the team is not a good team player.

Socially responsible ethics at Rafayel 
Yes ‘Hospitality’ is often a stepping stone and there will always be a high turnover, but it is all about training employees in different departments and setting them a schedule to learn the whole set of skills in the next few years that they will hang around.  The first thing any youth is interested in is his career and future – give him hope and arm him with knowledge, bring education and training in the forefront of your whole management and corporate style. That is the ethic we work at Rafayel.

Hotel industry – no room for loners or introverts
Hospitality is about service and about exceeding expectations. One should be a ‘peoples’ person to be successful in this industry; if one is a loner and doesn’t have much desire for interaction any number of degrees or diplomas will not help. One should love meeting people and enjoy learning new skills and styles every day; service and hospitality is an ever-changing chameleon. Either you are born a successful hotelier or not fit for the job.

Hospitality schools teach management skills, one thing they should now teach is the ever-changing panorama to master the craft of serving with distinction in a connected global village. Dealing with global set of citizenry who are interested to pen reviews about ‘one employee’ actions that can destroy even the best of properties is the new challenge. 

The art of connection 
The disconnect between employers and employees’ reality and expectations in a much regimented industry is growing huge day by day. Living in the mighty bygone days of majestic hotel standards without realising that the world around has changed is a self-serving and destructive approach. 

The new rules of the game
It is absolutely required to address every customer complaint. The hurdle of satisfaction and survival rate of good properties will just move a tag higher; far more concentration is required by the employers and employees.  The industry will need new kind of MBAs with great emphasis on skill training, interpersonal skills, reaching out, technical and software awareness. 

Some effective suggestions would be:
1. Continuous Communication between employer and employee is most important.
2. Teaching them new skills should be the goal.
3. Keep an eye on over-ambitious internal power strugglers.
4. Teach them the whole hospitality not a part of it.
5. Recruiting the "hospitality mindset" is more important than any number of degrees. Technicalities can be taught, but being a "hospitable mind" cannot.
6. Any employer who cannot empower people to take decisions when they are required will fail to keep employees. Costumer complaints needs big decisions to be taken at the spur of a moment, an employer who does not empower its front office staff to write-offs when they deem it necessary will make them feel miserable.
7. Time to listen and learn about philosophy of service industry - do you really want to work for satisfaction of others or just fill in hours?
8. Customer service should be your pride and a career path you choose with sincerity.  Those who think it as ‘servants work’ and below them will hurt the industry and themselves.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Rafayel Management Lesson 7

REVENUE MANAGEMENT or Online reputation management - Which is more important today?

Without proper online reputation management backed by proper service, there will be no REVENUE to MANAGE.

Today, the hotel industry is not just about REVENUE MANAGEMENT but all about delivering services exceeding expectations. That is the true definition of the service industry.

Rafayel’s revenue management strategies
We at Rafayel try to instill in our young staff the spirit of service and arm them with knowledge; we teach them and let them be aware of high standards of global hospitality industry. This is the most important task that an employer faces, i.e., to inspire courage of service and character of integrity. There is no doubt that REVENUE MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES form the bedrock on which Revenue Management & Distribution forecasting process for effective decisions are based.

All Hoteliers should try to master the best practices of Revenue Management.  Creation of a dynamic Revenue Management Action Plan is the most important issue. Through a dynamic revenue management action plan only a hotel can achieve an optimum 'Pricing and Product mix.' A hotel cannot build an effective budgeting and forecasting plan without an effective revenue management approach. 

But alongside REVENUE MANAGEMENT, every hotel truly faces a dilemma to ensure that revenue keeps exceeding targets. No guest means no revenues to manage.

Insensitivity to modern-day citizen journalism can cause a mighty fall
I see great hotels closing down and falling on the wayside, and generally, the infliction is the lack of care and disasters that are rooted in the open world critical medium of citizen journalism.

Hotels just cannot cope with this open world of ours.  They are not equipped in dealing with a situation that just does not end on departures, or neglecting a customer complaint.  This complaint becomes an albatross around the neck – once the review is on the site, it appears straight away on any search. The soft belly of the industry is now exposed as never before to millions of prying and paying customers who will be happy if you care and unhappy if you dismiss them as numbers.

Integrated approach at Rafayel
In today's world, we teach our employees – from HSK to F&B – that an integrated approach is most important.  An employee should be jack-of-all-trades in the first few years of service and then move on to specialised expertise.  A good hotel cannot survive if it does not practise today the mastery of Internet Distribution and SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING that is integrated with employee’s sensitivity to customer demands.  The employees have to be educated and told that everyone expects from them – from top to bottom.

Where does General Management lie?
Mastery of these channels is a tricky question. It is not about loading pictures that don't meet the actual site.  In this modern day and age of a connected world and citizen journalism, only goodquality will survive.  A General Manager who sits beyond the sights of the front office is bound to fail.  General management of the hotel IS in the front office.

Great hotels of the past were known by the General Manager’s first name.  It was services that were the pride.  If one doesn't like 'people' one should not bother to be in the industry.  It is about caring and about people.  In Plaza Athenee Paris, from 1970-90's, Mr C would stand two hours every morning in the halls to greet and “hi” Royalty like King Hussein and Empress Farah Diba of Iran; all would feel safe in the hands of Mr C.

Online Reputation – one of the be-alls
A Hotel should promote and handle their online reputation using social media tools such as, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, GooglePlaces, TripAdvisor.  This reputation is only skin deep if it is not built on two things – integrity of your service and acceptance of your weakness.

The marketing strategy of a hotel nowadays should be totally reliant and sensitive to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Places, Trip Advisor, and or The challenge is that critical reviews of customers pose serious questions which can only be addressed transparently if the hotel answers them well and tries to create a hurdle of high expectations for its brand.

It is the Citizen journalist and thousands of guests who decide 'your' fate in the marketplace. No amount of lexicon and shiny paper brochures would do the trick until the service at core delivers what the glitzy brochure promises.

Crossing the hurdle of expectations
The hurdle of exceeding expectations has to be crossed by the industry and this can only be achieved by instilling values that are customer-oriented. That is a huge benefit and bonus customers have obtained as a result of global open market of reviews and criticism of the facilities. Undoubtedly 1-2% of the customers do try to take advantage of this weakness of reviews that impact businesses, but if the hotel is committed to exceed expectations this can easily be addressed. 

Social networks or communities like Facebook blogging sites like Twitter get more traffic than Google. People spend a lot of time per day on these websites communicating with friends and searching for new things. 

Online reputation management and responding to guest reviews on TripAdvisor is the key to coherently answer the issues that any business faces. More and more websites and online travel agencies allow consumers to review the hotel they stayed in. The number of citizen journalists has also grown through the easiness of creating a blog on the internet.

The hotels today need to stay up to date with what people are writing about the company and hotels on the internet.

There are many tools out there charging a lot for getting your scores and fancy reports. But really all that matters is to know when and what is written about you. A Review tracking system for a hotel on blogs and travel review websites like TripAdvisor, is most important.

Building a simple DIY guest community – Be honest, be smart
Launch a hotel blog or client / guest community. Simple.  Your online hotel marketing strategy should go beyond promoting your hotel. In the end people are coming for the destination, and the hotel is a result of the trip.  Therefore, lies and fabrication don't work.  Only honesty and integrity will work in the open global sourcing of services.  The next customer usually testifies to the integrity of any negative review one way or another.  If the customer is wrong, the next review will alleviate the charges; and if the customer is right, the next review seals the fate of the hotel.

Long arms of the…internet!
Hotel media marketing strategies definitely should aim at increasing the presence, reach and exposure on the internet beyond the hotel website. Potential guests use many different platforms to do travel research.

The blog should include:
Add hotel reviews to your website for free? A two-way sword but adding critical reviews on the first page has great advantage of transparency and openness. Using open source technology freely available on the internet, traveller experiences from public hotel review sites can be filtered and displayed on your site as an objective opinion.