AETHOS Consulting Group was honoured to co-sponsor “Next, A Future Leaders Summit” together with HTL Capital Advisors as part of HotelsMegaMeet in Sydney last month. “Next” was aimed at providing rising stars of the Australian hospitality industry with an opportunity to learn from, and to interact with, leading players from the industry as well as their peers. Attendees were specifically selected and invited by their employers. Key takeaways of the event included:
Building a Hospitality Career
Respected industry figures Karin Sheppard from IHG, Simon Magrath from Accor and Trent Fraser from Choice gave their advice on how to best position yourself for a long-term progressive career in hospitality.
- Australia and New Zealand offer fantastic opportunities for work experience and professionals from this region make excellent team members in other parts of the world. Asia sources some of their most senior executives from this talent pool.
- The jury is out to as to whether to go long in one particular area (specialization) or to mix it up and try lots of different areas (generalization). Whichever path is chosen doing it with passion, complete commitment and a smile will go a long way.
- Starting out at small companies too early can be career limiting – the larger companies have more disciplined structure which will better prepare you for moving later into the smaller more nimble companies. It is more challenging to go in the opposite direction.
- Working abroad provides invaluable first-hand experience in, and embracement of, other cultures which makes for a well-rounded professional. This is particularly important in a time where consolidation in the industry has meant more cultural merging challenges.
- Food and beverage and technology are two parts of the industry which are getting more and more complex and demand for talent in these areas is strong.
- Learning how to negotiate is an extremely important skill and will be used in your entire career lifecycle.
- Developing your own personal board of directors who will continuously guide and mentor your career journey can be incredibly useful. Being open to advice and alternative ways at looking at situations will always be important.
Having the Right Stuff
To be a successful leader of the future, panellists looked at what skill sets will be of greatest importance.
- Leadership requires curiosity and creativity. The ability to be a visionary and to take people along a rewarding ride is paramount. To compete in the next generation of innovative companies, you must be willing to explore out-of-the box alternatives. You must have your feet planted firmly on the ground while also having your head in the skies – a fine and sometimes elusive balancing act.
- Anticipating what the disruptors will be in the industry could be as futile as finding a unicorn. It is important to know that there will be innovation and there will be disruptors – disruption is now a constant. Training yourself to be curious, if it is not a natural instinct, is important. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but the cat has nine lives. Developing your curiosity is crucial to being able to effectively work in a disruptive environment.
The debate around the value of education versus experience is a perennial one. Steve Carvell from Cornell Hotel School looked at the pros and cons of an industry MBA.
- Advanced education is a personal decision which depends on what you want to do in your career. The decision to pursue further study needs to be weighed against the opportunity cost of losing income, work experience and the financial outlay.
- There are many ways to get advanced education now: traditional MBA programs, executive management courses at prestigious universities, general manager programs like the one at the Hotel School of Cornell University, shorter programs which specialize in a particular area like digital marketing, and on-line education. There is no “one size fits all.”
- If you are looking to get advanced education, the most important thing to think about is how will this time, effort, and investment help you get to the next step. For example, the decision to participate in an on-line degree course needs to be weighed against the potential loss of opportunities that an alumni network can bring that has been fostered through personal interaction in the classroom.
Long Way to the Top
Sarina Bretton, Chairman Asia Pacific of Ponant (Yacht Cruises and Expeditions); Julian Clark, CEO of the Lancemore Group; and Paul Constantinou, Founder and Chairman of Quest Apartment Hotels, offered their personal insights on the long road to the top.
- Having a dream and going for it seems to be the overriding key to success in getting to the top. Believing in yourself and taking the steps, even if sometimes the wrong ones, until your goal is reached.
- Having a mentor is critical – a mentor can help you course correct when needed and give you the necessary push to leapfrog your way to success.
Overall, the reinforced themes of the afternoon for aspiring leaders in the hospitality industry included:
- Demonstrating flexibility and a willingness to have a go at anything
- Being curious
- Having total commitment
- Displaying humility and self-awareness
- Building relationships and a network
- Exploring (geographies as well as job functions) to find where your passion lies
- Enjoying the journey, thoroughly
There will surely be demand for further discussions and current industry leaders will do well by taking the time to interact with today’s younger generation to ensure the sustainability of the industry. AETHOS will continue to be committed to these future leaders and promote mentorship to help the next generation of industry executives excel in their career.