“How do you find the time to manage all of this social media stuff?” That’s one of the most common questions I’m asked whenever I present. And sometimes, I get the sense that people are hoping that it’s so complicated and time-consuming that they’ll have a great excuse NOT to do it. Not to learn [...]
Interview with Kate Sears
How did you get started in your career?
As a child I loved staying in hotels. It was always a huge treat. So, I did hotel management at RMIT and then travelled to Japan where I worked in large hotels, learnt the language and studied the culture. After coming back to Australia, I started working for a small hotel - The Savoy Park Plaza in Melbourne.
That's when I decided I liked working in smaller, more personal hotels - you feel like you're a person, not a number. I was also exposed to different facets of the business and became multi-skilled in a variety of areas - something that is rare in larger hotels.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
I've worked for a number of hotels and venues at middle management level, but my big break came when I landed the position of general manager at Hotel Lindrum. That was three years ago and I was 26 at the time.
Hotel Lindrum is a boutique hotel and the owners were looking for an outgoing, hands-on manager to run the operation as well be involved in the sales and marketing, and PR - not something that happens in most hotels, where there is an established hierarchy and a traditional style of management.
It's been a huge learning curve. I was there for a year before Lindrum opened and was involved in the early stage decision-making in terms of design and layout. It's been one of the hardest things I've had to do in my career - but also the most rewarding.
What is your top strategy for success?
I've got a couple of strategies:
- You can't network enough. You need to meet people in the industry and build relationships. It's good for you but more importantly the business you represent. Involve yourself in committees and associations and learn as much about the industry and community as possible.
- You have to work hard and put in the hours. There's no way around it. That's why you need to be doing something you love because you'll be doing a lot of it!
- Don't be afraid to ask if you don't know. Being the newest and youngest general manager in a hotel, I had a lot of questions. By not asking people with experience I wouldn't have succeeded the way I have.
- Don't be too far removed from the operations of the business. There are some general managers who aren't interested in the day-to-day running of their hotel. I think you've got to know what's going on with hotel guests and staff. It's all part of good customer service.
What motivates you?
I love being surrounded by successful people and learning from the people I work with - both in the hotel and on an industry level. I also get to meet people from all over the world, people who are the organisational forces behind hotels and airlines, for example.
Basically I enjoy being part of a team. I want to have fun and get the most out of the work I do. I also have certain goals I want to achieve and that is a huge motivation. There are things I'd like to do - maybe create my own boutique hotel one day or become more involved on a broader scale with tourism/event marketing.
Who are your mentors? Any inspirational books or people?
Other general managers are really inspiring - seeing what they have achieved and the respect they have within the industry. There are two general managers in particular who I consider my mentors; Rudy Markl at the Westin Melbourne and Peter Gromotka at Melbourne Hilton on the Park. They are both amazing at what they do and their level of professionalism is setting a great standard for the industry.
There is also my former boss, David Marriner, a Melbourne property developer, who is an inspirational person to work with on both a business and personal level. He has these visions that seem impossible, yet always succeeds in turning them into reality. More importantly my parents have been a huge influence on me and so has my husband Edward, who keeps me totally sane.
How do you stay on top of it all and focused?
Every now and then I have to take a step back. I find that it really helps me to stop being so hands-on all the time and try to look at the bigger picture. When you're caught up in the details, you can't see what are the important things that need to be done. You can end up creating more work for yourself if you're not careful.
I find that exercise helps me to stay sane too. I try to go for a run or go to the gym five times a week. You also need downtime away from work. The time I spend with my husband and friends who aren't in the industry is really what I look forward to the most.
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