INTERVIEW | General Manager of Novotel Phu Quoc Resort, NIKHOLAS BAUER

INTERVIEW | General Manager of Novotel Phu Quoc Resort, NIKHOLAS BAUER

Success is sometimes not measured by what you have been trying to achieve, but from the moments, you create the value by trying to get things done with your heart. Moreover, Mr. Nikholas Bauer – General Manager of Novotel Phu Quoc Resort found his success in such a humane way…

Promote health to improve service quality

Nice to meet you again, Mr. Nikholas Bauer! Many years of success in hospitality field while holding important positions in many major hotels in the world as well as Accor Group, with the new journey at Novotel Phu Quoc Resort, what are you most aspiring to do for this resort?

All of my previous positions have been a challenge but in the current role Phu Quoc is a young destination and a “potential competitor” to compete with many well-established destinations such as Phuket and Bali, extensive destination marketing is definitely essential. Novotel Phu Quoc Resort & Villas together with other properties within ACCOR Hotels on the island endeavors to play a vital role in this. I am passionate about taking the Resort to new heights of service and guest satisfaction where guests not only choose Novotel Phu Quoc Resort for their stay due to the facilities, amenities and entertainment options all of the time but also wish to return to the Resort year-after-year.

Among the many 5-star resort projects that have been, are and will be launching in Phu Quoc, what are the unique features of Novotel Phu Quoc that visitors cannot ignore?

Yes, there are many choices out there for the customer but Novotel Phu Quoc Resort & Villas, being part of Accor Hotels; a group that has been accommodating guests since 1967 uses this experience to develop a deep knowledge of how to look after discerning travelers for many decades. The Resort is unique in its variety of accommodation offered which are perfectly suited to vacationers, family gatherings and incentive groups alike. These range from Beachfront Bungalows set in the tropical gardens, to luxurious rooms & suites in the main building, many enjoying stunning views over the pristine ocean. On top of this, we have our beautiful Villas Resort offering three, four or five Bedroom Villas all with private pools where you can relax and enjoy family time all together. There are many must do things on the Island and in my resort but if I had to choose one I would say anyone visiting the Resort must enjoy a cocktail at our Ocean Bar whilst enjoying the spectacular sunset. It is a truly blissful and romantic experience!

So with the task of being a new General Manager here, what are you hoping to bring new things to Novotel Phu Quoc, bearing your strong executive signature?

Even though my property is one of the most renowned on the island, as a Manager I want to make it even better and even more popular! “Health & wellness” is something I am interested in and would love to expand at the resort. What we look forward to is not only setting up a memorable vacation for the traveler, but it also has the element of ‘ revitalization’. Nowadays, people often fall into a state of stress, especially young people in big cities like Saigon or Hanoi, so they really care about health issues and cherish relaxing moments to recharge themselves during vacation. For me, health is a state of mind. At Novotel Phu Quoc, you can start a brand new day by doing tai chi on the beach, have delicious and healthy lunch or finish an exploring day with yoga. The activities seem simple, but you will never expect your mind, body and spirit to be “cured” and feel satisfied.

Ultimately, I also aim to prepare the property for my eventual successor to retain this leadership position and develop our talent team into the managers of tomorrow.

Matured through listening and learning

As a new General Manager, how was your team management initially implemented here? What point of view do your employees need to have in order to work together effectively?

From a manager perspective, the key to coming in and managing so many staff is Listening & Learning. Learn from the team about the way things were/are currently operating and listen to them to discover what aspects of job they find most rewarding and challenging. At Novotel, the staffs are given a title of Heartist, because service is something needs to come from the heart, and we are not machines. This is our way of removing the prejudice of rigid stereotyped management, and communicating the general message that there is no one with job unsatisfastion in our team. All the leaders of the Accor group know that they must constantly change to understand the essence of management with the heart, in order to deliver services that also come from the heart. Then, through practical actions and individual productivity, we will help each person at all levels to set a clear pathway for his or her own mission in the future.

So, for you, what are the standard to evaluate the performance of the “Heartist” team?

My team must have a hospitality-minded attitude that comes from the heart. I feel that a Heartist with a hospitality minded attitude can be a living business card to communicate the resort’s reputation and service standards. Indeed, the level of satisfaction guests get on their trip will help determine whether they come back for another visit or recommend our resort with their families and friends. Obviously, we have a lot of returning customers and one of the most important things impressing them comes from the service of the Heartist. It’s essential to retain clients rather than relying on finding new ones! To measure this performance across all departments it is a challenge with so many Heartists and particularly in a destination like Phu Quoc where the labor market continues to be highly volatile. I think finding something new is always easier than keeping the familiar, I therefore endeavor to “keep” the dedicated staffs by hiring the best managers to relay my message to those underneath them.

Experience many working positions and working environment, what’s your opinion about the changes to adapt to new roles as a manager?

“Rising through the ranks” is essential to foster an understanding of the challenges your future subordinates might be facing to effectively assist and guide them in their daily tasks and set them up for success. This not only means rising through the levels to the ‘top’ but also rising through different areas & disciplines of hotel operations & departments to understand the nature of the problems and how to solve them thoroughly. Besides, opportunities to move between continents should be embraced, as these will facilitate cultural diversity that in return is essential when adopting to a new environment.

In the role of the head, how do you make the team understand, agree and be ready for every change or adjustment in the hotel’s operational strategy?

Communication is key to success with no barriers in place, regardless of the language proficiency levels. There are daily meetings within most hotels to discuss the coming day’s events, fix any situations and if it is a larger strategic modification we will bring together, all of the key team members including those from the remote offices to clearly relay the plan and ensure everyone understands are on board.  At these meetings success is celebrated, failure is seen as an opportunity to improve and convert into success.

If there was an employee who showed that, they were losing the job enthusiasm, what would you tell them?

When an individual expresses that he or she does not want to stay in hospitality job, their hospitality-minded is gone. At that time, I will sincerely ask if they are okay and what makes them decide to stop. Sometimes it is difficult for an employee to open up to the manager about the problems they face, but I want them to see bluntly that they consider this as their job or their lifestyle, since for me, hospitality is not a profession but a lifestyle and a lifelong commitment with the desire to live, work and devote in order to bring the best experience to the guests.

Adaptation is an important quality in a crisis

Everyone can face many crisis stages in their career. According to you, how can we overcome and develop ourselves into a senior manager?

Adaptability matters in these challenging times. We may need to forget being a white-collar worker and return temporarily to our roots in an operational role to portray our sense of diversified leadership until the crisis has passed.  Sometimes, you need to leave your office, ‘roll up your sleeves’ and get your hands dirty once more!

Remember, challenges, difficulties and temporary setbacks are unavoidable parts of all of our lives. However, without those setbacks, we could not have learned what we need to know and develop our skills to respond to future challenges. The key to success is I believe, to always stay positive as much as possible, no matter what escalates. Our conscious mind can hold only one thought at a time, either optimistic or pessimistic. If we deliberately think positively, our thoughts and feelings will determine our action. As a result, we will tend to move forward quickly to solve the problem as per the goals we aimed for. In addition, we should believe in ourselves but never forget to see the other side of the coin that allows us to understand the problem clearly to think critically and creatively and make right decision.

Nikholas Bauer, Novotel Phu Quoc Resort

As you mentioned from the beginning, health is one of the things you are most concerned about. So as a manager, what did you do to protect your mental and physical health in this crisis?

Stress is an ever-present factor in management and I believe that a healthy mind comes from a healthy body and as such, I push myself with a daily triathlon-training regime. I am fortunate that the Novotel Phu Quoc’s large tropical grounds plus of course the beach give me a great training area for running & cycling, plus the many choices of swimming pools and our gyms give me a perfect area for strengthening my body as well as my mind. Moreover, of course I can go to the spa afterwards to help with my recovery!  If not all of that works, I can always have a large cocktail and relax watching the spectacular sunset at our beach bar!

What are the valuable qualities or habits that your position and job as a GM hospitality industry has brought you?

Being both a team leader and as well as a team player. A team leader is goal-oriented to keep the team on course by facilitating communication and mediating conflicts between the members. As a team leader, we not only establish and communicate the goals to the members but also train and evaluate the jobs and align works with business objectives and guests needs. However, to be a good team leader, a manager needs to be a good team player first who puts the team’s success before his own. A team player always listens to their coworkers, respect the ideas and improve the process to get the best accomplishments. Business is like a large sport team; no matter how individually talented the players are they are not going to win the game if they do not play for each other.  A good coach will ensure the players know the game plan and play as a team to overcome all opposition.

Is the life of a GM (General Manager) in hospitality industry similar or different from everyone’s common standards?

Hospitality is not a profession but a lifestyle and a lifelong commitment. It does also means this life can be very different to other professions; a life of living in different countries and moving your home regularly and quite often living at your place of work which to many others would not be desirable. In hospitality life, there is something constantly happening somewhere to someone at some time. However, it certainly helps when it is somewhere beautiful and everyone wonderful though so I cannot complain!  It is a life full of action, stories and involves a great deal of variety. I have learned to always expect the unexpected.  Occasionally work can be mundane whereby you are sucked into tons of report, paperwork and daily details of running a property, but looking at all the achievements, guest and staff satisfaction reminds me the reason I developed my passion and got into this profession in the beginning of my journey.

If you share your opinion with young people who have the potential to become a manager in the hotel industry, what will you tell them to have the right career path and success?

Take a patient approach to your career, success will come if you work hard, keep learning and do the right things.  A leader is there to be judged by their staff, which is part of the job so I believe it is important to be yourself, be human. Sometimes rushing can have negative consequences, as not everything that glitters is gold on your career path. Avoid portraying yourself as a person you are not and let your colleagues know about you as a person and as I have said before, remain positive and confident and they will follow you.

Nikholas Bauer, Novotel Phu Quoc Resort
Questions for Nickholas Bauer

Text: JENNI VÕ, HỒNG ĐẶNG | Photo: THẠC TRƯỜNG GIANG | Copyright© All Rights Reserved.

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