In a recent interview with General Manager finalist Pascal Caubo, we find out how his early days frying burgers at McDonalds carved the way for his vibrant future in hospitality.
“A team is only as strong as its weakest link.”
I was born and raised in Venlo, Netherlands. I remained in the Netherlands to complete my BA from the Hoge Hotelschool in Maastricht (University of Maastricht). Although I am an only child, my parents often encouraged me to travel overseas and so I started my career as a Management Trainee at age 24 in Shanghai. Four years later, I joined Hyatt Hotels, performing various management capacities (Front Office, Reservations and Revenue Management) in Los Angeles, Aruba and West Hollywood. It was in 2002 when I received the prestigious Hyatt Manager of the Year Award, it was a truly special moment in my journey as hotelier. Three years later I began my career as an Executive Housekeeper with IHG at the InterContinental Cairo Citystars (Egypt), which developed into the role of an EAM. Whilst being responsible for this property, I carved out time to attend the General Manager’s Program at Cornell University, which paved the way for the roles of Hotel and General Manager that I took on when in Vietnam. Since 2016, I have been a proud General Manager at the InterContinental Bandung Dago Pakar (Indonesia).
American style fast food restaurants had just arrived in the Netherlands in the early 80’s. I saw an opportunity to be part of something new. Frying burgers and clearing tables at McDonald’s showed me dignity in the most menial tasks. I was also fascinated by luxury establishments in our area. So likewise, I worked the morning shift at a five-star hotel nearby. The experience I gained working at both ends of the F&B spectrum, so to speak, allowed me to witness behind-the-scenes processes, as well as the creation of customer experience at the front of house. As an impressionable teenager, I was hooked and that’s when I decided I wanted to learn more about the industry.
The opportunity to learn through experience and the guidance of the right mentors are perhaps the most valuable parts of my career development. My twenty plus years in this industry was shaped by some of our industry’s great leaders – namely; Frank Lavey, a past GM of the Hyatt Regency Los Angeles, whose hands-on and goal-focused approach has heavily influenced my current management style; Thierry Perrot, a past regional GM of the InterContinental Cairo Citystars who empowered me to always aim for the next highest milestone; Ibrahim Nashaat, Resident Manager of the same property, whose unwavering “can do” attitude and perseverance was my training in operational efficiency and crisis management (especially during the turbulent “Arab Spring” in Egypt); Thomas Schmelter, who was the Regional GM for IHG Vietnam, while I was the Hotel Manager. Thomas promoted a culture of open communication and respect within a multi-cultural environment; and lastly, James Young and Fergus Stewart who showed me how to be an owner’s advocate while simultaneously achieving the company’s goals and vision. Without them, I would not have managed to develop, thrive and succeed in this industry.
We recently moved to my new assignment in Bandung, Indonesia, and as all global nomads know, that meant packing and unpacking for the nth time. As I was going through un-opened packing boxes, I came across a box of old letters, photographs, and keepsakes – dating from the 1980’s to 2017. I’m notorious for refusing to throw anything away – just ask my wife! Of particular interest to me were letters or cards personally penned by a satisfied guest, a colleague in my team, or a memo from corporate. Every letter was faded by time and humidity but each held a message of gratitude – for a guest complaint I had resolved, for a service I had rendered to the owners, for a well-deserved promotion I had granted, for a motivational training I had conducted or for life advice I had shared.
I had always known that Hospitality was the right industry for me, and right here in front of me was proof that through my personal engagements with my guests, colleagues, owners/corporate, I created a winning culture for success.
A team is only as strong as its weakest link. All that I achieve is a direct result of my team’s effort. My success is their success, and vice versa. Being recognised by our industry peers puts our teamwork in front and centre. Our most recent award as Indonesia’s Leading MICE Hotel by the Indonesia Travel and Tourism Awards 2017/2018, is an example of how we – the colleagues, the owners, and myself all steered the “ship” towards one common and winning goal.
We anticipated that the ‘The General Manager of the Year’ would be a hotly contested race as there are numerous highly qualified General Managers in our industry. However, coming this far, is already recognition for my team’s performance and results and likewise, recognition for the hotel we are all proud to be a part of.
Without a strong foundation, a skyscraper will collapse sooner or later. Building it is usually a long and arduous process, albeit necessary. The same can be said with achieving career goals. As an effective General Manager, you must have an excellent grasp of the different hotel functions – be it in rooms, revenue management, F&B, corporate responsibility, etc. I set an ambitious plan to achieve proficiency in each area to build my own strong foundation.
I see a huge opportunity in building the next generation of hospitality managers – those who will be tasked with taking our industry forward. That is why I have taken on a passion project of mine – working together with hospitality schools in the country I currently live in. I have committed my personal time to coach, lecture, and be an advocate for developing local talent for work in our industry.