IMHI Class of 2016-2017

IMHI Class of 2016-2017
Class of 2016-2017

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Industry Leader Conference: Mr Gabriel Matar Managing Partner Sentinel Hospitality

By Daniel Alexandre Portoraro, MBA in Hospitality Management, Canada/Italy, 2014-2016 2nd Year

Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting Mr. Gabriel Matar, Founder and Managing Partner of Sentinel Hospitality, here at ESSEC as part of the first instalment of the Industry Leaders Conference.

Over the course two of hours (but which really felt like 10 minutes), Mr. Matar covered a wide range of topics: from the wage amplification the RICS brings, to the emotional hurdles one must overcome to become a successful entrepreneur, to personality types matching with different positions within consulting, and how excitement over Iran might be a bit overblown.

Needless to say, we covered a great deal of ground. Below are just a few takeaway that stick out in my mind:

The Consultant as the Eternal Student

According to Matar, to be a consultant is to never stop asking questions, and to constantly be expanding one’s knowledge base. This makes sense, as the market, and customer goals are in constant flux. To put it simply, in Matar’s words: Your hair either turns gray, or you lose it completely. To be a consultant, you must be willing to constantly put yourself in a positioning of learning.

Feasibility versus Transactions in Hospitality Consulting

Within the world of hospitality consulting, there exists a strong demarcation between the two vital pillars of Feasibility and Transactions. While both play different, and important roles within consulting firms such as JLL, they also require different personality types.

According to Matar, feasibility requires someone who adores the contours of numbers, is devoted to sending a message to the client, and intends to become a trusted advisor who whispers, as opposed to shouts. He makes sure that before engaging in a long-standing business transaction, the transaction is not only possible, but one which will bring added value to a client’s needs.

The transaction man, however, to quote Matar, “is someone capable of selling oil barrels to a Saudi.” He is motivated by a constant uphill battle, and willing to structure, package deals in a multitude of ways to meet the strenuous demands of a client. Unlike feasibility, those in transactions put themselves front and centre.

Hotels as Trophies

Within France, in addition to the 5-star luxury designation, we also have the accreditation of “Palace.” With only sixteen properties within the Hexagone, these establishments represent the finest in terms of service, room quality, customer experience, cuisine, and architecture.

They also, however, represent the worst in terms of return on investment.

If one were to see a hotel as a stock, for example, the annual return would represent a dividend payment. We see these “dividends” with hotels in a variety of service segments, but for a palace, the return comes solely from the capital gain realized at the final sale of the hotel. Furthermore, there is the unquantifiable payment of pride in knowing one is the owner of one of the finest hotels in one of the finest hotel markets in the world.

In other cases, however, palaces represent a strong branding opportunity. Take the Shangri-La on l’Avenue d’Iéna, for example. While it offers tourists some of the most striking views in Paris, and unparalleled beauty, it also sends a clear message to the Shangri-La’s key market, the Chinese, that their own national brand has arrived on the world stage by being present in Paris. This feeds itself back into domestic demand.

On November 4th, however, we will be hosting our second Industry Leader Conference, with Mr. Javier Delgado Muerza, Head of Vertical Search for EMEA at Google who will be showing us how one the most innovative companies in the world operates within the hospitality industry.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

How to make the most of your internship

By Daniel Portoraro, MBA in Hospitality Management, Canada/Italy, 2014-2016 2nd Year

An internship is a variety of things, but chief amongst them, it is a stepping stone to achieving one’s professional objectives, much in the same way that an MBA from IMHI-ESSEC is. 

A core part of the two-year curriculum, the IMHI six month internship allows one not only to apply classroom material to real world working environments, but also provides individuals with the reassurance that their roadmap is the correct. Furthermore, an internship can also be viewed as an extended interview between yourself and a potential employer.

Personally, I was fortunate enough to intern at the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group as a Summer Analyst for their Dubai office in the United Arab Emirates. There, as a member of the Business Development team, I was exposed to sourcing leads, pitching to clients, doing financial projections, writing business development proposals for the Executive Committee in Brussels, deal structuring, as well as gaining invaluable insight into the Middle East as a market for hotels. The knowledge I gained was not only a result of the work entrusted to me, but also a result of those who were entrusting it to me. That is, my bosses who acted more as mentors than direct superiors.

Needless to say, my internship was an excellent experience (and no, Carlson Rezidor’s public relations department is not dictating this to me over the phone.) But you probably don’t want to hear about what I had; you want to hear about how I got it.

Well, the first thing I did was talk to people: Classmates with more experience in the hotel industry than me, professors, career advisors, and alumni. After all these conversations (and a few with myself in the mirror), I was reassured of what it was that I wanted: Business Development. Since I knew what my goals were, I could then focus my time on honing the skills necessary to achieve them.

For example, if my objective was to work in a field which was heavily involved in hotel management contracts, I would require to become well-versed in them. As such, I enrolled a year ahead of schedule into Real Estate Principles. If in hotel development, you’re constantly dealing with owners for whom hotels are first and foremost income-generating assets, then you had better be fluent in finance; so I made that another focal point of my academic attention (much to the detriment of what little social life I had left by that point.)

You see, for me, what was important was making it clear to my employers that I didn’t view this internship just as opportunity to learn from them; I was there to offer something in return. Basically, I wanted to be as useful to the firm as possible. After all, an internship – or any work for that matter – is an exchange of professional knowledge between yourself and your employer; if you walk into an interview expecting to be the only one who gains from the arrangement, you’ll leave with nothing.

While this may sound like the beating of my own chest, that is not my intention. Rather, my goal here is to lay out the idea that an internship, if such a valuable opportunity, should be meditated upon from day one, worked towards from the moment you arrive at IMHI-ESSEC, and treated as seriously as any other job as it may very well have significant implications on your life after graduation.

This involves speaking with your existing network, and taking advantage of the new one the school offers you; reflecting on one’s own objectives; tuning and augmenting your skillset to be as valuable as possible to the firm that – hopefully – hires you; interviewing, and making your case for why you’re the best person the job.

And finally, after all that, that’s when the real work begins.