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.