Listening, questioning, reflecting, summarizing – the changing face of leadership coaching

In the latest report from our Leading Hospitality Through Turbulent Times series, journalist Stuart Pallister delves into the world of executive coaching, in the company of Jon Hazan, a former army officer who is now an event director and executive coach. Jon was presenting with our own Jonathan Humphries, Head of International Hotel Development & Asset Management BBA specialization.

Leadership styles have evolved over the decades. In the 1980s leadership was closer to the military command-and-control approach, or dominant structure, “with big, bold decision- making”.

Then, the emergence of tech companies in the late 90s and early 2000s led to the development of a younger leadership style, with leaders “more open to ideas, more collaborative and very fast moving”. Today, thanks in part to globalization, leadership has become more holistic in that it is “far more multicultural, more exposed to different cultures, attitudes and environments”.

The quotes above come from Jon Hazan, an event director and executive coach. Jon gave our students insights into the major trends in leadership styles over the years, in a fascinating presentation that was part of our Leading Hospitality Through Turbulent Times series.

Jon’s own career has also mirrored some of these changes, as he has been exposed to a number of different leadership styles:

  • Jon started out as an officer in a tank regiment in the British Army (“This exposed me to the military, or dominant, style of leadership: quite leader-oriented, decision- making under critical and pressured circumstances, very time-precious”);
  • Then he moved into events management, developing corporate teams globally (“A fascinating fusion of the military style of leadership within a corporate context”);
  • After this, Jon switched to sports management, getting involved with the Invictus Games, the Abu Dhabi Triathlon and Tough Mudder event in Dubai. (“This introduced me to the inspirational style of leadership: perhaps more approachable and accessible, but still very much aspirational. Learning from experiences, almost a form of mentoring”);
  • More recently, he has qualified as an executive coach, working with corporate clients. (“Most importantly, this has introduced me to another style of leadership, perhaps more pertinent to today’s world: more empathetic, more understanding and a more holistic approach”).

“It’s been quite a personal journey for me,” Jon told the students. “Experiencing these different styles of leadership with some incredible results along the way.”

He went on to discuss the importance of emotional intelligence for today’s leaders (“essentially the ability to recognize not only your own emotions but those of others in your team and workplace”) and how there had been a “seismic shift” from the military style of leadership to today’s holistic approach. He added, “Personally, I put EQ (emotional quotient) down as a foundation for the coaching style of leadership and for building better, more resilient teams.”

In terms of the modern workplace and the zeitgeist, Jon said he believes that “building a resilient, close-knit team also delivers a far higher level of productivity, mental health, wellbeing and engagement”. He added that leaders have to communicate clear goals, so their teams understand what they are trying to achieve. And in terms of management, they need to “clear obstacles from their path, develop team members and review their progress. All are critical skills for a leader in the modern workplace”.

 

Four levels of coaching development

Jon highlighted four levels of coaching development that apply both in the workplace and in our daily lives (listed in no order of importance):

  • Skills – applying coaching methods to improve an individual’s or team’s skill levels (e.g. public speaking)
  • Performance – improved through coaching. “Again, it’s an art form”
  • Developmental – improve management skills through “strong mentoring or coaching to bring out the best of the individual. Then it comes back to engagement; that positive strength and performance we hope to achieve in our team”
  • Transformational — “Clients come to us looking to transform their lives. It sounds melodramatic, but it can apply to life or executive coaching. Seeking balanced processes and fulfillment in your life is incredibly important – and a coach will help guide you through that process”

Jon went on to highlight four key coaching skills (again, listed in no order of importance):

Listening

  • “This is mission critical to a coach.” He noted three levels:
    • Autobiographical — “You might be talking to a friend or colleague, but what they’re saying is instantly being translated by you into personal experience. You’re not truly listening to what they’re saying as you might be dying to impart knowledge or experience to this person.”
    • Client — “You’re listening at a far more engaged level and absorbing what they’re saying without thinking of a response from your own personal perspective.”
    • Environmental — “You’re not just listening to what they’re saying, you’re listening to how they say it, the words they use, and observing their body language. All of that you can translate into a more meaningful discussion.”

Questioning

  • Using open questions which don’t end with a simple yes or no. For example, ‘how do you do this?’ or ‘what do you think about this?’
  • Avoiding challenging questions, since the ‘why?’ question can immediately put someone on the back foot and make them more defensive. (‘Why did you do that..?’ is more challenging than ‘how did you approach that..?’) So, we try to avoid the use of ‘why?’, although sometimes the ‘why’ question can be the right one to ask, twinned perhaps with a pause to allow them to reflect and answer it in their own way.”

Reflecting

  • Listening to what the client or colleague is saying, picking up on that one key word and reflecting it back. The use of a word like ‘stressful’ could be the “lynchpin to that conversation”.

Summarizing

  • An incredibly powerful tool. It’s the ability to pick out and focus on key elements as it allows for clarity and brings out a more productive conversation.

He concluded, “Listening, questioning, reflecting, and summarizing can be used in everyday life as well as the workplace. You don’t have to be too formulaic or rigorous with it. I challenge you to think more about how you format your questions. Probably listening is the critical skill.”

Rapid role-play

Jon then demonstrated these techniques in a ten-minute, rapid-fire role-play session with Jonathan Humphries, which you can find on the video record of this session.

“In closing, being a coach as a leader is a challenge,” Jon said. “I thought I knew everything there was to know about coaching, but I had a rude awakening and realized how little I actually applied those coaching skills as a leader.”

He added that this was the driver for him to seek training and a qualification from a coaching body. “I would encourage you to find your personal leadership style. It’s only authentic if it’s true to you. Find your own path, enjoy the journey and build some incredibly strong relationships. Fulfilled, engaged teams await.”

 

Jon Hazan on coaching vs. mentoring

Although coaching and mentoring are both critical management tools, aimed at “optimizing people’s potential and performance”, Jon noted that mentoring “tends to be a one-way process” with the mentee – often a junior member of the organization – choosing a mentor – a more senior, possibly C-suite, member of the organization – to guide them through their learning and development journey. So, the mentee goes to them with questions and seeks solutions.

The coaching relationship, however, is what we call ‘co-active’. There’s no assumed knowledge and the coach doesn’t have to be in the same industry or the same organization. It’s the coachee, or client, that sets the agenda as they choose the topic to discuss. They own the process and it’s the coachee who finds the solution, not a mentor telling them how to do it.

Coaching allows greater ownership of the process and, if you own the process, you’re going to be more engaged.”

There are times, however, when coaching is not the right approach. Jon added, “If you’re dealing with time-critical decisions, coaching is not the way to go. Coaching is very collaborative and time-consuming as it’s a process of change that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey.

He singled out, in terms of collaborative techniques, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson’s approach to the crisis, in demonstrating to his team and associates the importance of time-critical decision-making. “He laid out a plan. He talked about the impact of the current crisis on the business in clear, certain terms; but he also did it in a very empathetic manner. He understood what they’d be going through and that brought a level of understanding and trust in his workforce.”

Ideally, then, leaders should seek to develop their teams before a crisis occurs. “Coaching is a long-term relationship. If it starts at the beginning of that relationship, it can build very strong foundations within that one-on-one relationship or team environment. This means that, when the crisis occurs, you’ve got a strong, resilient team. You understand the strengths and weaknesses within your team and you can apply it to the crisis.

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Where’s the smart money going? Navigating real estate investments post-covid

As part of our Leading Hospitality Through Turbulent Times series, journalist Stuart Pallister reports on a presentation by Mahdi Mokrane, Head of Investment Strategy and Research, Patrizia AG, to Glion students in June. Mahdi’s online guest lecture was on Post Covid-19 Real Estate Investment Strategies, facilitated by Andri Rabetanety, Investment Consultant & Senior Lecturer, Real Estate Finance, Glion Institute of Higher Education.

 

Given the major business challenges for the hospitality and real estate sectors due to the Covid-19 outbreak, how are investors currently navigating the crisis?

Mahdi Mokrane, a visiting lecturer in Glion’s Master’s in real estate, finance and hotel development, had just joined Patrizia AG as Head of Investment Strategy and Research in January this year, shortly before the Coronavirus hit Europe. Patrizia is the largest independent real estate manager in Europe, managing some 45 billion euros worth of assets.

 

What investments are being made?

“We’ve bought offices and residential,” Mahdi said, “as an illustration, we’re looking at operators in the flexible office space in different countries, which have a really good platform but are struggling today”. Patrizia, he said, is also looking at “health care operators or operators in the student housing universe. These more operational types of assets are the ones that are suffering the most today. But for some of them, we have a very positive long-term view of the sector and are ready to opt for a higher-octane risk-return strategy”.

As for investing in hotels, Patrizia has a hotel fund that has been tailored specifically for a pool of German investors. “The hotels that we had, by nature of the strategy, were leased hotels”, Mahdi said, adding: “We’re very pleased to have leased hotels, because as long as you have strong operators, we know we’ll be paid.” If the operators cannot meet their lease obligations, agreements have been reached to delay or stagger payments. “We have to find some sort of win-win agreement – or avoid a lose-lose agreement – whereby they commit to continue paying or we find other sorts of agreements but in exchange for example of longer leases. Real estate is often a complex negotiating game.

“Going forward, I think we’ll still have a preference for leased hotels as long as the pricing is right.” As for possible markets for acquisition, Mahdi singled out Italy which had been hard hit by the outbreak. “The tourist season is going to be difficult and the hotel market there is very fragmented”, with the major brands such as Accor, Marriott or Hilton having ‘very low’ market share. “So we believe there could be opportunities for us to buy an asset or portfolio and reflag those with leading brands or successful boutique brands.”

 

Real estate markets: A framework

At the start of the session, Glion senior lecturer and real estate investment consultant, Andri Rabetanety, outlined an analytical framework to divide real estate markets into three interconnected markets:

Space market, where space is offered for rent (“With the expected contraction of global GDP by 2.5 percent in 2020, rental growth will be hampered.”):

  • Office (reduced rental growth and/or increased vacancy rates)
  • Retail (increased level of default due to lower footfall)
  • Industrial (mitigated by growth of e-commerce)
  • Hotel (increased level of default due to lower footfall)

Asset market, where properties are bought and sold.

  • Listed real estate investment trusts or REITs (“not immune to the widespread sell-off affecting all asset classes.”)
  • Unlisted
  • Private equity real estate (PERE) funds

Andri also highlighted two factors with regard to the asset market:

  • Real estate risk premiums will reduce as government bond yields increase.
  • Financing – “banks will focus on smaller deals and loans will tighten, so that only the players with the best track records will get financing. We will also observe an increase in loan delinquency in the coming months”.

Development market, where properties are bought and sold.

“This framework is especially useful to understand how an economic shock could negatively impact the ability of an occupier to pay its rent”, he said, and to understand how a financial shock could lead to lower sales or capital values.

Commercial real estate markets “are likely to be more heavily affected than the residential market”, Andri said, and with regard to the retail sector, “we might observe increased levels of default due to lower levels of footfall”. By contrast, the logistics market “might be the asset class benefiting from the crisis on the back of the growth of e-commerce”. As for hotels, there might be higher levels of default due to operational activities.

During his presentation, Mahdi outlined Patrizia’s approach to a range of sectors, including hotels:

Residential – short- and medium-term strategies but due to a demand-supply imbalance, “it’s arguably low yielding but you can find some good quality, core residential that is higher yielding than, say, prime offices in the main office markets of Europe”.

Logistics – a “very clear winner” although if tied too closely to comparison retail (such as fashion for example) it “may be in trouble”. Longer term, however, “we think this is a good sector to be in”.

Food retail – “has done very well over the short run and we expect that to continue– with one caveat, increases in online food retail which has led us to downgrade it a little.” As for other types of retail, such as “fashion and anything you can compare with online is tricky today and is expected to face structural headwinds going forward”.

Hotels – very difficult in the short term. “We have a small hotel fund and rent collection has been pretty low. Longer term, we think it has the capability to bounce back very quickly. The sector may offer value-added opportunities over the coming months.”

During his presentation, Mahdi took participants through the stringency and timing of government responses to Covid-19, the difficulty in forecasting GDP currently, “the whole array of forecasts is just mind-boggling and amazing”, and approaches to scenario testing, “we have to be humble here, we don’t necessarily know what the shape of the future will be but we can model it”.

Mahdi also touched on REITs. Those linked to shopping centers “are suffering extensively from this crisis.” However, there are also two winners: Industrial logistics which are benefiting from online sales, and Residential. “This has been perceived as a very resilient sector with rent collection nearing the 98-100 percent mark.” (Patrizia manages about 11 billion euros in this asset class.)

Banks will be “on the back foot”, Mahdi said, “but they’ll still continue lending”. As for the economic impact of the pandemic on the northern parts of Europe, “the way Covid-19 is going to play out, it’s going to be either through consumption or investment, but not the job market”. As for Italy, Spain and France, “the impact is going to be much larger,” while the UK “is going to be one of the worst hit in terms of unemployment levels”.

“We believe that it takes longer to recover once you’ve shed jobs and if the job market has been severely hit, it will take a shallower way back to recovery.” While countries such as Germany may experience a V-shaped recovery, he said, as they will be able to resume investment and consumption activities quickly, countries like Italy should see a shallower recovery in terms of investment due to having shed a large number of jobs which will make the recovery “more difficult and lengthy”.

Residential and logistics, especially if linked to online sales, will be the winners. Banks will be working mainly with investors they trust and have long-standing relationships with. There are optimistic investors out there currently, but “not many distressed sellers”. Real estate investment trusts (REITs) are “not immune to the widespread sell-off”, with those linked to shopping centers “suffering extensively from this crisis”.

Setting up a multi-level communication strategy is key to addressing the concerns of all stakeholders (investors, employees and partners) and to staying open for business.

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A “drama in four acts” – how global financial markets have reacted to COVID-19

In the latest report from our Leading Hospitality Through Turbulent Times series, journalist Stuart Pallisterserves up the highlights from an expert market analysis by Cyrille Urfer, Head of Sovereign Wealth Funds & Institutional Clients, Middle East at Unigestion. Cyrille was presenting with our own Emmanuel Jurczenko, Director of Graduate Studies and Professor of Finance.

We’ve read much about the human and business toll from the COVID-19 pandemic. But what has been the impact on public markets and the various asset classes which sit in the engine room of the global economy? In a presentation on 12 June, Unigestion’s Cyrille Urfer provided our students with some answers.

Cyrille, who has some 30 years’ experience as a senior executive with private banks in Switzerland and sovereign wealth funds, described the crisis impact to that point as as a “drama in four acts”:

  • Act 1 (Dec 31-Feb 24): In January, growth was moderate but stable. After the US and China reached agreement on phase one of a trade deal in mid-January, the S&P 500 share index climbed to an all-time high on February 19.
  • Act 2 (Feb 25-Mar 11): Within days, a sequence of events “put a lot of pressure on asset classes, prices and economies” due to Saudi Arabia deciding to spark an oil price war, with the result that prices fell by 34% to a four-year low.
  • Act 3 (Mar 12-Mar 20): On March 12th, a major sell-off in the markets saw the S&P 500 plummeting by 9.51%, a day after the World Health Organization declared the virus was a pandemic. This was the index’s worst day since 1987. A few days later, the US Federal Reserve intervened to cut interest rates to near zero; but the markets continued to fall. “We reached market lows on March 23rd where clearly the market was in a bear mode,” Cyrille said.
  • Act 4 (Mar 23- May 31): From March 23rd, a “pretty strong recovery”, with the S&P 500 on June 5th up 45% from its lowest point.

“Clearly we’ll continue to have a fairly volatile market and behaviour going forward as we’re far from the end of external shocks and volatility,” Cyrille said, adding that emerging markets, and in particular China, had proved resilient during the sell-off.

He went on to introduce the students to Unigestion’s Nowcaster, which aggregates real-time data to gauge recession and inflation risks as well as market stress. Cyrille noted that at the end of February, when market stress was considered to be high, Unigestion began repositioning its portfolio to reduce exposure to credit, equities and commodities – switching instead to ‘defensive asset classes’ such as government bonds and investment grade credit.

Assess the stress

The Nowcaster, which Cyrille said is also used by central banks – albeit “for a fundamentally different purpose” – uses three main indicators to assess the amount of market stress in the system, namely: liquidity, volatility, and spreads to assess the amount of risk borrowers are taking.

“As you move down the quality spectrum, you expect to be paid for the risk you’re taking. If the risk goes higher, you would demand a much higher level of compensation for the risk you’re taking as an investor,” he explained.

“Thanks to the intervention of central banks (in terms of pumping money into economies), clearly the liquidity risk or compensation required by investors and market participants went back to pre-COVID levels relatively quickly.”

It’s different this time

The current crisis, however, is “fundamentally different” from the financial crisis of 2008- 2009, he said, as asset-backed securities are “not the issue this time. You can also see that the banking system is definitely not at risk of becoming insolvent”.

The US Federal Reserve had declared on March 23rd that it would do ‘whatever it takes’ to support the US economy and “make sure that liquidity is provided so that companies, municipalities, government agencies and others are able to refinance themselves relatively easily. It’s a very important element because leverage in the system since the financial crisis has increased substantially, which means there’s a lot of debt at every level”.

With regard to the cost of borrowing, Cyrille said there had been a substantial pick-up “that most of us have not seen in our careers, moving from a fantastic environment for corporates with relatively tight spreads (versus Treasury government bonds) up to the end of February and then an increase in spreads of up to 900 basis points”.

He added, “This means that if low quality corporates have to refinance, the cost of debt will be approximately 10%, rather than the 3% we saw in early February. The result is that many of these companies that have debt that is maturing will face much more expensive refinancing activity. This, in turn, will have an impact on their ability to generate profit and continue to operate going forward.”

Endangered species

Cyrille feels that the markets are in a much more rational situation in terms of pricing the risk of some borrowers, “even though we’ve not reached the lows”. That said, some notable companies are “in a distressed situation where most of them will almost certainly not be around for very long, as their business activities have been affected by the pandemic”.

For example, the car rental firm Hertz has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US, “which demonstrates that some of these businesses have been clearly impacted tremendously by the current crisis”.

Switching his focus to equity markets, Cyrille pointed out that the Swiss stock market has proven to be “more resilient” than the UK and Italy, due to being heavily weighted towards sectors such as pharmaceuticals and food. As for emerging markets, China “has done well during the crisis”, even though the country was the first to be hit by COVID-19. The stock market in China fell by 10% at its worst point; but heavyweight e-commerce companies such as Tencent and Alibaba have proved to be the “main beneficiaries of the crisis”.

Where are we now?

Cyrille said that, despite negative headlines about the impact of the lockdowns on economies, market stress had returned to a “more normal level; and it’s therefore a much more constructive environment for investing” at the time of his presentation.

“The risk of recession is clearly now fully embedded in the numbers and expectations. Yes, the hit will be big but most of it is factored in. And as markets tend to price in the future and not the past, the market seems to believe that there’s potential – from a low base, yes – that the economy will start to normalise and recover,” he added.

Most financial analysts, he revealed, have already moved their expectations for 2020 to 2021, while earnings have been revised down to 2009 levels.

That said, compared with the shocks of the 2001 tech bubble and the 2008 global financial crisis, this recovery “has been strong, rapid and quicker, with the market recovering quite nicely”.

Reading the news

Along with its Nowcaster indicators, Unigestion has also developed a Newscaster index, which assesses the sentiment of news headlines. “Generally, what you have to do is sell before things get worse. And when everybody’s negative, it’s generally a good indication that maybe we’ve reached the tipping point. And that’s exactly what happened on March 23rd (when the Newscaster index was at its lowest point),” said Cyrille.

In terms of valuations, share prices and other asset classes became more attractive by the end of May, he said. “We think that after the sell-off, many of these growth types of asset classes became very cheap and therefore constituted an interesting entry point for long-term investors, as valuations tend to correct over time. Generally, when you buy an asset cheap, you’re in a better position to generate positive returns going forward.”

As for inflation risks, “we don’t see any reason for investors to own asset classes that will do well in an inflation period, because we don’t see inflation coming back into the system, at least at this point in time”.

He concluded, “In a nutshell, the macro environment clearly has improved and sentiment has turned. And we see the valuation of growth assets to be pretty attractive at this stage.”

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The big data opportunity – Hospitality’s goldmine and how Covid is transforming digital transformation

In the latest in our series Leading Hospitality Through Turbulent Times, journalist Stuart Pallister reports on the role of artificial intelligence and big data in the future of hospitality. How can hotels use tech to recover quicker from covid-19? And what kind of personalized guest experiences is the ‘hotel of things’ making possible right now?

With technology poised to play a greater role in hospitality after the Covid-19 crisis, some in the sector believe it may become not so much ‘high tech, high touch’ but rather ‘high tech, no touch’.

During a recent webinar, three speakers – Sanjay Nadkarni of The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management and two of his former students – Florian Kriechbaumer, COO of Interel and Vladan Pantelic, Co-Founder of Hoick – outlined technological developments in hospitality, with particular focus on artificial intelligence (AI), big data and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Sanjay began the session with an overview of ‘cutting edge’ developments in hospitality, particularly post-crisis. He started off with what he called the ‘holy grail’ of hospitality in this digital age. “How do we do this using 19th century protocols, with 20th century technology, living in this 21st century context? Basically, we were getting nowhere and now comes Covid. So, the legacy hospitality systems just aren’t up to the mark.”

“What’s holding us back from using agile and contemporary digital tools that some other sectors have so successfully adopted? Can the hospitality industry continue to afford being a laggard in embracing digital transformation?” he asked rhetorically.

To answer some of these questions, Sanjay highlighted Industry 4.0 and its key drivers: IoT, Blockchain, robotics, AI and mixed reality. “There’s going to be a massive and explosive growth of IoT, particularly post-Covid, where it’s all heading to what’s ‘high tech, no touch’. This is where we have sensors that automate a lot of processes where no touch is required.”

Data, he said, “is essentially driving the economy”, and when it comes to big data, there are three main characteristics (the three V’s):

  • Volume (with massive amounts of data being generated)
  • Velocity (the speed of data means “we want everything here and now” via, for example real-time dashboards)
  • Variety (‘structured’ data in the form of numbers accounts for 20 percent of all data, and ‘unstructured’ data – images, text, videos, voice, etc. – the other 80 percent).

We are data rich, analysis poor,” Sanjay said. “And this is where BI (business intelligence) and AI come in. While most hospitality systems focus on BI, the real action is taking place on the AI side.”

“In the hotel industry we have multiple sources of data”, he said, “including room rates, procurement, bookings, public reputation, housekeeping and guest data. Add on to this, IoT data, and you can imagine the humongous amount of big data in hospitality. And what do we do with this data? Nada, nothing. We are ‘data rich, analysis poor’ and herein lies the opportunity.

“For instance, when Marriott acquired Starwood for some 13.6 billion dollars in 2016, it was prepared to pay a premium because the value they saw was in Starwood’s loyalty data.”

Putting it all together, IoT feeds into big data and is the fuel for AI (for example, mining guest experience sentiment). So, this is an upstream opportunity for our ‘data rich, analysis poor’ industry to leverage post-Covid to bring back the good times.”

Sanjay has co-authored with Florian a paper entitled, ‘The path to the Hotel of Things: Internet of Things and Big Data converging in hospitality’, which highlights how data can be leveraged with IoT, using specific cases in hospitality.

“To wrap up, in the post-Covid-19 world, we will have journeyed from ‘high tech, high touch’ to ‘high tech, no touch,’ and this is exactly where IoT and AI are set to play such a big role.”

 

The ‘Hotel of Things’

Florian, who has spent some five years at an IoT provider for hospitality, said that IoT devices can be used to control the hotel room environment, as well as energy and water consumption. “Connecting all those to an IoT platform allow them to become intelligent and digital. All these devices are able to send data and, hopefully, that data is then put to good use through some of the AI technologies that are out there.”

“In recent years, major hotel brands have started to develop their own smart room concepts based on IoT technology”, he said. “For instance, Hilton has launched its Connected Room initiative and sees this as playing an even more important role post-Covid.”

In hospitality, lots of mechanical devices were not smart and “had no ability to send data.” These included elevators, exhaust fans and cooling towers. Plus, in the rooms, there are TVs, thermostats, window blinds, door locks, minibars and the safe. “There are tons of devices in the hotel that are basically furniture, but these have now become intelligent pieces.”

“In what we call the ‘Hotel of Things,’ these devices are able to communicate. Fridges, motion sensors and door locks are all able to send data”, Florian said.

By using low-power technologies such as Bluetooth and ZigBee, all sorts of devices would be able to send data via a gateway device with a wi-fi connection to servers, and that data could then be interpreted and monitored through the use of dashboards. Where previously hotel staff would have to go to a hotel room physically to check on lights, room temperature and so on, “they don’t need to do this high touch interaction with the room any more”, he says.

Plus, the hotel guest will be able to control devices by using their smartphones or their voice. That may allay concerns about having to touch buttons and switches that may not have been thoroughly cleaned. “So, we are working with a lot of application vendors and companies today that provide voice solutions to control the thermostat, the heating, cooling, lights, curtains, and the ‘do not disturb’ light digitally.”

During his presentation, Florian highlighted a digital water control system that is already being used in “smaller and more technology-focused hotels, with some of the big chains trialling it”. The control of the water in the bathroom “has not changed in the last 50-100 years”, he said, but by using a digital water control panel, hotel staff can monitor water usage and make adjustments where necessary. “From a hygiene point of view, you can automate a lot of the operation that used to be manual. For instance, when the room is checked out, the system can automatically use hot water to flush the pipes every two days to prevent Legionella from spreading.”

Human interaction would still be needed to some extent though in order to prevent possible security breaches. “Imagine a hotel that suddenly has all its thermostats set to 32 degrees Celsius or 16, and the hotel can’t change it any more. You’ll quickly have a very high check-out rate.” In addition, there are also privacy concerns, he said. “There’s a lot of complexity involved in this, that needs to be managed by humans. Someone would have to design the infrastructure and the hotel owner would need to assess the return on investment.”

That said, the role of the hotel employee “is moving from somebody who goes to the room and interacts with things physically, to somebody who needs to know how to manage these things digitally. And that’s really the transformation that’s happening and we see this accelerating right now due to the current situation”.

 

AI and mining the guest experience

As for AI and hospitality, Vladan said his firm, Hoick – a customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) software platform – turns AI analysis into BI insights. It collects qualitative data from review sites Expedia, Booking, Google, TripAdvisor and Agoda, among others. HoickMX translates large volumes of unstructured text in real time into quantitative data and, combined with data visualization, this automated process enables companies to understand the story behind the numbers and make better decisions.

“On our dashboard, you’re able to filter out information in real time and get to know what the guests are saying about you, and you can compare your revenues with sentiment as well. This further helps you gain valuable insights to improve business performance.

Vladan gave as the example of one of Hoick’s clients, a ‘mom and pop’ restaurant in Limassol, Cyprus. Using AI to analyse customer sentiment from online reviews, “we managed to push the reviews into the Google search engine” to improve the restaurant’s online ranking. He said the result was that, within two months, “we were able to turn around this non-digital business”. With increased demand, it was possible for the restaurant to raise prices and, in turn, double its revenues.

“This is basically what we do. We’re a mixture of machine learning, AI and BI, turning qualitative data into quantitative and making it into meaningful insights.”

 

Some concluding remarks

Summing up, Sanjay said this is a great opportunity to “help bring the romance back into hospitality, using Industry 4.0 tools (such as AI, big data and IoT). You don’t need to be a geek to go into this. What you need is domain knowledge, combined with a passion for technology”.

And, finally, some (additional) career advice

Florian: “In every job, whether it’s marketing, engineering, IT, security, or revenue management, you have to have some familiarity with how technology works, even if you’re not a coder. You may have to figure out for yourself how some of these things fit together and you have an advantage if you know them.”

Vladan: “Having a passion for something will take you to the next level. It’s picking what you really want to do and then just building on it. Hard work pays off.”

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Safe, happy, immersed in luxury: five reasons to make Switzerland your study destination this October

As Switzerland is ranked the world’s safest country for COVID-19, we highlight why this is just one of the reasons that make it the perfect destination for Bachelor’s or Master’s studies this fall…

Reason 1: It’s the world leader for COVID-19 safety

Any time a country earns a global number one ranking it’s an impressive achievement. When the ranking is for being the world’s safest country amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it adds an extra layer of significance.

And that’s what Switzerland has achieved, according to research by the data-driven investment company Deep Knowledge Group (DKG). In the latest edition of the company’s COVID-19 safety rankings, published in early June, Switzerland came out top of the 200 countries assessed, ahead of Germany and Israel in second and third respectively.

These findings are based on analysis of more than 11,400 data points, covering parameters such as quarantine efficiency, government efficiency of risk management, monitoring and detection, healthcare readiness, regional resiliency, and emergency preparedness.

The report notes: “Switzerland now occupies the #1 position as the safest region according to the present analysis, in large part due to a continuing decline in its rate of infection spread and mortality, and key factors that put it in a better position to maintain a healthy post-pandemic economy.”

 

Reason 2: Switzerland is open for business

“We have managed to get the virus under control.”

-Swiss Confederation President Simonetta Sommaruga

The payback to Swiss citizens – and Glion students – from the country’s hard work in beating COVID-19 is that Switzerland is lifting its lockdown restrictions more comprehensively than many countries in Europe and elsewhere.

From early June, Switzerland began to take on a more familiar look. All leisure and entertainment venues, and tourist attractions, could reopen. Public and private events of up to 300 people were permitted. Campsites, zoos and swimming pools were allowed to open their doors again. And classroom teaching at upper secondary and vocational schools, and at higher education institutions, was authorized to resume.

At Glion, we now have a fixed date when we’ll resume on-campus classes: 27 July. And for the Fall 2020 Bachelor’s and Master’s intakes we have set intake dates in early October – a little later than usual to allow for any remaining travel restrictions or flight shortages in our students’ home countries.

And if these dates are still too soon for you, if you’re planning to study our Bachelor’s degree you can take advantage of our special remote learning packageGlion Connect – enabling you to begin your first semester at home before switching to campus in the New Year.

Reason 3: There’s no better place to study hospitality

Why? Because like zip fasteners, Velcro, and instant coffee, the modern hospitality industry was invented in Switzerland.

The country began seriously catering to tourists when tourism was just getting started. In the 18th century, Switzerland was regarded as a must-see destination for the new breed of European travelers who trekked across the continent to experience nature and amazing landscapes.

Switzerland was even featured in the first European package holidays, created by Thomas Cook in 1858. As transport connections improved and the country’s hotel stock blossomed, by the end of the 19th century Switzerland was firmly established as a major European tourism destination.

You can discover more about the growth of Swiss tourism, and why hospitality management education has become a Swiss specialty, here.

Reason 4: The art of luxury is second nature to the Swiss

Arrive at any Swiss airport and, as you walk through the corridors, you’ll be immediately reminded of the country’s most famous export: luxury watches. Hublot, Rolex, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Audemars Piguet… the list of brands is as impressive as their products are enticing.

But Swiss luxury goes well beyond timepieces. Don’t forget that the world’s third-biggest luxury company, Richemont, is headquartered in Switzerland. Brands like Cartier, Dunhill, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc and Chloé are all ultimately controlled from Richemont’s HQ in Bellevue, Geneva.

And when it comes to luxury on the ski slopes, Switzerland is absolutely the place to be. Klosters, St Moritz, Zermatt, Verbier… the rich and the royal have long flocked to these exclusive resorts to ski and be seen!

Reason 5: Because it’s time to smile again, so come to a happy place

There’s no arguing that 2020 has been a tough year. If you haven’t had much to smile about, maybe it’s time to head to a happy place to begin your Bachelor or Master’s studies? If so, Switzerland should be at the top of your list.

According to the eighth World Happiness Report, published in March this year, Switzerland is ranked third in the world for happiness, behind only Finland and Denmark (and try finding a world-class hospitality business education in those countries!).

“The World Happiness Report has proven to be an indispensable tool for policymakers looking to better understand what makes people happy and thereby to promote the wellbeing of their citizenry,” said Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who contributed a chapter to the new report. “Time and again we see the reasons for wellbeing include good social support networks, social trust, honest governments, safe environments, and healthy lives.”

We’ll echo that.

 

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What are the impacts of COVID-19 on entrepreneurship?

Marie-France Derderian, Senior Lecturer and Director of our Master’s in Hospitality, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, investigates the potential impacts of the current crisis on one of the global economy’s greatest engines of growth: entrepreneurship.

In the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, entrepreneurs have to face a new reality: that it is not only a huge sanitary and health crisis affecting millions, or even billions, of people across the world. This is also provoking an unprecedented downturn in the global economy.

The numbers are shattering. At the time of writing, France had recorded its biggest fall in GDP – 5.8% – since 1949 in the first quarter of this year. Meanwhile, in the USA, the numbers unemployed or underemployed have now passed 40 million. This reveals the breakability of our economies and their fundamentals.

If the world has quickly shifted under our eyes, the different scenarios and realities are not the same depending on where you are running your business today.

The government, public health and economic responses are hugely different if you are an entrepreneur based in USA or in Europe. As business founders, you will also need very different action plans in place depending on your sector and industry.

If you are in online shopping, food delivery, video gaming or video conferencing industries, where business is currently booming, it’s a completely different picture than if you are running a business in the hotel, restaurant, retail, entertainment, or sports industries.

Those entrepreneurs in COVID-impacted sectors should be ready to lose 50% to 80% of their turnover, as well as a major portion of their market value. For example, the urban mobility e-scooter start-up Lime, formerly a star company, has lost around 80% of its value. The company’s 2019 fundraising ($310m) established its valuation at $2.4 Billion. But by May this year a proposed investment by Uber valued the company at just $510m.

Ditto for Airbnb, the short-term rental platform that has also been a star performer in recent years. Airbnb planned to enter the stock market in 2020, but the IPO will now be postponed to next year. According to the Financial Times, the company has cut 16% from its potential market value, which has decreased from $31 billion to $26 billion. And just to underline the commercial impact of the pandemic, Airbnb has recently announced that it’s laying off around 1,900 staff members – some 25% of its workforce – as it struggles to deal with the downturn in business.

Some positivity too

Nevertheless, there are two positive thoughts we should always keep in mind:

  • Entrepreneurs are fighters; by nature optimistic and resilient. They will overcome this difficult period because it is in their DNA to bounce back.
  • Every crisis has an end point. And this will be the cue for entrepreneurs to undertake something new.

The industries most impacted by COVID – particularly those in “social” sectors like hospitality, could take the opportunity to innovate, with more digitalization and disruption implemented in their business models in order to increase the touchpoints with their customers.

My tips for entrepreneurs to manage this crisis

A basic reminder: a company needs three assets to be profitable and sustainable:

  1. Money (access to capital)
  2. Know-how or specific expertise
  3. A team (People)

 

1. Your first asset: Money

Keep playing to win, not to survive:

In this way, you should manage to survive; and, at the same time, you’ll prepare for the day after the crisis ends.

Action 1: The Diagnostic

Accept that your previous business plan is now outdated and irrelevant; then prepare and plan for a worst-case scenario. You need to face the present realities.

Ask yourself:
– Where were you at the beginning of 2020? Were you in good shape or not, and why?
– Where will you see yourself in Q3 or Q4, 2020?
– How much money do you have in cash today?
– How much money do you need to stay alive during the coming 18 months? Prepare a Q1 2021 plan

Action 2: Cash (expenses and revenue sources)

Cash is key. It’s time to review all your expenses: non-essential expenses must be cut in order to reduce your cash burn rate. You have to make your company leaner by transforming your fixed costs into variable costs in order to become more agile. Reduce marketing and events costs; everything which is not essential to the daily life of the company should be cut.

Pinpoint and look after your revenue sources. Analyze your customer portfolio to try to guess who among your customers might not be able to pay their invoices anymore. If you can, encourage faster payments from your clients.

Action 3: Access to capital

Evaluate and calculate the potential risks. At the same time, validate with your VCs, your shareholders, your partners, your banker, your trust relationships, if they are ready to support you and help you during this crisis period; and until where and when. Secure the funding which you calculated you’d need to stay alive during the next 18 months. Bear in mind, fundraising via video conferencing doesn’t work well, at least at present. Trust and confidence are not easy to establish behind a screen.

Do not: wait for the end of the crisis without taking immediate actions, simply thinking this sanitary crisis is not under your control and responsibility.

Do: position your company for growth. A downturn is the best opportunity to improve your fundamentals, as I’ll explain below.

 

2. Your second asset: your expertise, your value proposition, your market fit

Take this opportunity to improve your fundamentals and to make them more robust.

Your product:

Your technology and developer teams could use this time to go deeper and to improve your product. Make sure you are creating a pain killer. Take this time to train your tech team to new software (online and free open platform).

The executive team:

Take this opportunity to improve your market fit. What is your real value proposition? Strategic thinking is possible since, for once, CEOs and executives are not slaves to the short-term figures and the tyranny of monthly/quarterly turnover and performance reporting. Try to take a step back; look to change or adapt your strategy and put new processes in place.

The sales and marketing teams:

Take this time to talk and innovate with your best customers. Analyze your NPS (net promoter scores), understand why they love your product and why they could leave you. Dive deeply into your customer database. Find out your advocates and discover what product features are missing: do you have time to implement them and to make your product or offer 10x times better?

It’s also time to innovate and forge new collaborations. Restaurants can move to take away food; some restaurants are providing a daily recipe each morning on their social media channels, while customers can order food or dishes for delivery via collaborations with UberEATS or other delivery food apps – something many businesses would not have imagined one month before.

 

3. Your third asset is People: reimagine your new future and ways of working

During this crisis your employees must remain more committed than ever, in order to keep going through it. Communication is crucial. Increase your daily communication and try to reduce uncertainty as much as possible, so your employees’ morale doesn’t suffer. Take care of them, protect them, be sure they are heathy and safe. Be crystal clear and honest with your teams on what you know and what you don’t know.

Bear in mind, remote working offers more flexibility, but it will kill some of the chemistry of creativity (spontaneous decisions taken at the coffee machine). Trust and humility are critical to reinvent or innovate your managerial practices. Be closer to your teams. Managerial innovation could be less control and more trust. You should reinvent and change your way of working with their input. This troubling time requires different cultural shifts. Don’t hesitate to ask them how they would like to work when the ‘normal’ routine returns.

Every crisis is an opportunity

Don’t forget that some of the most disruptive or interesting companies have been created and took off during times of crisis. I’m thinking of Google, eBay, LinkedIn… after 2001; and Uber, Airbnb, Instagram, WhatsApp after the 2008 financial crisis. This means there are great opportunities for great leaders!

After the COVID-19 crisis the lessons to learn are:

  • More limited travel of goods and people, notably business travelers (more remote working and remote meetings) due to the impact of physical distancing requirements. We must factor in future sanitary crises or even new wars due to global overcrowding.
  • The potential growth in “dematerialization” of products and services: for example, we could witness a boom in 3D printers to produce masks and ventilators in each country.
  • More agility in corporate decision-making: for example we’ve seen companies like Apple changing their operations virtually overnight to design, produce and ship face shields for medical workers.

The low-cost product sourcing model, where China and India are the world’s manufacturers, will be ended. Globalization as well. This crisis will change the relationships between countries and states: presenting new challenges, new stakes, new dangers, new threats (health and climate).

Governments must, and will, demand to be independent and autonomous with regard to critical medical supplies and medicines. We can learn how Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan have rapidly contained COVID-19, but their populations are ready to accept personal tracking and facial recognition technologies which are not yet acceptable in other societies (much of Europe for instance). A world less open and, probably, less free is to be expected.

With virus containment likely to persist in many parts of the globe, we’ll see for sure new ways of life producing new needs, which will in turn create new opportunities for entrepreneurs. Some new business models, new offers around dematerialization, will have to be invented.

In the coming years, the new king of the world will be the “Amazon of dematerialization”. And it will be the entrepreneurs who will implement this new world.

 

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The post What are the impacts of COVID-19 on entrepreneurship? appeared first on Glion.