Escalate

Attitude makes all the difference

Mar 27, 2017-After over three decades in the hospitality industry, Shreejana Rana, the executive director at Hotel Annapurna, has set an example for the many women looking to break glass ceilings in the sector.

Having started at the ITC Welcome Group in the 1980s before joining Hotel Annapurna, Rana is now regarded by many as a pioneer in her own rights—one who remains keen on sharing her experience and knowledge with the emerging next generation of leaders of the industry.

In this interview with The Post’s Alisha Sijapati, Rana talks about the customer service values that Hotel Annapurna prides itself in and some of her mantras for success. Excerpts:

Did you ever see yourself working for the hospitality sector in Nepal while growing up?

I started my career in the hospitality industry with ITC Welcome group in the 1980’s. I worked with them for seven years. It was then I learned the importance of working in a structured and systematic environment; of being part of an organisation that was transparent and believed in training their employees to not only do their job but to also achieve their full potential. I was lucky to marry into a family with over 50 years of experience in the hospitality industry and that the Chairman had faith in me. I joined Hotel Annapurna in 2008. I have always been a people person. It is always best to choose a profession that compliments your nature. So the hospitality industry was a perfect fit.  

In the hospitality industry, businesses do tend to come and go. What are the keys to Hotel Annapurna staying successful for so many decades?

Fundamentally, from our very early days up to now we at Annapurna have never lost sight of the fact that we are here to make our guests feel comfortable and special. Certain other factors have also been invaluable in maintaining our success. We have an unbeatable location. Our three signature restaurants have been renowned and loved by generations. And our staff always makes that extra effort, takes that extra step to give our guests a memorable experience. We give our guests the security and comfort of a ‘home away from home’. These have been some of the keys to our continued success. 

In your sector, customer service is paramount. What are Hotel Annapurna’s customer service values? And how is it instilled in new employees?

Our basic ethos is to make our guests feel comfortable and special—they always come first. Employees must own the service; they are the Annapurna; each of them makes a difference. Training and leadership are paramount in instilling these values. We have a Train the Trainer programme and training and evaluation programmes to ensure a fair and effective system. Recently we held two workshops on the Art of Living Programmes “I Excel—I Lead— Infusing Excellence through Inspirational Leadership” and “I Excel—I Drive—Augmenting Awareness, Responsibility and Enthusiasm”. I am proud to say that all 380 members of our staff attended one or both of the programmes.

As the executive director of an organisation as large as Annapurna, you oversee a vast operation with hundreds of employees, doing vastly different things. How do you ensure that there is uniformity of performance and keep the entire team motivated?

Systems, structures, training and workshops: these are the fundamentals which I’ve already covered. The other is leadership. Leaders must lead. They must lead by example and with integrity. But they must also mentor and nurture those in their department. We are an old company. This has advantages. But we are overstaffed and have many employees whose qualifications are not up to requirements. So it is vital that we identify employees with potential or those facing difficulties and mentor them, nurture them. Younger, qualified employees need encouragement and guidance to do well. To do this we have our leaders, whether a head of department, assistant manager or supervisor, who watch out for their team, guide and instruct them in our company’s systems and procedures and help them grow.

What are your management mantras? What are some attributes that you feel all leaders must have?

I go by the teachings of Sri Sadguru and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Leaders should have integrity, a lack of arrogance, openness to always learn from others, extraordinary time management skills and the ability to achieve a good balance between work and home. But above all leaders must look within themselves, look at their inner selves and understand who they are, to be happy with who they are. Only then can they enjoy what they do.  We cannot do well unless we are happy with ourselves. We should take our attention away from what we do or want do, to what we are. Then we will find that perfect balance in our lives that will make us good leaders and good human beings. 

The hospitality industry is a vibrant sector in Nepal with dozens of specialised schools opening in the past few years. What advice do you have for young graduates looking to make it big in the hospitality industry?

Life is not easy. Life is not fair.  Things rarely fall into your lap. You need to work for success. You need to want it with a passion. You will face rejection and disappointment. But never give up. 

Don’t think that a job is beneath you. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘I’ll do my best when I have a job that’s worth it’. It’s what you do and show in the job you have right now that will make you stand out. Your attitude makes all the difference. 

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Someone who never makes a mistake is someone who hasn’t tried. Never making a mistake reflects on your attitude. And your attitude is a key factor to your success.

Your days of learning should never end. Try to gain and absorb all that you can from your surroundings and the people you are with everyday. Continue to stay up-to-date on trends and new practices. Above all, keep alive your own creativity and innovation. Yes, you will work hard and long hours. You may feel that no one appreciates you. But believe me, if you have the spark, the passion for what you are doing, you will be noticed and doors will open for you.

Published: 27-03-2017 10:43

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