When did you know you wanted to be a hotelier and in particular, a General Manager?
I did not choose this business – it chose me. I was driving on my motorbike CVs in my rucksack… Kopanong Hotel accepted my CV and gave me an opportunity as a trainee. I knew very soon that I would love to lead a hotel team to the next level and had to work hard and looooooong hours to prove my worth
Where have you served as GM?
- Kievitskroon Country Hotel and Spa
- Fairlawns Boutique Hotel and Spa
- The Sunnyside Park Hotel
Have you had any mentor / mentors along the way & how important were they, to your development?
There have been so many in the past 23 years. I was fortunate to have excellent mentors and friends in the “Hotel Business” from the start of my career:
- My first training Manager – Chantel du Preez (now Bellora)
- Hans Schiller
- Eric Fetke
- André Botha x 2 (one deceased and one still going strong)
- Beans Heydenreich
- Stephen Hickmore
- Mike Jameson
- Russel Binks
- Emmy Stoltz
- Janus and Corli Schoeman
- Solomon Kgatle
- Jan Mpamonyane
- Alan O’Leary
- Samson (Sammy Mashile) my brother from another mother
- Greg Coleman
- Geoff Engel
- Rudi Wagenaar
- Russell du Preez
- Dr CH Schutte (the best dad ever – always believing in me
I know it is an extensive list but, honestly, they ALL need to be mentioned. I am inspired daily by my wife, Liza-Marie – my most honest critic and biggest fan!
Have you ever had to open a hotel / lodge and would you say that requires a unique skill set? If not, would you be interested in doing so or not?
I am busy reviving one… it takes special people to open hotels, Mike Jameson over to you?
From the first day you served as a GM, until today, you must have learnt so much. If you could share any one piece of sage guidance, to new GM’s, what would it be?
Never give up, never ever give up, just don’t give up.
I imagine that being the GM of a property, in a small town, would come with different dynamics to being the GM of a property, in a big city. The same would go for managing a beach property on an island or a bush lodge in a remote corner of the world. Can you share how one adapts to managing in different locations (environments)?
Put yourself in the shoes of the guest: what are their expectations? At the beach… in the bush… As a city slicker? Work with your team do give the guest that experience.
And don’t forget, it takes a community to raise a child, the same with a hotel in a small community – the locals are your best supporters and ambassadors.
Being the general manager of a hotel, during the Coronavirus Pandemic must have been very challenging. What was the key to survival and did you ‘gain (or learn)’ anything, from the adverse situation?
- It levelled the playing field
- Everyone had to sacrifice (Don’t we anyhow, everyday in this business?)
- Your human assets are your most treasured asset, look after them
- Hotels are resilient and so are their leaders, owners and employees, EQ entrepreneurs will survive
Chris, we believe you are the General Manager of not one but three properties. Please share some of the dynamics that go with managing three properties, at once?
The people you surround yourself with and your partners are key to this success. It is great to be able to learn from each other in a business with so many skill sets. If something does not work: change it and adapt quickly. Daunting but fun!
How important is it, for GM’s / you to visit other properties?
Very, very important – How can we learn if we don’t step out and learn from others? Networking and relationships are built in this way. Go and support your fellow industry workers and strengthen bonds.
How is your establishment contributing to the greater good & making the world a better place (you can mention uplifting projects and or simply that you are creating jobs etc)
I was fortunate to be involved in a food parcel project driven by the Greater Knysna Business Chamber. As treasurer, it was such a privilege to see how many businesses gave funds to assist those in need during lockdown and for months thereafter – it brought a community together again.
My ideal contribution would be to be more involved in upskilling young hoteliers for tourism in South Africa.
More light hearted – Fav’s Section (you are welcome to mention more than one)
- What is your ideal or fav vacation destination? The beach in Sedgefield
- What is your fav wine? Proudly South African Pinotage and Cape Blends
- What is your fav dish? Christoph’s vegan basil and tomato pasta, home made pizza from “Good stuff by Gustav” and Deetlev’s condensed milk milk tart (my sons can cook up a storm!)
What Fav, hidden gem or attraction, near your establishment, should we visit? This can be a museum, activity or eatery etc that people may wish to visit, when staying at your property?
@Turbine Hotel – Thesen Harbour Town, this entire commercial node bustles with activities, shops and restaurants
@Portland Manor – our fresh water dam, the running track around the dam and Jubilee Creek in the Knysna Forest
@the Featherhill Hotel – our spa! Potchefstroom is a university town with awesome coffee shops and great architecture.
Best question you were never asked (an opportunity to answer a question you wish we’d asked)?
What are we doing to develop the young and upcoming generation for the hospitality industry – in particular upskilling General Managers?
I am working and collaborating on this plan