When did you know you wanted to be a hotelier and in particular, a General Manager?
Never. COVID made the call for me. I’m a conservationist by training, an ecologist by experience and a protected area manger by default. When I moved to Magic Hills in 2019 it was as the conservation manager for the 16,900 ha reserve and when the staff component was reduced I was appointed as the GM for the collection (three lodges) and manager for the project which also includes the game reserve.
Where have you served thus far as GM?
This is my first role with that position. Prior to this I was working for the state as an Acting Regional Manager for 6 provincial nature reserves in the North West Province.
Have you had any mentor(s) along the way & how important were they to your development?
Mentors are essential. Why should we make mistakes if one can learn from theirs? There is a hand full of people who I regard as mentors.
Have you ever had to open a hotel or lodge and would you say that requires a unique skill set? If not, would you be interested in doing so or not?
I was tasked to open three lodges at the start of COVID. I would say that required a pretty unique skill set… and a lot of patience.
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?
Put your thoughts on paper. Put your decisions on paper. Put your budget and expenses on paper. Put your dreams on paper. Put everything on paper, get it all in writing.
And keep a diary… on paper… films have been made about less interesting topics.
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)?
Adapt or quit. Simple as that. There is nowhere in South Africa that can’t be reached by delivery so there should be nothing you can’t get on site if you need it no matter where you are. It may take more planning in remote areas to be ready for the less expected challenges, but you know how to run your destination and you know what it needs so be ready for those challenges.
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?
I understand why people take solace in alcohol. Not a joke, I really do but sadly hangovers are real and it’s not a permanent solution. You do what it takes. We ended up raiding dump sites on the reserve and selling rusted, scrapped barbed wire at R2/kg to make salaries.
Survival meant being very conscious of the fact that if I’m not knocked out (literally and figuratively) by sunset there’s a good chance that I’ll make it through tomorrow.
Your favourite thing about serving, at your current post?
Sunsets. They’re very pretty. And hearing the occasional lion roaring. 9. How important is it for general managers, such as yourself, to visit other properties?
Visiting is less important than understanding. Networking sessions, conferences and symposia are far more useful than a behind the scenes tour.
How is your establishment contributing to the greater good & making the world a better place?
Prior to COVID we were the biggest employer in the region. We’ll get back there again.
Interesting Insights about the General Manager:
What is your ideal or favourite vacation destination?
The Kruger National Park
What is your favourite wine?
One that I haven’t drunk yet
What is your favourite dish?
A clean one. lol.
What favourite hidden gem, near your establishment, should we visit?
Just visit us. Why do you want to go elsewhere?
Best question you were never asked or a fun fact about yourself?
I’m a friendly drunk, a good shot and intolerant of bullies.