1. What was your first job?
My love for the hotel industry started in 1984 when I was a management trainee at Sheraton Park tower hotel in London, and my first job was in Edinburgh with the same hotel chain as a banquet sales coordinator in 1987.
2. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
The growth potential in Africa. The pace of change and development on the continent is really encouraging and I’m constantly thinking of how we can grow our brands here. We currently have 25 hotels open across Africa and a further three in the pipeline. We’re actively looking for opportunities to expand our presence so that we can continue to give guests truly memorable experiences across our portfolio of hotels.
3. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
I would have to say my boss, Pascal Gauvin, chief operating officer of India, Middle East and Africa for IHG. He is a natural leader and inspires everyone around him to perform at their best. Under his leadership I went on to win general manager of the year in 2014.
4. What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
Pump up your people. The greatest skill of a leader is to empower and inspire others to do a great job. The hospitality industry is all about people. They’re our biggest asset. If you have a great team that are happy and motivated to come to work, success will follow.
5. The top reasons why you have been successful in business?
One of the key reasons I’m successful in this business is I enjoy what I do. You become part of this great global family working at IHG, made up of people from different backgrounds and cultures and I absolutely love interacting with people. You can learn a lot from just having a conversation with someone.
6. Where’s the best place to prepare for leadership? Business school or on the job?
Most definitely on the job. First-hand experience is essential to grow and develop in this industry. We’ve seen employees begin their career in hospitality as a waiter or bell boy and have developed to take on the role of general manager of a hotel over time.
7. How do you relax?
Besides going to the gym every morning, I play golf on the weekends. Golf is game that requires concentration so actually it gets my mind off everything because I have to focus to play well. While playing golf I have to relax both my mind and body to be able to play well.
8. By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?
I am usually on my desk at 8am. I am an early riser by nature; I go to the gym at 6am and after that I’m on my desk. I like to start the day early by touring the hotel and talking to the staff then I check the figures and any other mails before 9am.
9. Your favourite job interview question?
My favourite interview question would have to be “Why do you want this role?” I like to understand an individual’s motivations for applying. This demonstrates their hunger and commitment for not only the role but also for their career and where they see themselves in future years. Skills can be learnt on the job, but what we look for is personable, passionate people.
10. What is your message to Africa’s aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs?
Aim for the top and never give up. If you believe in yourself and your abilities then you can make it. Africa is developing at speed and the opportunities are out there for the taking. Local market knowledge and an understanding of how business is done in countries in Africa is a big bonus. I would encourage aspiring leaders to listen to others and pay close attention to what is going on around them as knowledge is power. Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability and do it with passion.
Simon Stamper is the director of operations in Africa for the UK-based InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). The global hotel operator owns brands such as Holiday Inn and InterContinental and has 25 hotels in nine African markets – with three developments in the pipeline.
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