We recently talked with the GM of the KEE Resort and Spa, Porada Srisuwanporn (or Paul). He speaks from his heart about his life in the hotel industry and his positive energy impressed and inspired us.
Please tell us about yourself
“I was born in the northern part of Thailand, in Chiang Rai. When I was nine years old I went to study in Boston, USA and spent about 21 years there. I came back to Thailand about five years ago. My very first job in Thailand was in Samui as an F&B Manager. From then on I grew up in hotel industry. I went on to Koh Chang for two years and then came to Phuket two years ago.”
What motivated you to jump into hotel industry?
“To tell you the truth, I never thought about hotels before. My experiences in America were mostly in restaurants. I’ve worked in restaurants since I was 13 years old. But when I came back to Thailand I didn’t know where else to start. Five years ago, my friends told me that with my English and my restaurant skills I could make it in the hotel industry. They recommended Samui because the island has a lot of foreigners and it was also a place where I could use my skills in restaurant management to work in the Food and Beverage Department.”
I’m a supportive leader. I’m not the bossy type.
What do you like the most about your job?
“The most satisfying thing about my job is to see my customers happy. Every day when I see them lounging in a pool chair, or laughing at the pool bar, having drinks at the sky lounge, getting a massage and eating a wonderful meal at our restaurants, that satisfied look on their faces makes you feel like you are doing something right and you’re part of their fun and memorable experience and wonderful holiday. That’s a great thing for me.”
What are the most challenging issues you face in your current job?
“The most challenging issue right now would have to be the unstable economic and unstable tourism trends. You can’t predict what’s coming. So I think the most challenging aspect is to be prepared for the unknown. I think now we’re getting used to how to deal with problems so we can manage to find our way out of them. Another thing with all hotels and with all jobs the most challenging thing is the people; how to keep our people happy; how to keep our people very well motivated and developed so that they can provide the best service to our customers. So we undergo regular training programmes to ensure that our high standards of service are always there.”
How would you describe your leadership style?
“I would say that I’m a supportive leader. I’m not the bossy type. I listen to my staff, listen to their problems and I support them. I challenge them to be the best and to think outside the box.
“Sometimes a lot of people have to have their comfort zone but I’m very supportive. If they have an idea that they think will work, I would support them to try it out. It’s better for them to try it and fail rather than not trying at all. Sometimes we fix a lot of problems here in the hotel with new techniques that come from our staff of which they’re very proud of afterwards. They’re right in front of the problems every day and it’s my job to see if a particular idea could fix the problem and if it doesn’t go against the policy of the hotel, then go for it.”
“The other thing is that I try to recognize everybody all the time. I have about 250 staff and I can remember everybody’s name. If they are doing something wrong, you have to take them aside and teach them in private. But when they are doing something good, you have to praise them in public. Little by little they will feel the recognition in their life and it makes a difference in the hotel.”
What are your strengths?
“I think my strength is that I listen to people. Sometimes when you’re in the position to make decisions all the time you forget to listen. But when you listen, you’ll have a better idea of what the problem is and how to make the right decision. I listen well and I take everything into account. I don’t make rush decisions. I know that you have to get to the root cause of the problem to fix it. I listen to my staff because they’re out there facing problems everyday so they know better than I do. By getting that information, you can make the operation better and can provide better service.”
“The other thing is that I can see the good in people when I look at my staff. I know what they are good at and know how to draw it out of them. I know that if I develop them this way, it will bring the best out of them. As a general manager, I have to know where to put people. You have to put the right man on the right job.”
What is your personal philosophy?
“I believe in Karma. I think that if we do good things, good things come back to you. If you do bad things, bad things come back to you. It’s my personal philosophy because it makes you to want to do only good things. It doesn’t mean that you have to be a monk or a nun. By doing good things you can make people happy every day. You can smile, be honest about your job, and give it all every day at your work. You can make the life of your staff members happy. That’s doing good things. I think Karma works in mysterious ways. If you lift yourself everyday with good deeds, good deeds will always come back.”
Can you talk about successful work projects last year?
“I think the most successful project for last year was balancing the budget. Last year we had a very tough budget to meet and my team and I achieved the budget and we did well in the profit area. The whole team worked together. We had the same target, the same goals, we were able to move forward together and everybody pitched in. Everybody lent a hand. My revenue division, my cost division, we worked together to meet the budget and everybody was very happy.”
At work, what puts a smile on your face?
“What puts a smile on my face is when I know that guests are happy when I see smiles on their faces or when I they see my staff working with a smile from afar. You can actually hide and watch them to see how they work. When they are doing that without noticing that you are watching, that puts a great big smile on my face.”
How do you want guests to feel when they stay at your hotel?
“I want guests to feel like they are coming to their second home. Many of our guests are return guests. The KEE opened six years ago and we have guests that come back every year or many times in a single year. And it feels like it’s their second home and I want that feeling for every guest. Every time we have returning guests, we put a little message on their bed that says ‘welcome home’. We make sure everybody makes them feel at home, not only for guests but for our staff too. Because if you think about it, they probably spend more time here at work than at home so if they feel that this place is their second home, they can provide better service, be very helpful and friendly and then in return my guests will feel like it’s their second home too.”
The most satisfying thing about my job is to see my customers happy.
Describe a time when you turned a negative situation with a guest into a positive situation
“I remember one guest who was very unhappy because he felt like our hotel is too loud in its central Patong location. So he was very upset that our hotel wasn’t right for him. I remember that me and FO Manager took him to about six rooms just let him feel and see that which one he’d be happy in. He finally settled on one room and then after that I checked on him every day to make sure he was happy during his stay. When he checked out he said that he’d never had better service anywhere. Most people wouldn’t care, but I feel that’s not right. I feel like with us, we have to make sure from beginning to end that their experience is a memorable one. After that he recommended many guests back to us just because he knew and he was confident that we will do them right and that we provide the best service that we can.”
What advice would you offer to those who are inspired to be successful in the hotel industry?
“One thing is that you have to love it. You have to have the passion. My advice is to think about what you want to do and ask yourself if it’s something that you want to give 100% for. Because the hotel industry is not something where you say ‘let’s try it out, I might like it or maybe I won’t.’ You have to go in, be committed and love what you do. If you are a person who doesn’t smile, you are a person who hates people bothering you or asking you for requests, this is not for you. If you think you are good at the numbers, good at sales, but you are not good at service, it’s not for you. You have to be very well rounded, have compassion and understanding of people’s needs as well as your team’s needs. All of this together, you have to be 100% committed or else you won’t make it in the hotel industry.”