The Hospitality Locum Couple
By Yvonne and David Williams
David and I worked in the serviced office industry for over 10 years and managed a large serviced office Centre in Melbourne that housed more than 35 companies in over 50 offices. We provided the office space/infrastructure and reception/secretarial backup for their 50-100 staff. We had our own small team of 3 staff to provide the reception/secretarial functions and we floated between, doing a whole range of things necessary to keep the thing humming along.
Over that time, as owner managers, everything we learnt was on the run. Apart from our usual office and computer abilities we had to develop skills in a wide range of other areas. We divided our jobs as needed. David slipped into sales, marketing, building maintenance, contractor management and security, while I provided other services like catering, staff management, event management and reception/secretarial on an as needs basis.
We also found it very convenient to be able to swap jobs with each other - our skills became interchangeable which we found was most important for a management couple.
Eventually we left the Serviced Office Industry and after more than 10 years, felt it was time for a complete sea change, so to speak.
Having an interest in Hospitality and Tourism we thought it might be interesting to explore the idea of becoming a management couple in a Motel, resort or boutique hotel - with a view to perhaps taking up a position in Queensland or somewhere on the coast of NSW.
We did not have specific expertise or formal qualifications in this area but after having a huge amount of experience in a service industry like The Melbourne Office we felt hotel management would be a breeze.
David had lots of experience with building maintenance, cleaning contractors, staff and security so we figured this would stand him in good stead for a hospitality management role. I, on the other hand, had plenty of reception/secretarial and PR experience.
The internet was the obvious place to look for employment and the largest online agency is Seek. We soon found a position for a couple that looked interesting and it was to manage an inner city boutique apartment hotel with 54 rooms. It was a live in position so we thought we’d give it a go.
We got the job and soon embarked on a totally different lifestyle right in the CBD. After a training session at head office with their online booking system, we soon found ourselves on site, checking in guests, organising tours, managing housekeeping staff and all the other things that go into running a busy warehouse style apartment hotel.
Quite quickly, we got to know that there were things we loved about the job and also things we grew to hate! For anyone contemplating a job like this, we would seriously recommend that you try to get a day manager position. Working weekends and nights is definitely not for the fainthearted, nor is it for novices. One needs to be remarkably tactful and diplomatic as well as possessing superior conflict resolution skills – not to mention an ability to survive with broken sleep.
During our stint, the guests we had were a varied mix – girls on hen’s nights, families in town for weddings, romantic couples, engagements, football tourists, interstate visitors down for shows and shopping. We had our regulars too - politicians and corporate clients - these people were easy to look after and kept to themselves.
And there were the standouts - rock bands were trouble and we knew there would be lots of noise, drinking and girls! Not to mention the mess in their rooms the next day. We pitied our poor housekeepers!
We also had about 15 New Zealand Firemen in town for the Firemen’s Games. They were a very friendly bunch who did the Haka opposite the hotel every day. Very entertaining!
During that same month we received about 20 sailors on leave from an American warship. That was a very interesting experience. They were well turned out, impeccably polite – but drink and party!!! Money burnt a hole in their pockets too and with our exchange rate they just about emptied the shops in Melbourne.
Friday and Saturday nights were the worst. As we were on call 24 hours during our shift we spent most of the time policing partygoers, keeping them out of the swimming pool, trying to maintain a manageable level of noise for our corporate guests and as the night or morning wore on, our sleep was constantly disturbed by guests rather worse for wear who had lost their room keys and leaned on the night bell hoping someone would get up and let them in!!!!
Fortunately, we were located near Spring Street (Melbourne) and Parliament house, so we rarely had any trouble with drug addicts or junkies who tended to inhabit the lower end of the city near the night clubs in King Street.
As all Hotel Managers will attest, there will always be issues with malfunctioning machinery like lifts (we had an American sailor trapped in our lift for an hour), air-conditioners, washing machines and dryers. So it really helps if one of you is mechanically minded and fortunately David is. Basically, if you have to call in one of your grand children to programme your VCR, forget this as a career option.
We could also mention the times we had guests, who thought they had a booking, trying to check-in to a full hotel, without us having any record of the booking - but we’ll leave that for another time, when we talk about conflict resolution!
It wasn’t all bad though – our nights off were fantastic - we really treasured them. As we were right in the heart of all the action we walked everywhere and tried out all the funky wine and jazz bars tucked away in little lanes and lots of restaurants we would never have found out about unless we lived close by. Of course, that sounds a bit like the old joke about bashing your head against a brick wall – it feels good when you stop, but there were in fact many gratifying experiences.
Many of our guests appreciated the extra mile we would always try to go, and they told us so, or better still, reported it in the ubiquitous ‘Guest Satisfaction Survey’ you find in most Hotel rooms.When we reluctantly decided we had had enough of disturbed sleep though, we took another look at where our collective experience would now take us and……..
We’ve decided to keep on with the hospitality line and become hospitality locums for bed and breakfast establishments There are now hundreds of B&Bs in Victoria alone, and we know that their owners must/need at some stage to take a break.
We will offer our services for short or long term assignments and we are happy to just caretake or indeed run the business for the owners as they would do.
For anyone thinking of taking a turn in hospitality you will need to be flexible, friendly and willing to learn.
Doing a couple of short Tafe/Uni courses would not go astray either.
Swinburne run a number of excellent short courses covering all aspects of hospitality from food handling, cooking, food preparation and styling to a course on running Bed & Breakfast businesses. Not to mention bar tending and cooking for Café owners.
We are really looking forward to this next stage as we still categorise ourselves with those people who are concerned, adaptable, and employable! We’re definitely looking eagerly towards the next bend in the road!
UPDATE ON THE WILLIAMS
YVONNE & DAVID
Yvonne is a budding freelance journalist – having had a dice with ovarian cancer in 2007, Yvonne decided that it was time to do something she had wanted to do for many years - take up a career in journalism.
Whilst on sick leave she completed her journalism degree and is now specialising in motoring/travel and lifestyle writing.
She writes for a number of websites and publications such as Wealth Creator magazine a national bi monthly publication and is a regular contributor to a major regional Victorian newspaper the Sunraysia Auto Guide.
Enjoying every moment of her new career as a ‘journo’, Yvonne hopes to make this a permanent career change.
Yvonne is a:
Member of the Australian Journalists Association
Member Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance
Member Australasian College of Road Safety
Member of the Japan Travel Council
David is a very busy facilities manager for a large high rise apartment complex in Melbourne.
In his spare time he is a photographer and vehicle road tester. He does the technical side of road testing for Yvonne and their free time is spent travelling round the country doing motoring and travel reviews.
David and Yvonne have also developed many road safety education resources for Secondary schools and parents of Learner drivers. Their education programs and guides have been sold to schools throughout Australia and New Zealand. And their new ‘Coach a Rookie’ guide is a global product that is not only selling in Australia but the USA and UK. For more info, click here
Now that they have reached their late fifties Yvonne and David find they are busier than ever and having much more fun doing what they really enjoy.
David is a Member of the Australasian College of Road Safety
He is also a qualified driver trainer.