“Positivity is contagious”: interview with Liutauras Vaitkevicius, GM of Good Hotel London

Liutauras Vaitkevicius talks to BHN about the power of positivity and the changing role of the general manager.

• Can you tell us a little about your background and career history?
“I started my career in hotels almost accidentally 12 years ago when I was an international business student. Very quickly I realised that the work complimented my education perfectly well, so I decided to concentrate on building my career in hospitality before I graduated at the University of Bedfordshire. I was extremely lucky to have met some great managers, mentors, and all-round inspirational people (some of whom I know will be at the BoHos). Working with them allowed me to really learn the full spectrum of our business – everything from finance, HR, operations, events, and more recently, the tech-driven world of revenue and distribution.”
 
• What attracted you to the Good Hotel?
“Vision, compassion, and endless optimism. What I found here first and foremost was a large team of like-minded individuals who both want to make a better place but also are business-minded. It was probably the first time in my career that I really started thinking in terms of social responsibility, not as a separate programme or module, but as essence of our business. It is the never-ending balancing act between doing good for the world and doing good business that keeps our entire team motivated and moving forward each and every day.”
 
• What does a typical working day for you involve?
“The simple answer is that I have no typical days. No two typical days are even similar to each other. I keep a work diary with me at all times, as I have done for about last six years now. It never stops surprising me by both how different each day is and how unpredictable and interesting our industry is. I do genuinely believe that this is one of the most interesting jobs ever – it includes people, customer service, technology and systems, maintenance, and much more. If I could work out some sort of average of my time split, it would be something like this:
 – 20% of time dealing with guests directly or indirectly. You could call it time spent on quality controls
 – 30% of time working with team members as individuals – coaching, guiding and helping them
 – 30% of time spent on making various decisions – big or small, long reaching or not that important at all. This includes revenue, sales, cost controls, etc etc
 – 15% of time spent on emails and general admin work
 – 5% (if I’m lucky) on personal development, learning, self-education and general networking.”
 
• What are the most satisfying elements of your role?
“Personally, I find the sense of achievement and delivering tangible results most satisfying. Not always easy to measure and not always easy to narrow down to just numbers, but it always translates into long-term team successes. In one word – this can be called legacy. My aim is to build that lasting legacy both through my team and through the people who surround me. If people around me are successful, then the hotel as a business will be successful. I believe that positivity is contagious and seeing happy guests equals good business. It might seem the long way around, but that gap between me and happy customer is just one person away. So my behaviour, attitude, and decisions directly affect our guests. Instantly. That ability to create positive experiences is satisfying achievement in itself.”
 
• How do you think the role of the GM has changed over the last decade?
“Versatility is the key word that comes to mind. If I have to look back to when I first started in this industry – the role and the definition of GM was very different from what it is now. First of all, there was the mentality that a GM can only be someone who has 10 to 15 years of experience in the industry. There used to be a fairly well defined path for GMs. The individual had to have experience in front of house or F&B/events a base. Then potentially some understanding in sales and revenue. Key requirements used to be the ability to manage teams and just contain operations in-house. Understanding of finances, marketing, and technology was not really a requirement as decisions were being made somewhere centrally – and all of them almost identical. Same structures, same procedures, same systems – whereas now, the role of GM has really become more varied, more involved, and more linked to personalities.”

“It is especially visible in the boutique sector. We have seen huge growth in new and exciting brands in the UK recently, where hotels are not just standard products any more. They are interesting, unique, and have stories to tell. If you look closely, this has been largely driven by number of superstar GMs who really lead the entire market and have revolutionised how boutique hotels are perceived. To summarise, GMs are no longer the middle link between owners and hotel teams, we are the driving force for change and progress. That’s because the new breed of GMs are tech savvy, well-travelled, and above all – super-curious people. Mediocre standards are just not acceptable any more.”
 
• And what do you see as the biggest changes coming over the horizon?
“The biggest game changer will be the evolution of technology. It is probably quite common for our industry to always be a little bit behind wider-world trends. But it’s also normal, as we can’t change things too quickly without affecting our guests. Where I see technology going now is towards simplification and the liberation of our staff. For far too long we all had tools that did not really make our work easier – it was clunky, complicated ant required constant attention from our teams. And that was unfortunately always at the expense of our customer. This however, is changing big time. With our colleagues suddenly having time to become more human now, they have more time to really build rapport with guests and concentrate on their needs and be really genuinely hospitable.”
 
Liutauras Vaitkevicius will be presenting a case study about the Good Hotel London at next month’s Boutique and LIfestyle Hotel Summit, London, May 21 and 22. More infomration here.

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