Naturally, this time of the year forces one to reflect on the past twelve months. In doing so, I cannot remember ever having a tougher year than this one. We have had a tumultuous year at BON Hotels, a year of growth, celebrations, discovery and of course, lessons.
Lesson #1- don’t take your eye off cash flow
Our biggest lesson of 2015 came early in the year. We were caught napping, so to speak, so engrossed in performance that we took our eyes off one very important aspect of any business –cash flow. This left us in a precarious situation. While we were fortunate enough to pull through, we learned an important lesson, one that altered the course of our journey. Within a week, we had shifted our focus onto the financial health of our business: our properties and our clients.
Lesson #2 – head down/eyes up
Then came Nigeria. What a victory for us, one that makes us swell with pride. During the cash flow challenges, we found ourselves seeing and seizing an amazing opportunity. We signed on four hotels in Nigeria in a matter of a few weeks! We are so positive about the tremendous opportunity we identified in West Africa, we set up BON Hotels International West Africa – an incredible team of experienced African hoteliers who are there to serve that market.
No such thing as plain sailing though. The minute we signed the Nigerian properties into our stable, Ebola hit the world, followed by a change of government in Nigeria and topped off with an international oil crisis. Confident in our abilities and always willing to learn, we fell into a head down/eyes up mode. This period of 2015 was a true test of our resilience and tenacity. We worked hard and did not bat an eyelid.
Lesson #3 – be honest with yourself and get help
Attempting to remain positive in demanding times is not always easy, even for an optimist such as myself. Through all of the challenges we have faced in our three year adventure at BON Hotels, I have realised last year that my management style is not sustainable. Fortunately, I have the liberating quality of being honest with myself and the ability to recognise when I need help. So I enlisted the services of a very successful businessman-turned-business coach who examined my business style and led me through changes designed to grow me personally and develop me as a leader.
Lesson #4 – you can make a difference
South Africa has had a very interesting year to say the least. On the travel and tourism front, our industry was firstly up in arms and eventually exasperated by new laws introduced by the Department of Home Affairs requiring unabridged birth certificates for all minors travelling through South Africa’s borders. This had a colossal impact on domestic tourism in South Africa and can, in fact, be recorded as the tourism storm of the year.
What was very encouraging through this (and #feesmustfall) is that South Africans stood together. The travel and tourism trade dug in their heels and stood their ground in their refusal to accept these visa regulations. Minister Gigaba and the DHA were forced to establish a committee to investigate the changes to the visa rules and eventually recommended a revision of this restricting regulation.
Lesson #5 – order out of chaos
Through the sometimes chaotic times and especially when we have been forced to either sink or swim, every single one of us at BON Hotels stepped up to the plate and embraced the challenges. Our highs and lows have certainly increased our resilience. Our executive team has surfaced determined, tenacious and victorious.
These exceptional times have birthed a formidable team: we have truly found our #goodpeople at BON Hotels. I am excited for our future.
No doubt the years ahead will bring more surprises, but as we shape our place in the hospitality industry, we can be proud of our journey. We look toward to continued successes next year!
Thank you 2015! You taught us well.