When women are strict, they’re seen as unprofessional: hotelier Nadia B. Elshaer [Video]
Success doesn’t start where you’re standing. When you realise it has a history, you can really take things to another level, says Nadia B. Elshaer who runs LA’s Plaza La Reina
Hospitality might run in the family of Nadia B. Elshaer. But that doesn’t mean she had it easy.
Nadia went to hospitality management school and studied for 5 years in Tunisia, France and Germany before moving to Los Angeles to pursue an MBA. The quadrilingual hotel operator now manages LA’s Plaza La Reina.
On the sidelines of TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Los Angeles, she spoke to TOPHOTELNEWS on the challenges of being a female boss, the importance of empathy and how to turn supposed negatives into positives.
Difficult start in hospitality despite family background
Nadia: When I first started, I was just helping my family. My family’s in the hospitality industry. It was nothing but your dad calling you and telling you to help. Day one, I came in and he told me to just sit at the cashier. I told him, okay, and then it was busy inside the dining room. So I was walking to go help and he’s like, no, no. He saw me, he’s like, you’re not moving, you’re not going inside. I asked him, why? He’s said: You’re not professional. You cannot do that. I told him, what do you mean? It’s just serving, taking plates, putting plates. I do that at home. So he told me, that’s what you think. Okay, tomorrow wear black pants and a white shirt and we’ll see.
When I walked in the next day, I looked at the people and I had anxiety because I felt like a normal person cannot do this job. If you don’t like it, if you don’t have experience and unless you really care about people, you’re not able to do it. There are a lot more details than what we as guests experience than someone who works there and cares.
So that’s when I realised this is not an easy thing to do. This is not for everyone. That’s when I went to hospitality management school and studied for 5 years in Tunisia, France, Germany and then I moved here to Los Angeles and I got my MBA. And I’m still learning.
When women are strict, they’re seen as unprofessional
Nadia: In hospitality, you do not only rely on how smart you are or the knowledge you have because it’s not just you. You’re not doing anything, you’re just managing people. You have a team and you’re not there 24 hours either. So, your mission is to make everyone who works with you feel the same way as you and that takes a lot.
For women, it is a little bit more challenging because people are not used to women to be firm and strict. Actually, when you do that, they think you’re mean or even unprofessional, while if, when a man does it, they think, oh, that’s right, that’s normal, we expect that, until you prove your point.
Hospitality professionals need to live every moment, happy or sad
Nadia: In the hospitality industry, you’re not in an office where you have an email or a project you have a week to work on and then deliver it. Here, things are arising 24 hours. You don’t know what to expect. If you’re unhappy, I cannot just be smiling. I have to solve it and also give you the attitude that you expect from me. And if after you, I go to somebody who’s happy, I cannot take my emotions from dealing with a difficult situation. You just have to live in the moment with each guest and each employee as well, and I think I’m enjoying that.
How to turn perceived negatives into positives
Nadia: As I started at La Plaza Reina hotel, I knew we didn’t have a pool or a food and beverage department. But I looked at the strengths of not having this — which I found was having a quiet hotel. If you don’t have a lot of these common areas, even if my occupancy is 100%, I still feel like it’s private and I walk in and it’s quiet. So we then targeted the right guests who are looking for that feel.
At the same time, we make sure that we meet guests’ needs. I can tell you: this is where you can find a pool, this is a pool that has free access. Same thing for restaurants. You can now, on your phone, order food and have it delivered as fast as if you have room service at the hotel.
When you look at your product and you say, okay, what is a strength that I can use, you actually, when you look at it from a positive perspective find more strength than weakness.
Thoughts on the TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR
Nadia: I will tell you: I loved it. It is better than I expected or better than I have ever experienced it. This event, specifically, it’s putting people together who are working on the same project or business, but we never met. The architecture, the designers, they put as much effort as we are doing while we’re working there, but they’ve left already. They’re not there anymore.
When I think of the person who designed this, the furniture that they picked, I actually have a message to relay to my guests because of the previous person who worked here. So seeing them so passionate, seeing all the architects and all the designers so passionate, talking about what they’re doing now and all the hotels that they’re building, it just showed me another category of people who are not in hospitality management, but they have as much passion as us.
So that’s what I really loved and it opened my eyes and knowing that success doesn’t just start where you’re standing, it actually has a history and that’s when you can really take it to another level.
Nadia B. Elshaer was a delegate at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Los Angeles 2019. To attend, address or sponsor future TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR events around the world, contact TOPHOTELPROJECTS Head of Global Events & Conferences Kayley van der Velde.
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