# Interview surrounded by the concept: World Excellence #
What is excellence to you?
As a service provider, I believe excellence is the ability to exceed the ordinary expectations for the enrichment of the overall customer experience. To open the door to customers’ trust and enhance their loyalty, I believe excellence is the lock and consistency is the key. Consistent excellence is the foundation on which we can raise the bar for quality, in all its forms, to secure a fair market share.
What do you consider a runway to your success, i.e. what helped you “take off”?
I worked at the Four Seasons Hotel for 20 years and I was privileged to be part of its unique culture, a culture that planted the right seeds in me: this was the place where my passion for quality was initially ignited, it is also the platform where the foundation for consistent excellence was infused within me and enhanced eagerness for personal and professional growth was encouraged through healthy competition.
I was profoundly blessed to have learned from an elite management team and chairman. Having worked for over two decades in the hospitality industry, and with an enhanced passion for Quality, you can pretty much say hospitality is in my DNA. In 2013 I decided to draw a new career map, which challenged me to step out of my comfort zone by cutting the umbilical cord and stepping out of the Four Seasons Hotel to start my own company, Quality Focus.
What do you consider growth?
I believe genuine growth begins when we self-evaluate on a regular basis. Self-reflection is the first step in character development. But first, we need to acknowledge that we are not responsible for the brainwashing, programming, or heartache we encounter as children, as we all absorb from our surroundings while growing up. However, as adults, we either repeat our mistakes or we evolve. We must remember that our situation will not get better by chance, but by our ability to embrace and adapt to change. Accountability breeds responsibility, especially when we identify and admit our mistakes rather than blame it all on our past experiences. To do that, I believe the following five steps are essential:
1. Evaluate: assess what we have absorbed from our surroundings thus far. Then cleanse out the toxic thoughts, emotions, believes, and habits. All of which encourage us to see ourselves as victims and that poisons our state of mind and cripples our abilities and potential for development. Keeping all these inside is like having a chain around our throat that will eventually lead to our own destruction. It’s like burning our own house to get rid of a mouse.
2. Appreciate: feel gratitude for the obstacles. Failure is an essential part of the growth process as it helps us identify our weaknesses and gives us a chance to develop them. The tougher the lessons, the bigger the blessings, provided we learn from as opposed to letting the experience weigh us down by taking it to heart. It is also important to find inner peace and feel content and grateful for what has been accomplished, but we must remain grounded.
3. A.S.K: Overcome the shame of lack of knowledge and Appreciate Someone’s Knowledge by actively seeking guidance.
4. Elevate: Remember that each day is a new opportunity to develop one’s character and skills as we continue to absorb the positives from our surroundings. But we need to keep filtering out the negatives that may alter our identity or interfere in our growth progress.
5. Rinse & Repeated: growth is an ongoing process and to remain on the right path, we must be focused and consistent as we frequently repeat the above steps.
What do you consider success?
If you want to build a house, you cannot start from the roof, you need a strong foundation first. A person may learn new skills or enhance the current ones, but the passion to succeed at them has to come from within. To truly succeed at anything, we need to be passionate about it. Yes, success is the ability to have a vision, make a plan, and stay focused on it until the goal is reached. However, when inner passion is nurtured, procrastinations are limited, excuses are demolished, obstacles are perceived as opportunities and above all, failures are seen as a bridge to perseverance towards growth and not as a source of discouragement.
Succeeding at something, however, can also be a disadvantage if a person lets their success get to their head. That might backfire in several ways, including limiting their potential for growth, especially if they step into a comfort zone. Success, of course, means completing a desired task with consistent excellence, however, a successful person acknowledges that success is a journey where we need to ignite inner drive and enthusiasm as we continue to advance further in life.
What do you consider uniqueness?
Uniqueness is not about how smart a person is! Each person possesses their own level of unique trademark, based on their talent, qualities, skills, way of thinking, and approach as we see things differently at any given situation. No two individuals are the same, not even twins. Of course, it is in human nature to want to copy someone’s skills or even characteristics, but although you may copy a recipe, it will still not taste as good as it would at the hands of the master chef who created it.
Having said that, despite our birth-given right and having that gift of our own individual uniqueness, as children we are constantly encouraged to copy/paste and to become like someone else, both by society ‘you will be accepted if you become as beautiful as this actress/singer’ and even by our own family ‘why can’t you be like your brother’, ‘be as good as your classmates”.. etc.
With all that external pressure, internal insecurities kick in and prompt us to automatically disown our own unique character and confidence boosters. So, we choose to blend in as we adopt the copy/paste syndrome. So instead of focusing on the planted seeds in your garden, water, and fertilize them, instead we tend to stay focused on how green the grass is on the other side of the fence.
Of course, being inspired by something or someone is a good thing, but not to the point of losing our own identity. Those who push through society, family, and even their own boundaries, as they have continuous eagerness to enhance their own individuality, skills, and creativity, are the ones who innovate and evolve. This automatically separates them from the norm, making them trendsetters. I believe this is applicable to personality and business development.
We either live in the ‘I wish I could be’ or ‘I will become’ mindset! In other words, we have two choices, continue repetitive coping, or evolve into an upgraded version of what we can become.
Who are the people and why that you could include in a section called “as done by the best”?
There are many people and organizations that can be included in this section, however, as this is applicable to so many of my clients, in an effort not to alienate any of them, I choose to limit my reply to one experience that happened before starting my own company. I am referring to that one door that I walked into and has forever impacted my life. There is one family that I would always sing their praise, the owners of the Four Seasons Hotel in Cyprus. Most admirable of all are the late founder, Mr. George Mouskis, and his middle son Mr. Christos Mouskis, who continues to enhance and expand his late father’s legacy.
The unique culture they succeeded to build consistently thrived for excellence. Mainly because they managed to create the right formula and acknowledged its most significant component. Their people and investing in them.
Mr. George started his business from humble beginnings and Mr. Christos inherited his father’s humbleness and remained grounded, despite all that was achieved. That unique quality is what gained him his workforces’ respect and loyalty for all the years I worked there.
They did not limit the workforce selection based on diplomas only. Great emphasis was also given to selecting the right characters as well. With or without the diploma, they had a clear understanding that the wrong character can significantly disturb the team dynamics due to their inability to become a cultural fit. Although Mr. Christos believed education is an important factor for progress. He also had a clear understanding that not everyone is blessed with the means or opportunities to acquire it. Therefore, he invested in his workforce and provides them with the recourses required to enhance their skills and acquire new ones. I am a living example of that.
Those who applied what they have learned to their work duties with consistent excellence, received public recognition, awards, and even promotions. He strongly believed that ‘good behavior that is rewarded is repeated’. Thus, together with Mr. Andreas Loizou (Human Resources Director), they ensured that the culture is not only built around hard-working teams but also included a fun working environment and high morale.
They focused on strengthening the human to human (H2H) connectivity beyond the hotel premises. They spared no expense in team-bonding activities through seminars, excursions around the island, trips abroad, and seasonal departmental evening dinner parties outside the hotel. They created lots of incentives to enhance a healthy competitive environment. Different teams were created for sports activities such as bowling, football, archery (to name a few).
While inside the hotel, they also created Olympic games between staff and hotel guests.
They had frequent publications of internal hotel magazines celebrating team members and departmental success. Such magazines also encouraged the workforce to participate in several social responsibilities through charity work and activities provided by team members to members of the local society. They even created a system, where any employee can nominate another employee, for different types of awards given for going the extra mile for a guest or another team member. Awards that included financial rewards as well as public recognition.
Mr. Christos repeatedly told department heads: “Be soft on people, hard on standards! WE must always take care of our people before we may ask them to take care of our guests”. These words are forever engraved in my memory.
The other significant component to their success during the time I worked there, was that they believed ‘it is always better to Prepare and Prevent, so as not to Repair and Repent’ therefore they always invested ahead of time into the premises and enhanced the facilities. They never waited for things to fall apart to mend them, on the contrary, renovations, and facelift of the hotel were frequent and one of the factors that gained them a large percentage of repeat guests.
Change, this is another point worth a mention here. They understood that change is constant and that the survival and success of a hotel depends immensely on its workforce ability to embrace change, adapt to it and continue to evolve with the upcoming changes. They knew that they must always adapt or get left behind. Therefore, the workforce was also encouraged to be creative, make suggestions, and become part of the decision making. Awards were also given out for the best ideas that were implemented.
I speak from experience when I say, such a culture infused into the workforce mindset a cultivated sense of ownership over the hotel. That encouraged us to take accountability and responsibility over the success or failure of the hotel. This was the culture I learned so much from and owe the foundation, on which I continue to build my career.
What is your favorite habit that you could include in a second called ‘diamond pages’?
You would be surprised how our mindset can influence our actions and life in general. I strongly believe that losing the opportunity to self-reflect and take the appropriate action is like neglecting to see a diamond in the mud. Therefore, I started the habit of self-reflection as a new year resolution on the 1st of January 2015.
When I go to bed, I spend few minutes before falling asleep evaluating my actions of the day. I always have a small notepad on my nightstand that has three columns:
1. Actions to repeat/expand on/celebrate/give praise/show gratitude.
2. Actions to correct, as well as extend apologies, if applicable)
3. Actions I should have taken/missed opportunities/ ideas for recovery / ask for guidance, when applicable.
The next morning, after I finish my workout and while having my breakfast, I spend few minutes going over the previous day’s bullet points and proceed accordingly. Anything pending is highlighted for further action to be taken in due course.
Every Sunday morning, I reflect on the week’s actions, then I meditate. When I am done, I write down three things I feel most grateful about for that week. Rinse & repeat.
What is your favorite city and why?
I love to travel and depending on the time of the year, as well as the purpose of travel, I like different cities, so it had to choose. Having said that, London is one of my favorites. The city has an eclectic vibe, theaters, parks and one is spoilt for choice in terms of attractions, art, and of course, cuisine.
What kind of landscape around the world would you be able to include in a blue-green world?
You can give a person a fish, but you feed them for a day, or you can teach them how to fish and that would feed them for life. As a vocational trainer, motivational speaker, and hospitality consultant, I believe it is our duty to enhance and encourage a sense of caring for the environment through our professions. We need to do so in such a manner that our quality of life can be improved and well-lived, without negatively impacting the resources of the next generations.
What is your wish for the planet we live in?
For everyone to share responsibility in actively protecting the environment, while harmoniously and peacefully share and nourish the planet’s resources. And for us to find ways to co-operate in dealing with poverty and put an end to greed, racism, inequality, extremism, and anything that feeds conflict and wars, on all levels.
Amani Vernescu, Founder & Managing Director of Quality Focus CY