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Outgoing Resorts Finance Head Shares Experience

Outgoing Resorts Finance Head Shares Experience
Grant Alchin in Fiji
May 10
08:47 2015

This month my Fijian adventure will come to an end after 5 rewarding years and as you do, I’ve been spending some time reflecting on the time I’ve spent here.

From the perspective of a recruiter my CV will show 5 years experience in 5 star resorts as a Director of Finance.

But to be honest that is the least of what I will take from my time here and probably the least relevant in terms of what I have gained in experience and leadership capabilities.

These are things that I’ve experithat have impacted me quite profoundly and none of them would be easy to communicate on a CV.

 

Natural Disasters

Cyclones and flooding were a regular feature of the events calendar each year. The most amazing thing I saw was enough rain in 30 minutes to fill the hotel car park with enough water that it was up to my chest. You had to learn how to deal with adversity and make things work in trying conditions. There’s no SES to call.

 

Lack of the Basics:

The longest we went without power and water was around 11 days where the resort had to actually close to guests. Having a 2 bottle ration of water to shower each day and filling up your toilet with rain water to be able to flush was interesting…You learn to appreciate the things that otherwise may be taken for granted.

 

Right place / right time:

I assisted with coaching the hotel rugby team for a season and every Saturday morning I went to Cuvu village to watch them play.

We had one stand out player (Eto Nabuli) on the team and I enjoyed watching him play. As it turned out I was asked to play a game of golf with league greats Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler who were in town for a charity event.

Prior to heading up to the course I introduced Andrew to our best player who worked in concierge. Andrew took one look at him and said “If he was a racehorse, I’d buy him right now. Has anyone seen him play??”.

I told him that I had and that he was worth a look. Over 9 holes of golf Andrew was fired up about him and he hoped that this would be the story of their trip.

The next morning they took him to the local school and filmed him doing ball work and drills.

They then emailed the footage to Phil Gould who signed him on the spot for the Penrith Panthers.

He (Eto) is now playing first grade for the St George Dragons and has just been selected to play for Fiji this weekend. I can’t wait to get to a game and see him play when I get home. You learn that anybody can be great if given that opportunity.

 

Love thy Neighbour: – In an expat environment your colleagues are also your next door neighbours. You get to know each other’s kids and partners and you know just about  everything there is to know about each other during the time you work together.

There is no switching off and coming back fresh on Monday.

The only way to make it work is to learn how to work and live together. Luckily for me I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great people and that made the experience even better. You learn that your colleagues are people first and their job description second.

 

Not all publicity is good

One day we had a guest disappear whilst surfing out the front of the resort. He was with a group of guys who went under a wave but he did not come up.

The board was found in minutes but he was never located. As he was a well known businessman from the US this attracted media attention.

Stories were all over the internet and even on Hard Copy in the US.

It was an interesting period to see how the media and more importantly social media is managed in a time like that where the tragedy is secondary to sensationalism.

You learn that the world of social media is fickle and everything you say could end up anywhere. Be very cautious.

 

This is not in my job description

Twice the GM went on leave and twice we had an issue. The first one was a fire that threatened the resorts premium rooms. Getting out there in the hotel fire truck was a bit of fun but thankfully all was contained with minimal input from me. The second one was far more confronting. The chief of the village which is located next to the resort passed away. This is a significant event in Fijian culture and at a time like that the resort (who employed around 70 villagers) has an important role to play. As acting GM I went to the village to pay my respects.

I entered the family home and sat with his widow on a mat in front of 100 people and hugged her as she cried.

A couple of days later I attended the village with all of the supplies required to conduct a fitting farewell for the chief and sat with the elder statesman of the village and drank kava for a number of hours. Nothing in my career had equipped me for this sort of thing and you do your best at the time to be respectful and represent the business as best you can.

You learn that being a leader requires many different things at different times.

Not all of them easy or fun. But if you want to lead you take all challenges as they come. If your intent is genuine you will be ok.

When it’s all said and done am I a better Financial Controller than I was 5 years ago?? Maybe, maybe not. But to me that is really not that important.

In terms of experience I have seen and done things in the 5 years I have spent here that have definitely changed me as a leader but more importantly changed me as a person.

I have spent 5 years surrounded by humble and warm people who manage to smile no matter what is happening.

Prior to coming to Fiji I may have known a thing or two about hotels, but in Fiji I can happily admit this is where I learnt about “Hospitality”. It’s something I will carry for the remainder of my career and something for which I will always be truly grateful.

Vinaka Vakalevu Fiji, you have been amazing!!

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