Not content with becoming a hotel General Manager (GM) at the tender age of 29, Alan Kodzasov has his eyes on even greater career success. That’s why he’s chosen to pursue an MBA at Les Roches. He shared his top tips on how to reach the GM’s office before your thirtieth birthday.
“If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn
That quote sums up the question you have to ask yourself every time you plan to step out of your comfort zone. How you answer this question will define your career path.
In the hospitality industry, and especially in hotels, we all share one common goal: to become a General Manager. This is the title that we dream of and the one that motivates us the most. Let’s be honest, it has the status that we all crave. As a GM you are finally the decision maker, and that usually comes with the highest paycheck. What else could you ask for?
A few decades back, if someone was asked to define a hotel GM the first things that would come to mind were: A 50 to 55 year-old man with a heavy hospitality background and years upon years of experience. We would stick to this stereotype for a long time (if not forever), until one day we finally become one.
The good news is that this stereotype is in the past. Today’s GMs are in their mid-thirties, and you don’t need to wait until you turn 50 as long as you constantly move, learn and develop yourself. And if your current company has more conservative beliefs and is still stuck with ideologies from the 1980s and 90s, my advice would be: Move. You are not a tree. Don’t be afraid of change!
Below I will share with you my story of how I became a General Manager at the age of 29, working for a boutique hotel in one of the most popular and demanding destinations in the world – the famous island of Mykonos, Greece.
Step one to becoming a hotel General Manager: get into hospitality
My first role in the hospitality industry was a part-time job while studying International Economics at Athens University of Economics and Business in 2005. Since my studies were not in the hospitality field, today I realize how lucky I was to have as my first employer one of the largest hotel chains in the world, the Accor Hotels Group.
The ‘part-time job’ turned into a ‘full-time’ career opportunity very quickly. My personality and social skills developed into exceptional communication skills, while my general interest in the hospitality industry became a true passion.
Step two to being a General Manager at a hotel: discover the world
During my 10 years at Accor, I was able to experience different brands, such as Novotel and Sofitel, as well as different countries, namely Greece and Italy. I met and learned from Area Directors, constantly enlarging my experiences and trying to improve my skills.
Starting as a waiter back in 2005 at the age of 18 and going through different positions in the food & beverage department, within three years I had the opportunity to switch to the front office department as a Night Auditor. At the age of 20, I was managing a 196-room property during the night shifts at Novotel Athens Hotel.
Working in the front office, I learned how to deal with people and all sorts of complaints. It was a huge step forward for me, although I couldn’t see it at the time.
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Step three to being a hotel General Manager: keep taking the promotions
After graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I got promoted to Shift Leader in the same hotel. Working in daytime operations was completely different from what I was used to. I was no longer a solo player and I had to be in a team of people, having the ability to work with my colleagues and lead some of them. It was something new for me and I enjoyed being in a healthy competitive environment.
As a result, in 2014 I won an internal competition, which gave me the opportunity to go on a one-month business trip to Rome, to work with the Area Director – at that time – Mr. Ettore Cavallino.
Returning from Italy with my bags full of new experiences and broader views into hospitality, I felt confident about new beginnings. In fact, I felt ready to leave the safe, multinational company environment and step out of my comfort zone.
Step four on how to be hotel General Manager: venture into the unknown
At the beginning of 2015, I decided to try something new, more demanding, and much more personalized: a boutique hotel. The Rocabella Mykonos Hotel & SPA is located in a high-end destination with a very demanding audience. My time at Rocabella allowed me to build on my passion, and I achieved extraordinary success.
I started as a Front Office Manager. After my first season, having shown some great achievements — such as gaining the #1 hotel ranking on TripAdvisor for the whole island of Mykonos — I became Operations Manager.
Step five on how to become a hotel General Manager: be ready to grasp the opportunity
At the end of 2016, and after being awarded ‘Best 4* Hotel in Greece’ by Trivago, I was promoted to General Manager. In that role, I developed further as a professional, while achieving some excellent financial and operational results, including awards in Greece, Europe, and worldwide.
Step six on how to become a hotel General Manager: strive for more!
Then, just when you think that everything is working at its best and it seems that you can’t ask for more, you suddenly understand that you want to go further. We all know that “no two days are the same in hospitality”.
I knew I wanted to expand my network; I knew I needed a change to step out of my comfort zone for a second time. And the best way to do this is to invest in yourself. To gain further education from the gurus of the industry. And to have a ‘passport’ for almost every possible opportunity out there within the hospitality industry… welcome to the Les Roches MBA!
To conclude, knowing how fast the tourism industry is growing globally; today we should feel lucky to have chosen this industry as a profession. There are so many opportunities out there for everyone. The only thing that can keep us away from our goals is staying in our own comfort zone.
“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” – Paulo Coelho
Alan Kodzasov, MBA Student Ambassador
Inspired by Alan Kodzasov’s story? Find out more about how to become a hotel general manager by reading the answers to our frequently asked questions below:
What is the difference between a hotel manager and general manager?
A hotel manager is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the hotel, while the general manager is responsible for both the operation of the hotel and developing strategic plans to ensure profitability and growth.
What qualifications does a hotel general manager need?
A hotel general manager typically needs a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, business administration, or a related field. Many successful general managers have also completed a master’s degree or MBA in hospitality management.
Why is a general manager important in a hotel?
The general manager is responsible for the overall operation of the hotel and ensuring that it is profitable. The general manager oversees all departments including housekeeping, food and beverage, sales and marketing, and finance. This ensures that all departments are working together efficiently to provide guests with a positive experience and meet the financial goals of the hotel.
How long does it take to become a general manager?
There is no set time frame to become a hotel general manager. It typically takes several years of experience in the hospitality industry, with progressively more responsibility, before being promoted to general manager. A master’s degree or MBA in hospitality management can fast-track your career significantly.
How old are hotel general managers?
The average age of hotel general managers is 40+ years old. However, there are a number of young general managers under the age of 30 years old, like Alan Kodzasov, featured in the story above. With the right education and connections, it is possible to become a hotel general manager at a young age. The good news is that on top of providing first-class education, studying with Les Roches will give you access to our unrivaled network of industry leaders and professionals. And with hands-on experience, you’ll have a true head start in your career.
Is general manager at a hotel a good job?
A hotel management career can be very rewarding and challenging. It is a fast-paced environment with opportunities to work with people from all over the world. This can be a lot of pressure, but it is also a very exciting job. If you are organized, detail-oriented, and have good leadership skills, you can enjoy a very good salary and a high level of job satisfaction.
What are key hotel general manager traits to become successful?
Here are 7 traits of a future hotel general manager:
- A passion for the hospitality industry
- Detail-oriented and organized
- Good leadership skills
- Able to work under pressure and handle multiple tasks at once
- Excellent communication skills
- Great problem-solving skills
- Intuitive and able to think outside the box to come up with creative solutions
Do you need education or experience?
Both! Many hotel general managers have a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, business administration, or a related field.
In addition, many general managers have completed a Master’s in International Hotel Management and/or an MBA in hospitality management.
This is because the role of a hotel general manager is changing and becoming more complex.
With the ever-changing landscape of the hospitality industry and digital practices, it is important to be up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies to succeed as a general hotel manager.
It typically takes several years of experience in the hospitality industry before being promoted to general manager.
What is the difference working for independent vs chain hotels?
There are benefits and drawbacks to working in both independent and chain hotels.
As a general manager of an independent hotel, you have more autonomy to make decisions and implement changes.
However, you also have more responsibility for the overall success or failure of the business.
At a chain hotel, on the other hand, there is less pressure on the general manager as the business is part of a larger organization.
There are more resources available, such as marketing and training.
However, you may have less control over decisions and less opportunity to be creative in your role.
Future-proof your skills with a Master’s in International Hotel Management
How to become a hotel general manager
With a Master’s in International Hotel Management from Les Roches, you’ll gain real-world experience in working as a hotel general manager. As well as gaining an insight into what this role entails, your classroom setup will strengthen and develop the skills required to excel in this role.
With a focus on leadership, communication, and performance optimization, a masters in digital transformation will place you ahead of the competition in hotel management.
With the right education and network connections, you can achieve the dream of working in hotel general management before the age of 30.