The pandemic has led to a mindset that is negative and unable to change. We often forget that our situation will not get better by chance but through our ability to adapt to the inevitable change. To do that, we must first overcome this attitude. For many people, the current psychology is like taking a can of coke and shaking it. If you open it, it’s going to blow up in your face.
Speaking generally about Cyprus (not about my own clients), some business owners are like the coke that has been shaken. The result is that they don’t have the patience, the state of mind, to move forward, says Amani Vernescu, CEO of the seven-year-old Limassol-based Quality Focus, which works on the enrichment of the customer experience, with particular emphasis on the hospitality industry.
Vernescu finds that some Cyprus managers are bringing that explosive state of mind to their workforce.
“This is the very first big mistake. Reputation is like a balloon, one needle can make it explode: Any interaction an employee has with a potential customer can make or break your brand in a heartbeat. You need to be flexible and provide a more positive working environment.
Some companies right now are thinking of firing people. They are saying that we’re just going to keep the best, and they think those are, of course, the ones with the good diplomas. But if the selected employee, based on such assumption, doesn’t have the right character, he/she won’t be able to perform effectively. And a lot of the ones who don’t have the best diplomas might have the right characters and approach. And many are often a lot more hungry and crave to prove themselves.
With or without the diploma the wrong character can significantly disturb the team dynamics due to their inability to become a cultural fit. Companies need to have that in mind and to focus on strengthening the workforce morale. You need to invest in your people to enhance a solid foundation, because that’s the main interaction with your customers.”
Understanding the customer experience
Before Vernescu started Quality Focus, she worked for 20 years at the Four Seasons hotel in Limassol, and learned every aspect of the hospitality business, starting as an employee, and rising to management. When she left, she felt it was really important to understand what things are like from the customer perspective.
“So I started travelling frequently at my own expense to different 5-star hotels. Let’s just say my income was going straight into that. It was an investment, I was having fun, but it was an investment into what I wanted to do in the future. I had to see everything from a helicopter viewpoint.”
“Mystery shopping was the first service I provided, as a way to evaluate all aspects of quality in hotels and other businesses, because it best reflected the overall customer experience. Overseeing all aspects of that when I worked at the Four Seasons was one of my main duties as the Quality Manager, so I already had solid knowhow about the subject. Clients requested I train their employees, therefore I became a certified trainer by the Cyprus Human Resources Development Authority and the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute. I also took specialised Strategic Leadership courses at Cornell when I added hospitality consultancy to the several other services that we provide today.
Hospitality is in the Cypriot DNA
Having lived here for 30 years, Vernescu feels it goes without saying that Cyprus has so much to offer to its residents, as well as investors, business owners looking to relocate, education seekers, holiday makers and so many other sectors.
For those of us who work in the hospitality industry, you can pretty much say that hospitality and customer care are infused in our DNA. Having said that, this pandemic is forcing us to redefine what hospitality means. Many of the carefully curated personal touches that gave our tourism industry a competitive advantage have been stripped away due to Covid-19 health and safety measures.
Uncertainty has left us asking what the future looks like? Therefore, the hospitality industry in Cyprus is actively seeking ways to guide and motivate the workforce to re-evaluate, re-energize, recreate, redevelop and buckle up for a more challenging, yet resilient future.”
Men of quality do not fear women’s equality
Starting a business as a woman entrepreneur was, of course, challenging, despite her innovative approach and years of experience, Vernescu points out.
“In Cyprus, just like everywhere else in the world, you find both positive and negative attitudes towards diversity, even though Cyprus is a very diverse and cosmopolitan place, sometimes you do get judged a lot in certain ways.
For example, there are certain business owners who really prefer to work with men because they believe that men are more capable. And I have to say there were times where they think ‘this guy has been in the market for several years, and the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t’. You have people that think like that. But then again, you have people that open the door, and those people have my utmost respect. I’ve actually been told once by a client that the best man for a job is actually sometimes a woman. In the end, men of quality do not fear equality”
Getting established in the market in Cyprus meant facing down bullying, Vernescu recalls.
“I was getting a lot of different kinds of bullying. I was getting a lot of attacks. I was competing with Mystery Shopping and training companies, and I was bullied in ways you can’t imagine. How do you react? Emotions are significant drivers of decision making and I am grateful for the emotions submerged in me due to such experience contributing to my growth and development.
If somebody decides to bully you, it means they see you as a potential competitor. So even if you had doubts, then you had better start believing in yourself and make yourself an actual competitor. I stuck to my path, focused on what I had to do and that’s it. This is one thing I would say to all women: Focus on what you have to do. It all starts with a positive mindset and ability to adapt to change. Leave all the distractions and toxicity out of the way. If you start to focus on these, you start to see yourself as a victim and develop fear.
And fear is like having a chain around your throat that will eventually lead to your own destruction. It’s like burning your house down to get rid of a mouse.”
“As Winston Churchill said, “You’ll never reach your destination, if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”