From beautiful Southern Germany to Berlin's urban jungle: In this interview, Johanna Peres tells us about her beginnings with the GCH Hotel Group, her rise to Director Commercial and the ups and downs of the past years.
Hello Ms. Peres, first of all congratulations on your new position as Director Commercial!
You have been working for the GCH Hotel Group for 11 years now. How would you describe your career? How did it all start?
It all started in the beautiful south of Germany. Back then, we only had a small number of hotels there and even less Sales staff. This meant that I had to build a team within a company structure I was completely unfamiliar with. My mentor and most important supporter at that time was Bodo Sikora. He was still Area Vice President in the South and was familiar with all processes within the Hotel Group. He let me in on the “secrets” of the company and set clear goals for his region and his hotels. Even then, he lived a culture of empowerment, trusted me and gave me freedom to act. He motivated me and was always there when I had questions or encountered problems. It was an incredibly beautiful, exciting and educational time, during which I also got to know our current CEO Sascha Hampe, who was still the General Manager of our hotel in Saarbrücken at the time.
During my early years, I introduced the then Area Director Sales & Marketing to the newly established Area Central, which I also took over after he left the position a few years later. My team was growing, which enabled me to form an efficient Sales base for the South and Central Area. In this regard, I would like to mention two team members in particular: Denise Siebert, who went from Junior Sales Manager South via the Leadership Programme to become our current Area Director Sales & Marketing South, Central & West; and Till Wolter, who made his way from the Junior Sales Academy South over the position of Area Director Sales & Marketing South to his current position, Director MICE Sales.
What is particularly important to you in your professional enviroment?
Professionally, it is especially important for me to not stand still; to progress and not to “tread water”. I need momentum and development in all areas, which is exactly what makes the GCH Hotel Group such an attractive workplace. We are always in motion and all areas are constantly evolving, be it technologically, structurally or on a human level. Since my early days at the GCH Hotel Group, there has been open communication across departments, also with base-level employees. I want to continue this open-door policy in my new position. I consider the contact to all levels and an active understanding of their work processes to be essential for successful and efficient leadership.
Since your early days, you have been able to achieve quite a lot within the GCH. What has been your biggest success so far?
I had quite a few achievements, but there is one in particular that has been sticking with me for several years already: The constant dynamization of the team and especially the continuous adaptation to the ever-changing markets, the company and particularly our clients. These adaptations found their peak in the complete restructuring of the Sales department due to the Corona pandemic. During the past 16 months, the pandemic forced us to make some significant cuts. Nonetheless, we have to ensure to stay in touch with our clients, especially in times like these. It was indispensable for our team to put more effort in their work and to open up a new customer base we had not even considered before.
A fundamental rethink was inevitable. The company’s sales figures, which have finally started to grow again since the beginning of the pandemic until today, show that we succeeded, also thanks to the support of our current sales base and despite reduced working hours.
What does the position of Director Commercial mean to you and how would you describe it?
To me personally, it means first and foremost an acknowledgement of what I have done so far and I am grateful for the trust put in me and my work. And to my greatest delight, it definitely does not imply any deadlock.
In this position, I see myself as a conductor uniting an orchestra of Marketing, Digital, Revenue Management, Corporate, MICE and Leisure Sales to a harmonic symphony for an audience consisting of our clients and hotel guests. Together with my team, I support our hotels in their commercialisation in order to generate the highest possible value and profit. In cooperation with the other top managers, I am certain we will succeed in this.
What will change for you in your new position?
I will gain an even better overview of the whole commercialisation topic and therefore have the opportunity to link the synergies of the individual departments even more closely and thus increase efficiency. Furthermore, the position gives me the chance to actively initiate, control and sustain changes.
What new challenges are you facing? And how do you plan to tackle these?
The challenges in detail are not fully foreseeable yet. In any case, we will have to face a “new normal”. Above all, I look forward to mastering the balancing act between advancing digitalisation and maintaining personal customer contact.
Sustainability, which the hotel industry has been working on for some time already, will be a fundamental topic. For many years now, we have been trying to save water and energy by proactive measures. Nonetheless, there are many more ways to significantly reduce the CO2 footprint. The GCH Hotel Group is already working on this, but there are still opportunities in the commercial sector that need to be implemented and communicated.
The shortage of specialist staff, which has not spared Commercial either, is another major issue. We will have to accomplish bigger goals with smaller teams. However, my team and I are optimistic towards this task. Transition not only brings change; it always generates new prospects as well.
As a foundation for the implementation of the Mission & Vision, the GCH Hotel Group is guided by six corporate values: Engagement, Trust, Courage, Creativity, Flexibility and Responsibility. What is the value you identify most with and why?
In a nutshell: With all of these. Because if one of these values is missing, they are not in balance anymore and the Commercial department will not be able to fully function.
Ms. Peres, thank you very much for your words and the impressive insights! We wish you all the best and lots of success in your new position!
Editor: Lena Stanggassinger
Translation: Bea Lehofer