Hospitality Community Spotlight - Rocco Santopietro

Fortunately for me, I already knew that I wanted to be the manager of a 5-star hotel at the age of 10.  

The aim wasn't even focused on financial reward. I consider myself still fortunate today that I have the same passion, commitment and drive for the industry, just like the very first day I started. In the early days of my career I had the luck to have been mentored and to become a close friend by one of the best General Managers I have met in my life - and the person that ultimately made me addicted to the hotelier life.

I speak of Giuseppe "Bepi" Kamenar, a sprightly elf of a man, who at an age when most others are content to sit back with folded hands, was the life, breath and soul of Villa Cipriani in Asolo.

In some of the best times of my life, we would sit late in the evening and talk about everything. I would mostly listen to his hotelier tales about members of the British or Dutch Royal Families, famous actors and actresses, or his personal friend Freya Stark, of whom he told me only one tale. He embedded in me the need for discretion with names. Bepi would always tell me, "Rocco -- is good to know, bad to broadcast!"

  One night I asked him, "Bepi, how can I be the best at what I do?" 

The answer he gave me was short and sharp. He told me simply: "Rocco, the day that you do the "Right Thing" rather than "Things Right" -- and you come to work smiling and whistling -- that day you will know."

The next day he gave me a small booklet that I still have. Remarkably, it was the very first employee handbook written by Harry Gordon Selfridge for his famous store in London. The first page struck me and influenced me so much that today I still try to live and operate by this principle. It said:

Get the confidence of the public and you will have no difficulty in getting their patronage. Inspire your whole workforce with the right spirit of service; encourage every sign of true spirit. Treat your customers as guests when they come and when they go, whether or not they buy. Give them all that can be given fairly, on the principle that to him that giveth shall be given. Remember always that the recollection of quality remains long after the price is forgotten. Then your business will prosper by a natural process.

To offer a remarkable and memorable experience and to be great, a hotel needs a team of both management and staff with emotional intelligence; a team of people who quietly make guests feel comfortable and important. To sum it up in one phrase, this means intuitive people who can connect with others, with empathy and genuineness.

Aiming for excellence is not a task - it can only be achieved by those who made a lifestyle choice, rather than a career, in hospitality. I'm sure most of my colleagues would agree. To me it is not about "success", but the sense of fulfillment and pride in making people feel good. My focus throughout my career has always been creating memories, trusting that the financial results will always come.

As Harry Gordon Selfridge use to say, "Excite the mind and the hand will reach for the pocket."

The hospitality industry has never been more challenging and exciting than it is today. Our industry is highly competitive, and to prosper you need to ensure that your operation is best in its class.

Being remarkable is what makes the difference today, and what will ultimately end up improving your operational bottom line. Offering a remarkable experience pays dividends by increasing loyalty and word of mouth. 


More info about our contributing writer, Rocco Santopietro:

Rocco is currently the Managing Director of DisctinctiveOne Hotels in London, United Kingdom. He has extensive management experience in the hospitality industry at properties such as:  Sandals Resorts International, Red Sea Hotels, Reef Oasis Hotels and Resorts, Wyndham Worldwide, South Mediterranean Stein Hotels, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, and The Ritz - London. 

He has achieved remarkable and measurable success throughout his career. He is a true hospitality leader. Rocco is passionate about his commitment to excellence, but also cares about arts & culture, economic empowerment, and humanitarian disaster relief projects. 

Read Rocco's Article: Remarkable Hospitality - Four Timeless Principles