2 minutes with Vanessa Pollock
Occupation: Hospitality Training & Development Consultant
Business: VP Training & Development
How did you come to start your business in 2006?
I started the business in 2006 to champion the hospitality industry and to increase the level of engagement of human resources in the hospitality space. Hospitality is hands down, the most fun, vibrant and rewarding industry I can think of. It delivers the buzz of opening night theatre with the adrenaline of a battle well won. Every fast and crazy service period is a different show. The industry provides instant gratification as we watch our guests leave happy, sated and inspired. Sure it’s tough, it’s certainly not without challenges, and it’s not for everybody, but that feeling when your whole team is working toward a common goal and the room is filled with smiles, laughter and people genuinely having a great time...well, that’s pretty damn hard to beat! I believe the purpose of life is to serve others and to do what we can to help make their journey a little brighter, smoother and easier. I think hospitality does this on a daily basis and that’s what we set out to do at VPTD. We use all the tools strategies we have learnt along the way to help smooth the journey for staff and operators.
For our business owners out there, what’s the advantage of working ON your business and not just IN your business?
It’s very hard to think creatively about your business when you are consistently in the thick of the daily grind. Problem-solving itself is a creative process and lord knows we need that skill to succeed in hospitality! It’s important to step back and look from the outside in and occasionally seek inspiration from other industries. Networking, reading and following innovation in other industries can help us think outside of the box and free our mind to new ways of doing things.
Recruitment is a large part of what you do, what's your take on the shortage of skilled staff in the hospitality industry?
Certainly the biggest challenge of the hospitality industry is finding and keeping great staff. But as an industry, we are 100% responsible for this. We have expected staff to work excruciatingly long hours, in work that is both physically and mentally demanding, for minimal financial reward. In the past, and thankfully less frequently now, the environment has been one that allows for hostility, bullying and promotes unhealthy ways of managing stress. The industry has largely focused on technical skills and not on leadership or people skills. As a result we have a shortage of human resources. Along comes Gen Y and says “thanks...but no thanks” to this industry that we have made so unattractive! And we blame them? No way. They are right. The industry needs to change, not them. One of the wisest people I know once said, “in order to attract more (human resources, quality staff, long term staff, wealth, success) we need to become more attractive”. The industry simply needs to become more attractive. Granted, most of the time it’s not feasible to pay more, but we can add value to our people by training them for career development. We can engage them in the vision of the venue, we can roster more effectively to offer a better quality of life and family time, we can incorporate mindfulness into hospitality, we can reward performance and loyalty more effectively. There are a million different ways that venues can do this without breaking the bank. If we all work a bit harder at this and think a little more creatively about how we as individuals can make the industry more desirable, the pool of human resources will grow and we will all reap the benefits. We are often engaged to devise creative, unique and fabulous fun ways to engage their team. It’s not always a commitment of dollars, it’s often a commitment to a change of culture and effort. At the risk of sounding cheesy – “we must be the change we wish to see in the world”. Who knew Gandhi was talking about hospitality!
Working on new restaurant concepts must be fun, what's your favourite concept you have put together?
They are all close to my heart, every one of them. We become so invested in the concepts we see evolve from the very beginning. Some have gone on to become hugely successful venues and others are still someone’s dream waiting for the right location to blossom. Our favourite concept is always the one we are working on right now...so today, it’s a rooftop bar with the magic of a fairy tale that takes place under the stars. You’ll have to stay tuned to hear more!
What are your top 3 tips for building a strong and reliable team?
1: Recruit for a team that has diversity of age, culture and personality.
2: Recruit for a team that will connect and get along – ensure personalities are the right fit for existing team members and you will avoid unnecessary staff conflict. Make sure from the beginning that new recruits will fit with your vision and the work culture you either have, or would like to have.
3: Foster an environment of genuine care. If staff feel they add real value to the team they will take their responsibilities far more seriously and think twice before letting the team down.
24 hours in Brisbane, where should we eat and drink?
Breakfast in West End at Morning After
Lunch at South Bank overlooking the water at Stokehouse Q
Sundowners at Eleven Rooftop Bar in the Valley
Then pop across the road to dinner at The Apo or venture further afield to Portside Wharf and dine at Atalanta Bar and Greek.
If you are in need of a swanky, post dinner cocktail check out Maker on Fish Lane, South Brisbane.
You can follow Vanessa on Instagram @vptd