Learning Journey: The unrelenting pursuit of the goal keeps you afloat


Date: May 9, 2016
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“Desire is the key to motivation, but it is determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence, that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” Mario Andretti

Debrah MukukuI can totally relate to these words by Mario Andretti as I look back and reflect on the year 2015. For one to be motivated, it is important to sow the seed of desire first. But desire alone is never enough to get the job done. In order to attain the desired success, one needs to be determined to pursue a goal through thick and thin. As GL Cottages is in the hospitality industry, our success is always measured in rands and cents above all other things. As the GL Cottages manager, it is my core responsibility and my heart’s desire to drive the profitability of the business.

The start of the year 2015 was not a bright one for GL Cottages as we experienced three consecutive break-ins within the first two months of the year! The worst part was that two of these robberies unfortunately happened at a time when guests were hosted on the premises. The thought of managing terrified guests was beyond me, let alone frightened staff members who were not sure of their safety anymore. Most importantly, the reputation of the GL Cottages was at stake as poor security is a deal breaker with prospective customers. At this point it seemed as if all odds were fighting against my goal of achieving commendable profits for the GL Cottages at end of the year. Thankfully with the support of our visionary leader and CEO, Mme Colleen Lowe Morna, we quickly managed to find a solution to this challenge and within a short time, CCTV cameras were installed across the complex. This provided the much needed reassurance of safety for our esteemed customers. Our task now was to rebuild the confidence of our previously loyal customers and this, of course, was a process but we eventually got there.

However, it turned out that the internal security issue was not the only hurdle that had to be overcome in the year 2015. As soon as we felt that the dust was beginning to settle, along came another unforeseen obstacle! South Africa started experiencing xenophobic attacks across all regions of the country. This presented yet another threat to the hospitality industry as foreigners began to have reservations around travelling to South Africa. I vividly remember GL Cottages losing four big conferences that had to be cancelled as participants from other countries began to dread the idea of coming into Johannesburg in particular, following the chaos that had been reported throughout the various media platforms. This was a very big blow for the business and yet it was beyond anyone’s control. Giving up was not an option despite the seemingly hopeless situation.

We decided to start looking at other avenues of generating income without having to rely on international conferences. This was an opportunity to “turn the broken eggs into an omelette” as my CEO would say. We had to make do with what was available and we continued to pursue our profitability goal. After several meetings with neighbouring hotels, we found ourselves successfully partnering with them for local sporting activities whereby GL Cottages would share spill overs and still get very good returns in the process. In addition, strategies were also put in place to attract more meetings within Johannesburg as these were not affected by the challenges at that particular time. Before we knew it, GL Cottages was back in business and there was light at the end of the tunnel.

The GL Cottages team was very supportive throughout the ups and downs that we experienced in the year 2015. Our commitment to service excellence remained at the very centre of everything we were doing and we continued to serve our guests with a smile. All our marketing efforts, team spirit and good customer service eventually paid off. The second half of the year was a resounding success and made up for the glitches experienced earlier on. I learnt that as you go through the darkest night and deepest valley, what keeps you afloat is the unrelenting pursuit of the goal, the staying power is what separates winners from losers. I am proud to say that at the end of the year 2015, GL Cottages proudly recorded decent profits after all!

Written by Debrah Makuku, Gender Links Cottages manager