Interview with hotelier expert Samuele Scodeggio
Tonight our guest is Samuele Scodeggio from London. He is originally from Milan, Italy, he moved in 2007 to London in order to change his career from Senior IT Analyst to hotelier expert. He has been working in the hospitality industry for over 10 years. He owned and managed directly several hotels, guest houses and serviced apartments across London, Uk. We have conducted an interview with him.
How does your background as a Senior IT Analyst help you in your change to be a hotelier expert?
I loved working in IT and still my strongest skill is everything that is related to a computer. However in 2006 I felt the need of moving abroad after realising that my career in Italy was completely stuck. In fact the only way of getting a promotion and achieving something in the Italian market is if you are the friend of someone. Meritocracy is a word that only in the recent years has started to be really understood by the Italians.
So considering my little chances of going any further in CSC, I moved to London with the hope to find soon a job as Senior IT Analyst.
My English was too poor at that time and I preferred to study for 6 months before starting really looking for a job in the IT market.
During that time I met my business partner Fabio in a pizzeria and immediately we clicked and decided to start a new business venture together.
Our first project was to create the best and most comprehensive Italian website about London. In 2008, our website Sognando Londra, was already getting around 1 Million hits a year and we managed to create a successful business from it.
Our website was helping people to relocate to London and it was professionally translated in 3 languages (Italian, French and Spanish). It came naturally to add several services that were effectively helping people to relocate to London: “we were providing to them an accommodation, a job and an English course.”
In 2011 we reached the first spot as accommodation provider in flat sharing in central London. And from that year we have been stabilized in the first 3 positions.
What did you do with this background in the hotel businesses?
Thanks to my experience in the hotel and business management industry, I’ve started getting some requests of consultancies from other business owners in London and little by little I found my agenda booked up with too many meetings that didn’t really interested me. So I’ve decided to be more selective and specialize in boutique hotels and small family owned businesses. I don’t want to sound picky but actually the fact that I’m not working with everyone but just for few selective customers allow me to deliver a better service.
The big difference between me and any other consultant is that I’ve owned and managed hotels and businesses. In the past I’ve got fed up in hearing people saying “you should be doing this and that” whilst they have never tried themselves to do it.
It is completely different when you put your own money on the line and when you have monthly expenses of over 100,000£. So this is why I perfectly understand when a hotel owner doesn’t think about only getting nice reviews on Tripadvisor but also to make a decent profit for his business. The economies are growing at the moment however the competition is getting tougher and tougher.
What kind of record did you and your ex-business partner smash?
When you are working 20 hours a day, you aren’t really aware of what you are building and what you’ve reached with your work.
It was only after 16 months when we started producing the Annual accounts for our accountant that we achieved far beyond what we were expecting.
With over 3,482 customers, in that period of time we smashed the 1 million pound turnover, something that has never been achieved in our industry at that time.
What is the depth of your expertise in the hospitality industry?
Instead of working for big chains hotels where every team is following one specific aspect of the business (such as: bookings, cleaning, catering, etc.) , I had the opportunity to start a guest house business from scratch.
The owner of the guest house was struggling to make any profit from it and so he decided to give it to my company to run it.
We redesigned completely the model and I was hands on from the first day on everything:
● Changing the interior design of the property
● Buying furniture
● Organising the cleaning
● Creating a self check-in system
● Setting up the booking system and connecting with every single OTA available on the market
● Staff hiring
● Staff training
● Providing 24 hours on call support to the guests
● Replying to every single guest on Tripadvisor, etc.
Of course, my team was supporting during the entire process but at the same time I decided to put over 50 hours a week on the project at the beginning in order to learn as much as possible from the project.
The guest house achieved over a 92% occupancy with a revPAR relatively high comparing the average of the industry.
This knowledge allowed me to launch the serviced apartment company successfully in few weeks because I knew already how to deliver ALL THE STEPS reported above.
As a serial entrepreneur, how many different businesses have you embark on?
I love this question because it makes me think about my past and how from my childhood I had an entrepreneur mindset.
At the age of 9 years old I started a “company” with another friend of mine and we were selling pirated programs and movies to our schoolmates.
Of course, this wasn’t a real business however for me at that time, at the age of 9, I was already putting in place all the efforts needed for a real company and for example we had letterheads, business cards, price lists, commissions, etc. I believe that I had even a lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet where I was reporting any money IN and money OUT (to buy the empty floppy disks).
The serious answer to your question is that I’ve tried a lot of businesses and I’m not afraid to say that some of them failed even before starting. But some of them turned out to be filling a gap in the market and they are still up and running, such as ROOM CLUB LONDON and my marketing company FAST BOOKING.
During the last ten years I’ve opened multi-let property company, a 7 bedroom guest house/hotel, a serviced apartment company, a street food company and a web marketing company just to mention a few. (I’ve also turned down some opportunities such as an English school)
What is your philosophy?
Do your homework and work hard without raising your head for at least few months.
The homework is a necessity that will allow you to avoid an early failure of your project. However sometimes, you have to try and start losing some money before you know that your business is going nowhere (as it happened with my street food company, closed only after 3 months with few grands in debts shared by the shareholders)
The “work hard without raising your head” is my philosophy in the sense that if you focus too much in making money fast and always checking your spreadsheet, there is the risk that you’ll slow down your entire process and your competition will kill you.
To be successful you need a fully functional product and, regardless what you are doing, you’ll need to invest a lot of time in order to achieve that stage.
Of course sometimes is better to pull the plug before is too late, however I believe that it requires a lot of experience to be able to walk away from a project without no strings attached. So the be burn the first time could be a good thing after all. (but of course in business you have to learn from your mistakes fast)
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