What on earth has climbing Mount Everest got to do with managing a hotel?
John Burke has the answer to that question, because he climbed Everest in 2017.
We met him in the Armada Hotel which his family has owned since 1968. Located beside the spectacular Spanish Point beach, the Armada was named as Ireland's top hotel at the 2019 Gold Medal Awards. In fact, the Armada also landed the top award in the Wedding category, and the team at the hotel use Snapfix as their maintenance platform.
Our first question was; what did it feel like to be on top of Mount Everest? The altitude is 5.5 miles, which is the same cruising altitude as a jumbo jet.
“Everest is not a technically challenging mountain, but the extreme altitude makes it a real sufferfest. The memory of the climb is still very fresh in my mind, especially the effects on my body - I couldn’t eat for six days on the summit, my stomach just gave up! During the night, my tent at base camp would be -10°, which felt like luxury after -30° at the summit.
Before I summited Everest I trained for 10 years. During the height of my training, I went up and down Ireland’s highest mountain (Carrauntoohil) 8 times in one day. When I started my training I couldn’t even make it halfway up Carrauntoohil, which gives a good indication of where I started, in terms of fitness.
Mountaineering appeals to me because it is a world apart from the comfort of hotels. When things aren’t going right on a climb you really have to think about your mindset. I learned a lot on the Everest climb about trying not to let things defeat you, and the biggest lesson I’ve brought to the business is to embrace the obstacles.
When Covid hit, we went from having a huge ambition for the business to simply trying to survive. Everything had been leveraged around our expansion, we had built new facilities and hired new staff - our dream was gone.
The last recession was severe, but this tested us more than ever before. Using the mindset that I developed from mountaineering, I reframed the obstacle in my mind as a time when the team could shine. We decided to show our management potential and concentrate on our ability to work together."
Today, the Armada is creating 100 jobs as part of a €3m development, and the four-star hotel recently launched a recruitment drive from a beach hut by the sea at Spanish Point.
"I heard Paul McCarthy (Snapfix CEO) speaking at the IHF (Irish Hotels Federation) conference in 2020 and I reached out to him after that. We consider ourselves to be very pro-technology, and we see it as the way forward for the team. Snapfix solves a problem for our business.
Some of our managers have previously worked in great hotels all over the world, at every level. Our business is in competition to attract the best professionals, and graduates want to work with the best technology available - with Snapfix we can offer that opportunity.
Fire safety is one of our biggest uses for Snapfix, but during the pandemic having a maintenance platform that could schedule our sanitisation programme meant we could instantaneously roll that out. Before Snapfix we were using Excel spreadsheets that were circling around the organisation, it would have taken us weeks to implement this using Excel.
We needed to sanitise public areas every 45 minutes, and we now had a tool that could both manage and monitor staff resources needed for that task.
This is a good example of the flexibility of Snapfix, it just makes things work better and helps the business to run smoother.
In both mountaineering and in business there are always obstacles that can hinder progress toward your end goal. It’s important to be prepared and plan ahead to avoid the unexpected. With Snapfix I have the confidence that my hotel’s maintenance operations run effortlessly without problems or unpleasant surprises."
To learn more about how Snapfix can be used in your hotel, check out our case study on The Johnstown Estate.
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