Leading by Inspiring
Hailing all the way from Germany, Sven Fitjer fell in love with the hospitality industry when he was in America. The rest is history. His career has taken him around the world – including to Australia and Asia. Now, as General Manager of The Stones – Legian, Bali, he made time to talk with Asia Dreams and talked about his journey.
Q: How did you get into the hospitality industry? Has it always been your passion?
A: It was a coincidence. When I finished high school, I flew to New York and bought a car to travel across America. I stayed in hostels – of course, at the time I couldn’t afford to stay in flashy hotels. But my aunt used to work for an airline and she got good hotel rates, so for the first time I experienced a real five-star hotel in New York and another in LA. When I was walking through the hotel and looking around, I was blown away by the atmosphere. When I returned home to Germany and my dad pressured me on what I wanted to do, I told him that I wanted to go into hospitality.
Q: Throughout your career, what’s the biggest challenge you’ve come across and how did you overcome it?
A: One of the biggest challenges for me was when I first became a food and beverage director and division head. I got promoted within the hotel and suddenly instead of one department head, I had six department heads reporting to me; all associates and friends of mine that had at one point been on the same level. I had not imagined how different the focus would be, that you would have to invest a significant amount of time in your team and the people. It was not so much about the technical aspects anymore, but more about becoming the coach and leader. With that situation, the biggest challenge was to learn to really listen, not to assume everything and have a pre-set opinion. But I was fortunate that I had a great boss, who still is my mentor today. He helped me a lot with honest and straightforward feedback, which I am most thankful for even today.
Q: What’s the most memorable/rewarding moment throughout your career?
A: For me honestly, I am really touched when former associates who have worked with me or under my leadership stay connected. I have these two in particular who I worked with for seven to eight years and who saw me as a mentor. One of them recently sent me a text saying that he had been appointed operations manager – the number two in a hotel – for the first time. He sent me a very honest and warm thank you letter, saying that he dedicated some of his success to my guidance. I find that very touching. When you see your people grow and they achieve great results; no business success can match that.
Q: Now that you’re with The Stones – Legian, Bali, what goals and/or future plans do you have for the hotel?
A: I want to enliven the premium lifestyle space in the hotel, offering a healthy balance of unordinary business and leisure experiences. I also want to motivate the associates to always deliver attentive service with meaningful little touches that leave an everlasting impression on our guests. I also always support the community. Currently, we have been supporting a reduction in food waste by collaborating with Scholar of Sustenance Bali, a food rescue foundation that collects surplus food and distributes it to people in need in Bali. In addition to that, our restaurant – Big Fish Bar & Grill – serves the finest quality, locally caught, sustainable seafood.
Q: Do you have any advice for those who want to break into the hospitality industry?
A: What I try to tell the younger generation, as they’re used to having and want things quickly, is they need to understand that when they start moving up the ranks, certain things take a little more time. You need to settle into certain positions, you can’t just scratch the surface of the jobs you’re doing. Sometimes we rush at the beginning of the career, but that’s the foundation, if you don’t have a good foundation, how are you going to build a house on top of it?
Asia Dreams November 2019 – January 2020