This is Not So Status Quo, a series where we shine a light on YOTEL crew members who work hard to challenge the status quo in whatever they do. This month we spoke to YOTEL Edinburgh's General Manager, Margaret Auld. Keep reading to find out more!
TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOUR ROLE AT YOTEL AND WHAT YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LOOKS LIKE
I’m the General Manager at YOTEL Edinburgh and joined the company last summer. My role consists of making sure that the hotel runs smoothly and efficiently in a costly manner. It really depends on the day, but I could be doing anything from helping on breakfast to stripping beds whilst making sure my team is set up to deliver the best customer service to guests that walk through the door. I always say to my guys, it starts with the team. If the team isn’t right, we can’t deliver a good experience. I’m very keen on making that our central focus – Have they been trained properly? Are they engaged and motivated? Are they looked after? I just want to make the hotel the best place for my crew to work in.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS WORKED IN HOSPITALITY?
Yes I have! I started in hospitality when I was 17 so it’s been a long time in the industry but I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s more than a job in hospitality, it’s a culture; If you work in hotels it really lives in you. I think about the hotel when I’m not there, it’s really an extension of me and the person I am. We’re all a family so I absolutely love it. It’s one of the things that gets me out of bed in the morning.
LAST YEAR YOU BROUGHT TO LIGHT AN IDEA TO HELP TACKLE THE BURDEN OF PERIOD POVERTY – CAN YOU TELL US WHAT HAPPENED AND THE OUTCOME?
I’d had a crew member speak to me about the issue when I first joined YOTEL – which I think had been brought up previously but a lot of people don’t realise what a big problem period poverty is, particularly in Scotland. She was really passionate about finding a supplier to provide our teams and guests with free period products. We knew it was happening all over the world so why wouldn’t it be something we could endorse? The head office team then went and found Here We Flo and it was the perfect match! These products should be available to everyone, regardless of gender, so we had dispensers put in both the men’s and women’s changing rooms. We may have men working at YOTEL whose families don’t have affordable access to period products so it’s for them just as much as the women staying or working in the hotel.
We now have our lovely Here We Flo dispensers around YOTEL Edinburgh and it’s amazing to see the initiative being picked up by all our hotels across Europe and the UK!
HOW DO WE KEEP THESE CONVERSATIONS GOING WITH OUR CREW SO WE CAN FIND MORE INITIATIVES LIKE HERE WE FLO?
I always say – my PAC team will laugh because sometimes there’s even a queue outside my office – that my door is always open. Especially now we’ve had the success of our partnership with Here We Flo, I’m always open to hearing my team’s ideas. The answer might not necessarily always be ‘yes’ but I’ll always try to take some time and see if it’s something we can endorse. This is where our best ideas come from because the crew is on the ground every day and can what the customer sees. So I try as much as I can to have really fluid conversations with the team to get them involved. Our ops meetings are now a bit chaotic sometimes because they turn into huge brainstorming sessions, but we always walk away feeling inspired with loads of ideas on how we can improve our service.
HAVE THERE BEEN ANY HURDLES YOU’VE HAD TO OVERCOME AS A FEMALE IN THE INDUSTRY?
Hospitality is definitely an industry that’s predominantly male, particularly when you’re at management level. I go to the Edinburgh Hoteliers Association meetings and it’s 90% male; it’ll usually be me and one other female sitting there. I’ve been asked quite a few uncomfortable questions when I’ve been interviewed as well. They’re always keen to know if you’re pregnant, you’ve got a child, or are planning to have more children. There’s a lot of stigma and attitude around it, that women can’t be as dedicated to the job perhaps because they have other priorities.
It's the reverse in my household! My husband has a great job but he does a lot more of the school run tasks than I do but he loves having the kids as his main responsibility. We work as a team and that allows me to live out my passion for hospitality. It can be a daunting space as a woman but it’s great to be able to fly that flag and show that we can go on to be just as successful as men, we can bring a totally different management style to the table.
WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE YOTEL?
I’ve had very few jobs to be honest! I was with Whitbread for 16 years; They had seven hotels when I joined and upwards of 1,000 when I left. The company developed into a very structured brand so I didn’t have too much autonomy to make any meaningful changes. I then went on to work for MacDonald Hotels&Resorts for around five years. It was a very different experience working in a full-service hotel but it really prepared me to move to my first GM role at YOTEL.
When I saw the job at YOTEL advertised I checked out the company and got the same feeling I did when I first joined Whitbread. It was very up-and-coming and there was the freedom to make changes and put my stamp on things. It also just looked really cool. I was instantly taken in by the décor and the relaxed atmosphere but it still felt professional. That definitely attracted me to the company.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE LOOKING AT A CAREER IN HOSPITALITY?
Do it! I think most people that have a long enjoyable career in hospitality have fallen into it. It’s not something you necessarily plan to do. I studied social care so the qualifications I got have nothing to do with the job I do now, but I’m doing something I absolutely love. Hotels have so many different routes too if you’re at the start of your career, with everything from front of house to maintenance, you can get some really great work experience. If you have a passion for people and want to be doing something different every day, hospitality’s a great path to go down.