Sorry, but I got to run.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon ~ SHY Ventures
Wednesday, 28th June 2006
That has become the new battlecry as business heats up and we have to do more and more with less and less, says Yeoh Siew Hoon. The answer: Be the team everyone wants to be part of.

I don't know whether it was my imagination or perhaps it was the 90% humidity or just the pollution, but everyone I met in Hong Kong last week seemed really stressed, tired and some even downright exhausted.

Two marketing communication executives (they are no longer called public relations executives) I had coffee with were rushed off their feet, preparing for the summer food & beverage promotions.

The general manager was too busy to give me an interview because his CEO was coming to town the next day.

One hotel executive I had a morning meeting with had more bloodshot eyes than I did. She had just returned from New York and was struggling with jetlag but unfortunately, as we all know, work waits for no jetlag. 

Her colleague said there were more meetings going on than there were meeting rooms in their office premises and he had had to struggle to find us space to meet.

Another person I met had back-to-back meetings that day and had to fly off to Kuala Lumpur the very same evening.

At a lunch event I attended, one investment banker was fiddling non-stop with his Blackberry. "Sorry," he apologised. "I have to close two deals today." Yet he had to be at this event – just in case.

Truth is, the travel business is booming – no, not booming, exploding is more like it – in Hong Kong, thanks to China, companies are expanding and existing staff are having to do more and more in the same 24-hour day.

At the same event, two hoteliers, from Company A and B, were thanking a third from Company C for their recent hires. "Hey, your former staff started with us last week. He's great. Thank you," said Paul to Peter. "Yes, one of your staff also started with us last week. Thanks," said Tom to Peter.

So Paul and Tom robbed from Peter who, presumably, will have to rob from Mary if he finds enough time to recruit because even though most of his team has been poached by competitors who have sensed weakness in the herd, he still has to do more with less.

A hotelier recruiting for a hotel in Shenzen related how he was interviewing a sweet, young thing who had come in for an interview through a headhunter. She had a cut-and-paste CV that was riddled with mistakes, such is the quality of people coming through the door looking for jobs.

A friend running a market research agency is desperately looking for three staff to handle the burgeoning workload. The punishing work schedule has taken a toll on his health and he's been in and out of hospital. Just six months prior, he had been superfit, hitting the gym everyday. "Guess it's my body telling me to slow down," he said.

But can he afford to slow down? Or put it another way, can he afford not to slow down?

At the hotel conference I attended, everyone agreed there was not only too much capital chasing too few projects but there was also too much work chasing too few staff.

Macau, whose room count will balloon by 150% in the next few years, is sucking staff out of Hong Kong and China. Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar are attracting talent like flies with high salaries. Be it financial analysts, designers, architects, cooks or waiters, everyone's competing for talent.

Which is why I believe the company that will emerge the winner in the next five years or so after the dust from this explosion has settled will not be the one that wins the war for clever branding, strategic expansion, technological wizardry or adapting to new consumers but THE one that wins the war for talent.

Just as Microsoft and Google are currently squaring off in the war for talent in their quest to dominate our lives, travel companies will also have to fight that battle.

Are you the team everyone wants to be part of? Are you the leader everyone wants to follow? The best people are always attracted to the best companies. Are you the best in every way?

Meanwhile, as I walked through the torpid heat of a Hong Kong summer day and rushed around like crazy like everyone in this city, I am reminded of a dog chasing its own tail. It goes round and round and round and never catches it. But it is always exhausted at the end of it.


The SHY Report
A regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry by one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, Yeoh Siew Hoon.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her company's mission is "Content, Communication, Connection".

She is a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer and events producer. She is also an author, having published "Around Asia In 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries". Her motto is ‘free to do, and be'.

Contacts: Tel: 65-63424934, Mobile: 65-96801460

Yeoh Siew Hoon's other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com. Get your weekly cuppa of news, gossip, humour and opinion at Travel's Busiest Junction.
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