5 minutes with Vincent Cooper AFAIM, director of Evolve Hotels

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5 minutes with Vincent Cooper AFAIM, director of Evolve Hotels

On the job

I’m one of two directors of Evolve. I’m responsible for the operations of the hotel – I’m the face of it. We have Tolarno Hotel in St Kilda and the aim is that within about two to three years we will have five properties within greater Melbourne. We formed the company early last year and we’re doing quite well. We have 25 employees and are looking at other properties to acquire, although they are a bit like hen’s teeth.

Career Path

Pretty much my whole career has been working in hotels. I worked in Queensland for about 20 years and during that time I opened five hotels from scratch. Then I wanted to try something different and went to Queensland Tourism for 12 months. As great as that job was, I felt like a captain without a ship. I just wanted to return to hotels, so I took on the general manager role at the Daintree Eco Lodge.

First job

I was about 11 when I started working at the bar in my parent’s pub in Waaia [south-west of Cobram in Victoria]. Back then, if you were the publican’s son, you could work there at that age. A seven-ounce glass of beer cost 27 cents. Then it went up to 30 cents a glass and the customers were outraged. I used to get up at 5.30am to clean the bar and get the glasses set up. I’d get about $20 a week – quite a bit of money for a kid back then. I guess I’ve always worked in hospitality.

There’s nothing I’d expect a staff member to do that I would not be willing to do myself. I think that creates a pretty good rapport with the team.

Management style

I’m very much a hands-on manager but I don’t micro manage. I just think that you should be able to jump behind the reception desk if it’s really busy, and I don’t mind helping out in housekeeping. There’s nothing I’d expect a staff member to do that I would not be willing to do myself. I think that creates a pretty good rapport with the team.

Leadership challenge

The toughest thing that has happened from a leadership perspective was a WorkCover claim that was clearly fraudulent. It involved a massive amount of paperwork, it took a lot of time and it was a nightmare.

Teamwork

The job is the team. I’ve been blessed that over many years I’ve managed to form the best teams, all of whom are still close friends, and most of the people have moved up into senior management roles. Without them, I’d be buggered.

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