Christian Klaus's Story
Right after school, I started to study electrical engineering at the Institute of Technology, most likely because my father was a very successful physicist and it felt natural to follow his direction – as you do when you’re 18 and you don’t listen to anybody’s advice. But I quickly realised, surrounded by geniuses, that I really was not that good at it myself.
It was not a great feeling not to be recognised for being great at something. But because I had always worked in hospitality during my student years, I realised this was a field I was actually good at. So, I entered a hotel school, where I immediately felt at home and was able to be successful. Looking back, I realise how lucky I was, that I had had the luxury of being able to fail first before finding my true passion.
The rest was pretty simple, because I quickly realised how fantastic it is to put smiles on other people’s faces. And my career is testament to all the teams I was able to be a part of and the many mentors who guided me through the years.
Looking back, the biggest learning curve for me probably was to understand, how to be known not for creating the best croissants but for creating an environment, where people excel and shine. Obviously, every organisation does profit with a good leader who is visible, but ultimately it is the colleagues who shape the experiences and memories for our guests. And our job has to be to ensure they have all the tools and time to take well care of our guests.
When asked what advise I would give to people who have just joined the industry and would like to progress, it would be this: excel and focus in what you are doing at the moment; enjoy what you do, do not worry too much about career. Make the best of every interaction you have with guests and colleagues, be focused, be passionate and you will shine and be recognised. And then, the future is open to you and new interesting opportunities arise. If you focus too much on the next move, you will probably have a hard time, because it is difficult to recognise someone who is not shining in the moment.
The industry has changed dramatically from 30 or 40 years ago. When I started my first job, the leaders were all pretty much very seasoned colleagues, they were the maître d’s and the gouvernantes doing the same job for 30 years. And today, we have 22 or 23-year-old department heads who run parts of a multi-million-dollar operations. So, if you like to take on responsibility very fast in a fun environment, you can do that.
If you are open to getting to know other cultures, our industry is a perfect spot. You can transfer around the world in a protected way, where the hotel takes care of your work permit, insurance, your pension etc. You obviously can go to an independent restaurant and have a fantastic time but you don’t get the benefits a big company can give you.
I’m so blessed with this lifestyle; it allows to live me every day in a 5-star environment, which I can’t afford otherwise. And it’s not just 5-star setting, but the people who surround you. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who is not passionate and does not care about others deeply in our industry; and this is a pretty cool combo to be part of!
- Christian Klaus
- General Manager
- SO/ Vienna (Austria)