Michel Butor's Story
At 14 you probably don’t have a professional point of outlook, so I possibly had a childlike way of looking at tasks. I enjoyed the jobs I had during the day and in a small hotel – 30 rooms, where I had an apprenticeship from school, I started at the front desk to learn about check-out, then room cleaning, and more.
I got a good insight into all hotel departments and could see that you need to be flexible and organised. You have to work with different people during the day, not one team in an office, and you have to adapt; that’s interesting and the most enjoyable part of an apprenticeship.
I took the first apprenticeship mainly because of my family background. My grandfather and great grandfather owned a hotel in Germany in the 1940s and it seemed obvious to put my origins to the test. I enjoyed it very much; the second one in hospitality was for three years.
One of the most important things I’ve learned from a long time in hospitality, and that applies to life, is the need for flexibility, not only in terms of shifts but also in responding rapidly to threats; and to be creative in finding solutions. Even in a big company like Accor, which has a lot of brands and operating standards, you still have to be innovative.
There is no standard procedure for some occasions, and with the varieties of human nature, every guest will have different expectations of a service you want to provide; adaptability and resourcefulness are needed for your daily tasks.
I have lived in Germany and Switzerland and stayed two months in China and Argentina, living with a local family on an exchange programme from school. I would go again to the US and China, there is still a lot to see there.
For more than 30 years, I have tried to go forwards, but the older I get, the more I enjoy looking at my roots and celebrating the culture in which I was born, so I stay in Central Europe, the German speaking part; but I am still open to the idea of travel.
To someone who is newly in the sector, great things come from small – sic parvis magna; small gestures change a lot in people’s lives. We should not try to change the world but should be part of a positive influence on people’s lives, and especially in hospitality, we should not try to change the guest.
And to someone who is looking for work, there is a great variety of jobs, not just front desk, restaurant or hotel; and hospitality is globally very well connected, so if moving to other countries is your goal, it is probably the best sector to go to. Shifts and working hours should not be the main criteria if looking at the hospitality sector. Learn a lot about yourself and about life. Being open-minded is key, you wouldn’t be able to survive without that.
- Michel Butor
- Deputy General Manager
- Novotel Zurich Airport Messe (Switzerland)