From trailblazing entrepreneur Ekaterina Tushishvili
Growing up in Moscow, Ekaterina Tushishvili had big dreams. While her friends were buying Cosmopolitan magazine, she was gaining knowledge and inspiration reading Forbes Woman. Fast forward 20 years, and Ekaterina, who graduated with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Hotel Management from Swiss Hotel Management School in 2006, answered a call from Forbes Woman Georgia asking her to be their cover star.
While studying Event Management I learnt the importance of mapping out a very clear idea of exactly what you want to do and achieve before pursuing anything.
"Striving to deliver quality service becomes part of your DNA when you attend Swiss Hotel Management School. Since I graduated 14 years ago, I have aimed for excellence in everything that I do," says Ekaterina, who has a four-star boutique hotel in Tbilisi, Georgia, and, along with her brother, launched Georgia's leading co-sharing workspace, Terminal, five years ago.
Over the past five years, Terminal has grown from a team of three to now employing more than 100 team members, with five locations across Georgia. And while Ekaterina has had to temporarily close her hotel during the pandemic, remarkably three of Terminal’s five branches were successfully launched amidst the pandemic in 2020.
Here, Ekaterina shares her tips and insights for building a dream team, and outlines the firm foundation for success she received during her time at SHMS.
1. Be Clear About Your Vision
“While studying Event Management I learnt the importance of mapping out a very clear idea of exactly what you want to do and achieve before pursuing anything,” says Ekaterina. The same applies to building a team. “If you don’t have a clear idea of the concept and goals of your business you will not be able to identify candidates who buy into that same vision and who will be able to help you achieve it.”
2. Look Beyond Experience
While being qualified to do a job is important, it shouldn’t over-ride everything. “When interviewing possible candidates, I look for passion in their eyes, I want them to believe in my dream. I can teach people how to do a specific task, but I can’t teach enthusiasm, or teach them how to smile.” Ekaterina says she was fortunate to be able to pursue her passion and enroll at Swiss Hotel Management School, but once she was there, she realized it was up to her to learn and gain as much as possible by asking questions, and applying herself to challenges.
3.Throw In Some Curve Ball Interview Questions
Gaining a sense of a candidate’s personality during an interview is essential, but this can be difficult, especially now due to COVID-19, with most interviews happening over video call. “I try not to just ask about information that is already in front of me on their CV. Instead, I always start by asking someone to tell me a little about themselves, and then I throw in some ‘stress’ questions that really give me insight into their personality and how they would act in a stressful situation,” says Katerina. For example, she might ask them how many ping pong balls fit inside a limousine. “Of course, there is no right answer, but it is interesting to see how people react. Some laugh, some ask for a pen and paper, others start asking all sorts of questions about the car or the balls. All of these reactions reveal something to me about the candidate that I am not able to gain through standard interview questions.”
4. Show your willingness to step in and help
During both my course work and my internship with SHMS I learnt that as a service provider you have an obligation to deliver the standard of service a customer or consumer has paid for. “There is no such thing as, ‘That is not my table’ or ‘That is not in my job description’.” Ekaterina says she still applies this today as she works with and manages her teams. “I always try and lead by example. If someone needs help, or something needs doing, regardless of what it is, I show my willingness to do it. When your team members see you working hard and being involved it inspires them to do the same.”
5. Make time to grow personal connections
Creating opportunities for your staff members to connect on a personal level with each other and with management is essential, says Ekaterina, who regularly organizes off-site team-building days. “This gives us all a chance to share stories and get to know each other on a personal level, which really strengthens your team professionally as well,” she says. “Human connection is invaluable. I realized that when I was studying far from home in Switzerland. One of the biggest gifts I gained from my time there are my two friends Zhanna and Victoria. Although we all live on different continents, we have remained friends for 15 years.” The powerful SHMS alumni network also means that wherever she is in the world, she is able to connect with someone.
6. Match feedback and reward to personality
Ekaterina says she learnt so much through engaging with and getting to know students and lecturers from around the world at SHMS. “I learnt about different people and cultures, it taught me to be non-judgmental and professional in my dealings with people.” This insight continues to be valuable. “When I am providing feedback or rewards to team members, I always consider what will work best or be valued the most by that particular individual, to understand the psychology behind what will motivate them,” says Ekaterina. “I remember how this worked for me when I was doing my internship and starting out in my career. If someone was telling me that I was doing something wrong, I always needed to know why.” When you provide the right encouragement and backing to team members, she says, you empower them, give them the ability to grow, and increase your chances of retaining them within your company. As testament to that, the same three team members who launched Terminal, are still with the company today, helping it grow and succeed.