Meet our Travelling National Sales Manager: Craig

Name: Craig Duguid

Job Title: National Sales Manager

Job Function: I am responsible for driving business into the apartments with the able assistance of my sales and reservations team.

Time with Company: 13 years this December

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

How many countries/continents/cities have you visited (rough estimates allowed!)?

Ok here goes: 19 (3 of which were purely for connecting flight purposes) countries, 31 international cities and too many in the UK to count, 4 continents – mainly all for work, but some leisure

What has been your favourite country and your favourite city?

I don’t think I can pick just one as every country is so different.  I always find something I like in each place.  There are countries I have visited which I wasn’t so sure about to start with but have grown to love e.g. India.  It was a real shock to my system the first time I visited as I had never been anywhere like that before.  My first visit was to Mumbai which is so busy and hectic and the mayhem starts the minute you step off the plane, however this is something I now find so exciting and to me what makes India the place I love.  There is always something going on in Mumbai and every one of your senses is kept busy constantly.  The people are so friendly and I have made some great friends over there.  I recently visited Australia for the first time this year.  It’s somewhere I have never been too bothered about going to mainly because of the distance and the time it takes to get there, but I have to say I was absolutely blown away by it.  It is such a fantastic place with so much to do, and it has such a great feeling.  I am also a huge fan of Kuwait and Kuwait City.  I have visited it several times and again have always been made to feel so welcome and have made some great friends.

What is your favourite thing about travelling?

I love going to new places and experiencing new things and meeting new people.  As I am usually there on business I don’t always get to see as much as I would like to.  I am also a bit of a transport geek so love travelling by aeroplane and train.  I love experiencing different airlines and travelling on different aeroplanes!  Favourites so far are the Dreamliner and A380!!  I also managed to travel by train on my recent trip to India.  I travelled from Chennai to Bangalore and I have to say it was amazing.  The train was old and rickety and there was so much chaos at the stations, but it is a system that seems to work and work well.  I booked a first class ticket which cost around £30 and included a 3 course meal.

If you had to travel with only one accessory/item, what would it be?

Hate to say it, but has to be my phone.

Do you have any funny travel stories or any travel disasters?

I have not had any disasters and have too many funny stories to pick just one, however I have had a few exciting things happen: An earthquake in LA, an earthquake in New Zealand, an hurricane in Maryland (US), getting hit 3 times by lighting on a flight into Heathrow (one hit was just outside the window from me and I felt the heat) and trying to land during Hurricane Bawbag in 2011 on a flight from Gatwick to Aberdeen which got a few metres above the tarmac before the pilot decided “maybe not” and we returned to Gatwick as all airports to the north were closed – it wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences!

Travel map or travel app?

Travel app every time.  I would be lost without Google Maps!

Do you have any travel tips for both corporate or leisure tourists e.g. how to pack?

Can give for both.

Corporate – make sure you have chargers and adapters!  Also if you are travelling with hold luggage make sure you have essentials in your hand luggage – spare clothes, toiletries, etc. in case your hold luggage doesn’t arrive!

Leisure – lay out everything you think you need, then only take a quarter of it!  Remember sun cream.

What countries are on your travel bucketlist?

Japan, Russia, Nepal, Poland – in fact too many to mention.

Which destination surprised you the most and you would recommend?

India

Selfie stick for travelling – yay or nay?

The selfie stick is so last year.  I now use my watch to take the best selfie!

What is your favourite accommodation type and why?

Apartments obviously for both business and leisure travel.  When travelling on business I do like my own space after a busy day.  Nothing better then stretching out on a comfortable sofa watching TV knowing I have refreshments in my fridge.  Can also eat what I want, when I want it and not be restricted by hotel restaurant opening times!  When I am travelling for leisure it is normally with my family so we much prefer the space and comfort an apartment offers rather than being crammed into a small “family room” which hotels offer.

Finally….post your favourite travel selfie

selfie

Advertisements

Memoirs of a Placement Sales Administrator

IMG-20150717-WA0004

It is exceptionally weird to think that about approximately this time last year, I had absolutely no awareness of the serviced apartment industry. Flashforward to today and I could probably whittle off a general definition of the industry as well as a list of all the major operators, agents and associations in the field like snap. This is the power of working for a serviced apartments firm like “The Spires” and wherever I go now, whether it is a national or international destination, my eyes are attuned to looking for such accommodation firms – my travel habits have quite clearly been altered.

Throughout the year you may have read some of my sporadic blogs on what life was like as a Sales Admin and this is to be my swan song; the ultimate recap of my placement life. Of course I started the year with good intentions of blogging weekly but as happens with all New Year resolutions, this started to fade out pretty quickly as the months passed. As stated, this time last year I was completely oblivious to the service apartment concept but due to my internship I have been in far many than I count; I have tweeted about them; blogged about them, researched them and I kid not when I say that I have indeed dreamt about them. I have also not just worked behind-the-scenes in terms of promoting them, but have also ventured into the front line and been one of the faces for the Aberdeen Front of House. Therefore, bar finance and actual management, there is not a lot of the serviced apartments world I have not witnessed and learned from!

Over the course of the first six months, I was predominantly responsible for the online promotion of the firm in terms of social media management, website content and email marketing as well as for the administrative element such as updating booker contact details and classifying customers. These were tasks that I thoroughly enjoyed because they allowed me to use my initiative, be autonomous, use my creativity and as the world moves increasingly online, I know this can only benefit me. Moreover, I am not sure many can take the pleasure of saying they are being paid to be on Facebook! It is particularly surreal that it was a part of my job description and it did take a while for me not to feel the need to justify my internet habits if anyone happened to pass by my monitor – I was working I swear it. However, with that privilege came a lot of responsibility because you want to ensure you present the firm in the best light and to make sure what you post is synonymous with the values of the company. Similarly, as I have learnt, the aim of attracting new followers is not an easy one to achieve and it took a lot of work. Something that was quite surprising was how much researching is involved in terms of material to post and things to blog about, I never realised how difficult it is to come up with a fresh angle and to balance promoting the firm while not out-right selling it because that does not really work on social media. It is all about building that relationship and getting to interact with customers on a personal level, something which I realised in that my most popular postings tended to be in relation to things like team birthdays or accomplishments. I imagine that is because everyone likes to see the faces behind the firm.

Therefore, while being very active with the back-of-house team and phoning many a travel booker, my Sales Administrator position was quite independent and relatively laid-back in that I did not have a lot of contact with external stakeholders nor had strict deadlines to meet. This was epitomised by the fact that throughout the whole six months, I never had someone phone or email me. Conversely, Front of House was the complete flip-side of this. Between customers, agencies and companies, I made and received countless phone calls/emails a day and felt immensely popular – post-it notes became my best friends. I can honestly say that time has never passed as quickly before, while as a Sales Admin I was free to work at my own pace, in Front Of House it felt like I was juggling many balls all at once and so the sand-timer was always ticking down! However, while undeniably challenging, it was ultimately very rewarding in terms of testing my ability to think on my feet, multi-task and be responsible. Of course having the chance to interact with our guests, especially from international destinations like Japan and Singapore, was thoroughly enjoyable especially as you were playing a part in making their holiday to Scotland special. It was particularly gratifying getting to know the regulars to the extent where you already knew their name as soon as they walked through the door and they already had their ID at the ready.

Overall, I do not think there could have been a better time to work in the firm because with the opening of the Edinburgh location and the development of “The Apartment Collection – By The Spires”, it was such a dynamic atmosphere with a lot of excitement, as well as drama aplenty of course! Therefore, through the highs and through the lows, there was not a single moment I regretted working at The Spires because the people were some of the loveliest I have ever worked with and I loved the camaraderie of the office; it was always a joy to go in (particularly on the days where there was cake – which was a lot of them). I certainly feel I have developed personally and professionally and so I am immensely grateful I was chosen to work for the firm and that they have even allowed me to stay on. If there is one thing that is particularly surreal it is that when I make that 15 minute journey to The Spires from my home once a week, it never feels like I ever worked here full-time, not least for eight months. Thankfully, I have all those tweets, posts, blogs and databases to prove otherwise and as I continue on, even if for only a few hours a week, it is nice to know I am leaving my own kind of legacy.

Time for a Catch-Up

2

Going through my recent blog entries, I have noticed a distinctive lack of my own personal student work placement blogs. When I first began at The Spires the plan was initially to do a blog each week (hopefully!) chartering my rise from an inexperienced yet energised university student to a full-fledged sale administrator extraordinaire, however clearly somewhere along the way that plan went awry! The last time I had a post dedicated to my own personal development was at the three month mark so somehow the fact that I am now blogging about myself with slightly less than a month to go, is rather fitting.

Considering my blogging absence you may be wondering what havoc I must have been causing, and it has certainly been a busy few months here at The Spires! Particular news of note for The Spires itself is the continued rolling out of The Apartment Collection – By The Spires, the serviced apartment finding service element of the firm which enables us to source accommodation out with The Spires’ home locations so we can meet guest’s wider needs. As of late, I am attempting to start a “Featured Destination” of the week to get the ball rolling and to provide some travel inspiration for our social media followers so they can see all the locations we can take them. I am also doing this in conjunction with my recently discovered addiction in Infographics as even though they may be a bit old school now, I still find them to be a very attractive means of communicating information which gets the point across while being eye-catching: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/6737572-the-apartment-collection-milton-keynes. 

Similarly, other very exciting news is that the opening for the Edinburgh location keeps growing closer and closer, and as a result, we can now happily show some sneak-peeks of our newest apartments which can be found at the dedicated Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/TheSpiresEdinburgh. Having been working at The Spires as the plans have increasingly unfolded for Edinburgh, it has definitely been intriguing to witness all the hard work that goes into opening a new location. Of course, I never imagined that it would be an easy venture but looking at how the smallest details need to be thought of, from cushions to toiletries, you realise how every decision is ultimately important as everything goes to create an image of the brand in the customer’s mind.

In terms of the personal chaos I have been causing, as well as my usual social media management and email marketing campaigns, a particular task of note is my introduction into the world of segmentation. Recently me and my fellow Sales Administrator, have been tasked with the rather daunting task of going through our databases to segment all entries into groups which share particular common characteristics as this should be indicative of their unique requirements. When first bestowed with this task, my unsuspecting colleague and I were aware that this would be a somewhat timely task although we were quietly confident that we would manage it in three-weeks tops. However, 1.5 months later and still sifting through it, we recognise that we possibly underestimated the magnitude of the challenge that awaited us… Fortunately, it is a challenge that I am enjoying because there is something oddly addictive about it, and from an academic perspective, it is really beneficial to put something in to practise that I have learnt so much about from both high school and university. Sometimes it can feel like all the endless models and theories you encounter at university have no workplace value as no one actually implements them in practise, and that is why it is so satisfying to see them being used in action because it reinforces the value of what you are studying and that those theories do exist for a reason (other than to play mind-torture on students!).

Other things I have been getting up to have included an insight into the world of taking reservations (and therefore the use of a PMS); the scanning of business cards and the creation of promotional materials such as posters for the apartment blocks. These may not sound like the most glamorous of tasks, however I am always really eager to try new things; it is always beneficial to have new tasks to add to that repertoire! The scanning of business cards was a particularly interesting endeavour because it was quite enjoyable to learn all about the possible career options on the tourism stage as well as to gain an insight into some of the international firms that exist. Even though the smallest and most innocuous tasks like scanning business cards can seem quite inconsequential, when you consider them in relation to the sales process and how that prospect’s details could enable them to be converted into a potential lucrative business source, you do realise how it is all the small things that build up the bigger picture. Similarly, even from a learning perspective, so much can be gained. For instance, as a young university student anxiously holding on to the sides of that career ladder, teetering precariously on the first rung, it is really insightful to see all the different formatting of business cards and how an effective business card means that not only is it memorable and conveys all that it needs to, but it is also capable of being easily scanned so that the details can be stored. The same goes for the development of the promotional materials I created, because even though it does not necessarily require a high level of skill, a poster is something that will be viewed by the public and every single touch-point from a poster to a direct customer interaction communicates something about the brand and you want it to be consistent with the values upheld by the firm.

Therefore, with five months up and one month to go, you might be able to see how contemplative and reflective I have become. The university report I have to write may also have something to do with why my mind has reached the point of micro-analyzing the importance of tasks like scanning business cards. It is akin to the days back in high school when you had to explain everything down to the symbolic importance of why the author made the curtains blue; there has to be a reason behind everything. In a sense however, that is what my placement has taught me, that there is a reason for every task you complete-particularly in the hospitality industry where even the smallest of actions influences the customer journey and therefore the over-riding success of the firm.

Ultimately, unless I manage to do something utterly catastrophic in my remaining 4 weeks (I still have time to delete all the contacts in the CRM by accident or potentially sell a room for £1…), I can already say with confidence that I am exceptionally happy I signed the second semester of my third year away to The Spires. With a month of full-time work left to go, there are still so many things I want to try such as video tours of the apartments, blogging from our Birmingham & Glasgow locations and even attempting more team-related blogs. Therefore, watch this space for all the fun that is still to come!

Till next time,

Alex (Intern Sales Administrator)

#Newbie

first day

Hello lovely readers, I am Alex and I am a third year Tourism Management student undertaking a 24 week placement as a Sales Administrator at The Spires Serviced Suites and Apartments. Today marks the end of my first full week at The Spires and as inferred by the posting of this blog, I did survive.

The first day in particular was filled with feelings of anxiety and anticipation-as well as a lot of paperwork! I am pleased to say despite the nerves, I have thoroughly enjoyed my first week, with the whole team appearing as a very lovely lot with there being a lot of laughter and banter between all the hard work. I was made to feel extremely welcome and that no question asked was too inane (and trust me, I asked a lot!). There will definitely be a lot for me to learn and I already have a list of tasks to crack on with so I know I will not be left idle! I am really looking forward to being responsible for activities like keeping an eye out for potential prospects and opportunities that The Spires Serviced Apartments can capitalize on. Similarly, playing a part in managing the social media marketing of the company (hence my witty title) is definitely a task I am eager to sink my teeth into.

Overall, I am really excited to see what the next 23 weeks bring and hopefully, I can convey all the emotions experienced, and progress made, on my journey at The Spires Serviced Suites and Apartments through this blog. I am not sure what chaos I can cause, hopefully none database related, but I know I have a big learning curve ahead of me and I embrace the challenge. Thank you for reading and have a lovely weekend! 🙂