-Exclusive interview with Mr. Martin Lee, Assistant General Manager of Poly Commercial Real Estate Investment Management Co. Ltd And Deputy General Manager of Poly Hotel Management Co. Ltd.
Interview: Cherry Li Chinese Version: Feng Xiaochu English Version: Vicky Photos by: InterContinental Foshan
In China, Poly Group, along with other three leading real estate groups, are metaphorized as four guardian warriors in the industry and is applauded as a pioneer in the development of China’s high-end residence sector and commercial real estate. The unexpected rapid growth of Poly’s hotel business has brought itself to the spotlight and the franchised hotels under Poly’s management are all ranked national Top 5. In this month, Mr. Martin Lee boarded on the flight to Shanghai to attend The 10th Hotel Starlight Awards Presentation Ceremony where we found an excellent opportunity to invite him to have an exclusive talk with us. Let’s start to explore the minds of this extraordinary hotel tycoon.
With more than 30 years experience in the management of branded hotel, Martin, the Executive Deputy General Manager of Poly Hotel Management Co., Ltd and Assistant General Manager of Poly Commercial Real Estate Investment and Management Co., Ltd., launched his career in 1986. Being China’s first generation of international hotel General Manager, his enthusiastic working attitude, brilliant talent in operation management led his way to be assigned as GMs of various international branded hotels in Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Martin has been dedicated in standardizing the details of the establishment of international convention center, preparation process of hotel opening and the supervision of operation management. With that thought on mind, he set up an all-round professional hotel management system, introduced some of the best hotel management practices ever since he joined Group in 2011. Needless to say, his efforts were proved to bring remarkable achievements.
Currently, Poly Hotel Management owns 8 international hotels and 1 conference center, including InterContinental Foshan, Crowne Plaza Chengdu Panda Garden, Crowne Plaza Hailing Island, Crowne Plaza Chongqing New North Zone, Holiday Inn Guangzhou Science City, Crowne Plaza Guangzhou Zengcheng, Aloft Chengdu Shixiang Lake, Poly Hotel Guangzhou and Dalian International Conference Center. The projects under construction are up to 25, located in 19 cities such as Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Nanchang, Tibet, Sanya, and Changchun, etc. As a leader in asset management, the hotel management has become an important sector in Poly Real Estate. Poly’s self-branded hotel is expected to unveil its mysterious mask in this year.
‘Poly Hotel Management Company and Poly Owning Company are to be considered as a whole.’ Martin pointed out. – Poly Hotel Management Company has made a breakthrough in the relationship between owning company and Management Company. We cannot help wondering that how Martin, a veteran hotel leader, achieves a win-win cooperation with different hotel brands. Here is an example that best answers our question; there opened a new hotel in Chengdu, where the Crowne Plaza Chengdu Panda Garden had operated for nearly three years, the Aloft Chengdu Shixiang Lake. If it had not been for the mutual owning company, the two hotels would have been competitors or at least would not welcome each other. However, with Poly Hotel Management as the bridge linking the two management company there sparked some kind of chemistry. Both of the hotels are geographically different and involving with different hotel themes, one being business type and the other being resort-oriented. Nevertheless, it does not stop them from sharing clients’ resources. Simply put, the two management teams can exchange their staff to assist with logistic, coordination and purchase. As a matter of fact, the two management teams are glad to see their clients patronize both of the hotels. When Chengdu Aloft just opened, the owning company and management company had made concerted effort to provide emergency aid to facilitate the operation, substantially reducing the costs of Human capital. They also applied such practice during hotels’ peak and low seasons. To hotel management team, maximizing the revenue, controlling the cost to a reasonable extent are the priorities. Such cooperation of three sides has proved to be effective in this regard and it’s almost unimaginable in the past.
Poly is determined to be a good owning company and to summarize what characteristics a good owning company should possess; Martin adopted two words to express his understanding; Profession and Discretion. Martin has over 30 years working experience in hotel management, the first generation of professional hotel General manager after China’s opening-up and reform, and had made contribution to many international branded hotels. From his perspective, all those famous international branded hotels do have some features of consistent system, good regulation and perfect SOP. But a Precise SOP does not necessarily consummate a nice hotel. Martin does not shy away the topic of the conflict between owning company and Management Company that widely exists in China’s hotel industry. Martin elaborated on and gave us his analysis; He pointed out that some large size real estate companies that represent Poly to have a trial in hotel industries are entitled to undertake the role of cultivating a professional hotel service system. He believed that “lack of supervision “and “acting on the opposite of what hotel requires” are common causes that trigger the conflict between the two. If both the owning company and Management Company consider each other as interfering, then it will affect the efficiency and the prospect of hotel operation. ‘I have lots of representatives and hotel GMs. They stand up for their own benefits but I think that’s all justified. But our hotel management company shall stick to one principle that when it comes to address the relationship between the two, they shall consider what solution would best serve the hotel’s interest. In other words, the owning company’s representative doesn’t need to fight for the owner and the hotel GM should learn to make a bit of compromise.’ As the coach of Poly Group, what Martin pursues is a professional hotel owning Management Company. ‘I always joke with some of the GMs of InterContinental, asking them who they belong to, InterContinental or Poly. And why would an InterContinental GM always deals with Poly? ‘Martin said. ‘Technically speaking, you are a hotel GM who shall be responsible for hotel and once you are responsible for hotel, you are responsible for InterContinental and hence being responsible for Poly.’ he added. ‘I think that is a more harmonious way of conducting our cooperation.’
Martin is loaded with astonishingly tight working schedule. Ever since he joined Poly, he has been involved in almost every stage of the operation- land inspection, selection of Management Company, project operation, representatives’ management. After the hotel opening, he would work like a non-stop engine that has to go through every thing down to the last detail. Right now, there are altogether 30 projects underway. Martin is crowned “The coach “by those in the industry not only for his devotion and commitment to his career but also for the charisma he shows in managing the talents.
‘Would more local talents join in the management team of China’s hotel industry in the future?’ We asked Martin and he is quite positive on that. As a senior hotel management leader who starts from scratch, Martin has exuded a deep sentiment when we talked about China’s hotel industry. “China’s high-end hotel industry blossomed in the wake of the implementation of opening-up and reform policy. We followed the overseas hotel system and gradually learned from our mistakes. Mature hotel leaders like us are over 40 so we have been in this industry for quite a long time so you could see lots of them in positions of VP of Greater China. China’s hotel talents have received acknowledgement from all sides. Most of them have received international hotel education and training. Also, they are endowed with natural cultural ideology. We have so many of them and I think they will be effectively dimensional in approaching and solving problems and will maintain and uphold hotels value and image.
When it comes to some specifics regarding talent management, Martin mentioned two key words ‘Profession’ and ‘Ethics’, which has always been his standard of training and employing people. For me, a person’s virtue comes first, abilities come second. Because you can do nothing with regard to people’s virtue but you can always unleash his potential. A person with very good virtue, moderately good abilities, and an aspiring attitude that knows how to adapt and to progress is bound to be successful and can be entrusted. Talents are the most important assets. Confronted with many problems in human resources management, Martin never constrains new people with old discipline. Instead, he would adjust the training structure, making utmost effort to provide opportunities in technique training, position circulation and some realistic career plan. If people are the ambassadors of my brands, what I tend to do is take them with me to upgrade, promote, maintain and realize our value .I have been in this industry for nearly 30 years so I feel I am obliged to do some progressive work in this respect.
Martin was full of joy when he reminisce his cooperation experience with various hotel brands and admitted it’s a mixed feeling of pain and joy but he thinks that things are getting better. He initiated a Poly hotel management development program that aims to train new staff (born in a much more modern generation) that have strong characters and grew up in the “honey jar”. He insists that the company shall treat them like the kids of our own, leading them to learn and grow in a more amicable fashion. For some new representatives who just dabble in the industry and are quite unsure of the direction, Mr. Martin Lee is also willing to share his experience with them. As you can probably tell, “The Coach” title matches him perfectly. As the development of China’s domestic hotels has mushroomed, we would love to see Poly hotel Management team snatch the title of “The Coach” just like its leader does.
李国华先生, 拥有近30年的星级酒店管理经验, 现任保利商业地产投资管理有限公司助理总经理及保利酒店管理有限公司常务副总经理。 从1986年， 李国华开启了酒店职业的生涯，成为第一代职业酒店资深经理人。他对工作积极热情, 以出色的运营才能， 先后在广州、深圳等地的国际星级酒店担任总经理一职。 自2011年加入保利酒店管理有限公司以来， 李国华一直坚持全方位构建专业化酒店管理系统，并以国际化卓越管理理念贯穿各大高端星级酒店及国际会议中心的项目定位、开业筹备及运营监督管理工作当中，并获得了显著的成就。