Mr. Tänzer, you started in catering, and now you're an independent hotelier.
How did that come about? To make a long story short, I can cook well, but others can do it better. So I sort of slid into business management. I decided to go it alone, and in 2004 I opened Lux 11 in Berlin. I knew, either way, I'd have to work like a dog – so I might as well work for myself.
Success wasn't long in coming …
Yes, there was a niche market in those years, and the 2006 World Cup couldn’t have come at a better time. I was able to expand, so I opened The Weinmeister in 2008. Your second hotel is also doing very well. You must be doing something right. More than anything else, I think, it's our close connection with our guests. We know most of them personally, so we can respond to their wishes exactly. Even young guests prefer a personal conversation. That’s our point of contact with three quarters of our guests.
How do you reach the remaining quarter?
New customers, especially, use digital services to book rooms. We mostly rely on online travel agencies like TripAdvisor and Booking.com. We do without social media, but we’ve been operating with digital services for a long time …
Go on ...
We were one of the first hotels to replace our room TVs with Apple computers, because these days, everything is available on demand round the clock. We also work with apps like Roomatic that let our guests order our services conveniently via their own smartphone. I save paper and the information goes through immediately. The ideal solution would actually be personal contact with a digital touch. Bookings by fingerprint, no need for emails or credit cards ... that would be fantastic.
An analogue question: how important are good employees?
Without my staff, all the digital technology in the world wouldn't help. But these days, it's a huge challenge to find good employees, integrate them in the family and keep them on long-term. We have thankless working hours, day and night, including on holidays. I have a lot of colleagues who say: we've got plenty of guests – what we really need is personnel.
A piece of advice to close with: what must company founders be sure to keep in mind?
That in business operations, every day brings new surprises. While that keeps things exciting, it’s also frustrating – just like in a relationship. We’re talking about periods of 20 or 30 years. A marriage like this has to be able to take quite a lot.