• Sijia Zhang

Consulting vs. Operations: Is it that different? 咨询与运营,不同下的大同

As a young hospitality graduate, I started my career in the consulting sector right after my graduation. Having realized that a basic understanding of hospitality operations is needed to get to know the whole industry, I have joined an operations role afterward. Although many people say these are two different career paths, I found a great number of similarities shared in the daily job responsibilities.

No matter which role you decide to start with, Three Essential Skills can be learned and applied in either discipline!

Interpersonal Communication and Presentation

The hospitality industry is all about people and talking! Both consulting and operations roles require a large amount of communication as well as presentations.

CONSULTING: Working as a hospitality consultant, one needs to meet and communicate with a range of stakeholders for their projects, such as small business owners, hotel operators, vendors and suppliers, artists and designers, media, and so forth. A consultant must have the conversational skills to communicate with others from professional backgrounds they may not be familiar with. In my experience, the consultants would have a chance to present and brief each team member on their priorities and understand each other’s work schedule. Very often, they give presentations to their clients, as a way of explaining their analysis and expected outcomes, and also to their team members for work tasks and training purposes.

OPERATIONS: Working in a hotel, operations teams face an even more diverse clientele. Once a guest enters the hotel, hoteliers are expected to interact with

a little effort can make a big difference!

their guests when checking them in and engaging them in conversation. By communicating effectively, hoteliers can identify and anticipate their guest’s needs in an extremely short amount of time. This allows them to satisfy, and even delight their guests at a later stage (you will even be surprised by some little token of appreciation from your guest!).

In terms of presentations, hoteliers have daily lineups to review the daily report, discuss guests' complaints, and communicate each department's issues and essential tasks. Each check-in is a chance to give a presentation during rooming (introducing hotel rooms) and giving hotel tours. During the presentation, you would not only need to be familiar with your content, but also have the right tone, volume, speed, and (of course!) some suitable humor to entertain your guests and keep them engaged at all times!

Listening skills

We know effective communication is an art, but listening is an even more valuable technique for both consulting and operations!

CONSULTING: Firstly, consultants have a range of meetings with their clients, and they are required to pay full attention and keep themselves aligned with their clients, identify the key points that are relevant to all stakeholders, and record them as meeting minutes. Listening sets the foundation of the discussion with clients later and is critical in building trust.

OPERATIONS: Listening skills are essential when handling guests’ requests and guests’ complaints! Listening doesn’t mean just facing the guest and hearing them. Still, it is more about putting oneself into the guests’ shoes, being empathetic about their situation, and looking for the most suitable solution. Being able to listen to team members is equally important. “A wise man hears all parties.” Wei Zheng, a famous advisor to the emperor in the Tang dynasty, once said. A hotel is a fast-paced work environment. Under high pressure, operations teams still need to identify their colleagues' information to avoid mistakes and double work. It is necessary for hotel leaders to be emotionally intelligent and to be able to know their employees’ feelings while listening to their requests and to build an environment of trust.

Tasks prioritization

Last but not least, the ability to prioritize tasks plays a critical part in both consulting and operations, as both can be fast-paced and high-pressure work environments.

CONSULTING: As a consultant, they have several small and big tasks daily, such as printing receipts, doing projects for their clients, and preparing company events or doing business development. For consulting, any task related to your client is always the first priority.

OPERATIONS: A hotelier is just like a soldier facing on the front line! The hotelier can be asked to prepare welcoming amenities, arrange guests’ check-in luggage, and pick up guests’ lost items in the room all at the same time. Just like consultancy, guests are the priority before administrative work. When all tasks-on-hand are related to the guests, hoteliers need to determine the level of urgency and amount of time required to complete the task and organize themselves (or ask for help) accordingly!

Having worked in a consultancy and currently in an operations role, I am grateful to be able to learn these valuable skillsets that can be applied to both disciplines. At the end of the day, it is the mindset that decides your work scope. I believe that no matter which path you choose to enter first, you will get the opportunity to be equipped with the essential soft skills for your future hospitality career development, and you would find where your strengths and interest are!

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