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The Hoggett Bowers 2 Minute Interview: Simon Casson

Simon Casson Four seasons Hotles and resorts
Simon Casson, President EMEA, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts

What challenge did you tackle and overcome in your business this week?

The daily flow of challenges and crises to respond to and help solve, is pretty robust at the moment!  One forward-looking focus, which we are finalising this week, is the set of newly adjusted operating procedures i.e. making sure we are ready to roll with some significantly enhanced protocols around hygiene, safety, and ensuring safe practices.  We have just announced a unique partnership with Johns Hopkins Medical International, to validate our new global health and safety program, ‘Lead with Care’. It will provide ongoing, real-time guidance on the evolving global COVID-19 situation.

Which ongoing business challenge is occupying your thoughts this week/month? 

Preparing the hotels for the ‘new normal’ as best we can predict it.  Making sure the cost base of each business is right-sized for this new reality and the outlook in coming 12-18 months, as well as making sure operating procedures are evolved to be fit for purpose.  And then staying in touch….. every day on conference and video calls with various team members.  We all lift each other up and know that, together, we will get through this and emerge to do what we do best.

Best thing about working from home/remotely?

Surprisingly productive and allows me to focus on key issues and priorities without interruption in a calm, conducive environment at home.  And not having worn a tie or a watch for months now….it’s quite liberating!

Worst thing about working from home/remotely? 

Lack of real, human connectivity.  We are a people business and to be able to be physically present in the hotels, talking to groups of employees in person, shaking hands, hugging, engaging in conversation, meeting guests and partners and having debate in person……there is something vital in all that and I miss it.

Best factual news source on Covid-19?

I think it is important to survey a wide range of news sources in these days. For clear facts on COVID-19, the Dashboard by the Centre for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University is one of the best:   https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

Who or what has inspired you this week? (They don’t need to be famous)

I’m always inspired, in good times and tough too, by our people and how they show up.  It has been great to support our Riyadh hotel convert part of its inventory to accommodate front-line medical workers and we have also assisted several other hotels with community support and outreach, which is truly inspiring to witness.  On a personal level, music is a constant source of both inspiration and solace.  I’ve been practicing my piano and singing, but also rediscovering songs from Neil Young, The Smiths, Norah Jones, Paul Wellar, Sade. A pretty eclectic mix!

Best programme/film you watched on TV/streaming this week?

This week’s Netflix focus has been Sons of Anarchy, last week Ozark, but the best movie I have watched in a long time is, The Gentleman.

Are you doing more or less exercise than a typical week when you commute and if more, what?

Way more – a pleasant by-product of this dreary, limited life – and I am starting to see a shape shift occur which is rather satisfying!

What are you consuming more of (that you should not be) now you are not in an office environment?

A luscious liquid derived from grapes and fermented to create a rather delicious beverage in many forms.  Moderate amounts of course, but an end of day glass of wine has become a somewhat essential part of wind down!

Any words of wisdom?

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy(Martin Luther King Jr)

This speaks to me now, as a crisis such as this is rather refining and revealing of leadership.  Who you are in a crisis is who you really are, with no place to hide!  Our leadership legacy has a real opportunity to be uplifted in these times. I’m seizing the opportunity!