The pandemic has led to a mindset that is negative and unable to change. We often forget that our situation will not get better by chance but through our ability to adapt to the inevitable change. To do that, we must first overcome this attitude. For many people, the current psychology is like taking a can of coke and shaking it. If you open it, it’s going to blow up in your face.
Speaking generally about Cyprus (not about my own clients), some business owners are like the coke that has been shaken. The result is that they don’t have the patience, the state of mind, to move forward, says Amani Vernescu, CEO of the seven-year-old Limassol-based Quality Focus, which works on the enrichment of the customer experience, with particular emphasis on the hospitality industry.
Vernescu finds that some Cyprus managers are bringing that explosive state of mind to their workforce.
“This is the very first big mistake. Reputation is like a balloon, one needle can make it explode:
Any interaction an employee has with a potential customer can make or break your brand in a
heartbeat. You need to be flexible and provide a more positive working environment.
Some companies right now are thinking of firing people. They are saying that we’re just going to
keep the best, and they think those are, of course, the ones with the good diplomas. But if the
selected employee, based on such assumption, doesn’t have the right character, he/she won’t be able
to perform effectively. And a lot of the ones who don’t have the best diplomas might have
the right characters and approach. And many are often a lot more hungry and crave to prove themselves.
With or without the diploma the wrong character can significantly disturb the team dynamics due
to their inability to become a cultural fit. Companies need to have that in mind and to focus on
strengthening the workforce morale. You need to invest in your people to enhance a solid
foundation, because that’s the main interaction with your customers.”
Understanding the customer experience
Before Vernescu started Quality Focus, she worked for 20 years at the Four Seasons hotel in
Limassol, and learned every aspect of the hospitality business, starting as an employee, and
rising to management. When she left, she felt it was really important to understand what things
are like from the customer perspective.
“So I started travelling frequently at my own expense to different 5-star hotels. Let’s just say my
income was going straight into that. It was an investment, I was having fun, but it was an
investment into what I wanted to do in the future. I had to see everything from a helicopter
“Mystery shopping was the first service I provided, as a way to evaluate all aspects of quality in
hotels and other businesses, because it best reflected the overall customer experience. Overseeing
all aspects of that when I worked at the Four Seasons was one of my main duties as the Quality
Manager, so I already had solid knowhow about the subject. Clients requested I train their
employees, therefore I became a certified trainer by the Cyprus Human Resources Development
Authority and the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute. I also took specialized
Strategic Leadership courses at Cornell when I added hospitality consultancy to the several other services that we provide today.
Hospitality is in the Cypriot DNA
For those of us who work in the hospitality industry, you can pretty much say that hospitality and
customer care are infused in our DNA. Having lived here for 30 years, I find that it goes without
saying that Cyprus has so much to offer to its residents, as well as investors, business owners
looking to relocate, education seekers, holiday makers and so many other sectors.
Having said that, this pandemic is forcing us to redefine what hospitality means. Many of the
carefully curated personal touches that gave our tourism industry a competitive advantage have
been stripped away due to Covid-19 health and safety measures. Uncertainty has left us
asking what the future looks like? Therefore, the hospitality industry in Cyprus is actively
seeking ways to guide and motivate the workforce to re-evaluate, re-energize, recreate,
redevelop and buckle up for a more challenging, yet resilient future.
Men of quality do not fear women’s equality
Starting a business as a woman entrepreneur was, of course, challenging, despite her innovative
approach and years of experience, Vernescu points out.
“In Cyprus, just like everywhere else in the world, you find both positive and negative attitudes
towards diversity, even though Cyprus is a very diverse and cosmopolitan place, sometimes you
do get judged a lot in certain ways. For example, there are certain business owners who really
prefer to work with men because they believe that men are more capable. And I have to say there
were times where they think ‘this guy has been in the market for several years, and the devil you
know is better than the devil you don’t’. You have people that think like that. But then again, you have
people that open the door, and those people have my utmost respect. I’ve actually been told once
by a client that the best man for a job is actually sometimes a woman. In the end, men of quality
do not fear equality”
Getting established in the market in Cyprus meant facing down bullying, Vernescu recalls.
“I was getting a lot of different kinds of bullying. I was getting a lot of attacks. I was
competing with Mystery Shopping and training companies, and I was bullied in ways you can’t
imagine. How do you react? Emotions are significant drivers of decision making and I am grateful
for the emotions submerged in me due to such experience contributing to my growth and development.
If somebody decides to bully you, it means they see you as a potential competitor. So even if
you had doubts, then you had better start believing in yourself and make yourself an actual
competitor. I stuck to my path, focused on what I had to do and that’s it. This is one thing I
would say to all women: Focus on what you have to do. It all starts with a positive mindset and
ability to adapt to change. Leave all the distractions and toxicity out of the way. If you start to
focus on these, you start to see yourself as a victim and develop fear. And fear is like having a
chain around your throat that will eventually lead to your own destruction. It’s like burning your
house down to get rid of a mouse.”
“As Winston Churchill said, “You’ll never reach your destination, if you stop and throw stones at
every dog that barks.”