An individual interview with George Dfouni.
George Dfouni, has over 25 years of hospitality and real estate experience, spanning the Middle East, Europe and the United States. Prior to founding his consulting and management firm, Dfouni was the COO of a company that owned and managed a group of 11 hotels and three dozen residential properties in New York City, Florida and North Carolina. Dfouni is also a recording artist and published author.
As we all know businesses around the world have been hit hard, do you think new businesses will open up even if the pandemic is not fully under control?
It is very clear and evident that COVID19 has crippled many industries around the world, some more than others. The hospitality industry that is close to my heart has suffered the most, and when I speak of the hospitality industry, I mean hotels, restaurants and airlines. Many of these establishments closed for a short time and others closed their doors forever, one example is the iconic Roosevelt Hotel here in the heart of New York, it’s really sad to see.
It is a very difficult decision for a business owner. I don’t think a businessman wants to shut down or walk away, a business for its owner and investors is an organization that breathes and lives. As for the new businesses that are emerging right now, all I can say is that I have a lot of hope. I consider myself to be an optimistic person. I believe great things sometimes come out of tragedies like this.
What changes have you observed in the hospitality industry over the past 12 months?
The changes we have seen over the past year have been dramatic, some of them will eventually change again, but others will stay with us. I think local travel will be favored over international travel. If you’ve been considering a “stay” or inner journey in the past 12 months, you’ve jumped on this trend. Contactless is now everywhere. Staying in a hotel is a radically different experience than it once was.
Avid travelers were used to going to the front desk and being in contact with reception staff at almost every step of the way. However, to promote social distancing and improve property-wide hygiene, hotels have implemented contactless programs. If contact between customers and employees can be avoided, it will be. In many cases that means using an app to check in, get your key or request services and finally sustainable travel will be the priority, remember the first weeks of the pandemic last year?
No one was commuting to work or flying around the world, and carbon emissions were at an all time high. The positive impact of this situation on the environment was so important that it made the national news. As travel returns, sustainable travel will undoubtedly be a priority. Hotels and other hotel organizations will prioritize sustainable measures and regulations for an environmentally friendly future.
Do you think that hotel companies will be able to recover and resume their activities as usual?
Recovery to pre-COVID19 level could take until 2023 or later for some. Many investors take a similar view of the outlook for hotel companies, as evidenced by the underperformance of US real estate investment funds (REITs). Hotel owners, as well as operators, will have to adapt to this new standard.
I expect economy class hotels to have the fastest return to pre-pandemic levels and luxury hotels to have the slowest. Some small hotel chains that are micromanaged and under-exploited will do quite well. One group in particular intrigues me, they are the Life House Hotels of Rami Zeidan. Their approach and business model are unique and ahead of its curve.
Do you remember a difficult decision you had to make in your career?
Oh, it’s interesting, one of the hardest decisions I had to make was choosing between two strong team members for a promotion. Personally, I liked one person better than the other, but I had to choose the person I liked least because they were more qualified to be successful in the new role. In a situation like this, I try to make sure that the person I don’t choose gets the training or help they need to move forward someday.
Can you tell us about a mistake you made in your life?
A really good friend once told me that I trust people too much and really shouldn’t. He was right. I have been gullible at times, and it backfired in a very bad way.
If you could go back in a time machine to the days when you were just starting out, what would you do differently?
Well, that’s a loaded question, and it would take me hours to answer. In the short version, I wish I could go back to 1996 and hit stop.
I should have followed my instincts and I didn’t. It was a very costly mistake. To learn more, just take my memory and read all about it.
Which book do you recommend our readers to read and why?
Besides difficult lessons, I recommend reading memoirs and autobiographies in general. I prefer non-fiction books and picking one is really tough, but one book that I highly recommend your readers to pick is Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter
Does George Dfouni consider himself a successful hotel and real estate manager or a famous Lebanese American artist?
Well I consider myself to be both, that’s where my tagline comes from, The Art of Balancing Profession and Passion. Both fields require you to be a human person. Hotels and real estate are in my blood. I am so connected with these industries, it comes so naturally to me. It is my livelihood. I am an extremely motivated and results oriented person and I know how to make a business successful.
On the other hand, music is my passion, I have no professional experience in it, it started as a hobby and I have succeeded and today I treat it as a professional hobby. All the profits from my music career go to charity. I use my music to get the point across. My success in both areas must be attributed to the great team and the people around me.
You seem hesitant to discuss the legal situation you faced in 2018, what is the reason?
It’s really not about stepping away from it, I wrote a book on it, but the whole ordeal was so negative that I chose to keep all negativity away from me. In short, I trusted the wrong people.
It was a horrible judgment on my part. I recognized him. I paid the price, learned it, and moved on. From a legal point of view If you research the information on guilty pleas, you will find that a very large percentage of people who plead guilty will sign anything to avoid facing the costs both monetary, emotional and physics that are involved. without pleading guilty.
Most people plead guilty because they cannot afford to fight against claims, investigations, indictments, threats or whatever they are faced with. I’ll leave it to your readers to read between the lines.
What advice would you give to someone early in your career?
First, get to know who you really are. Don’t let your insecurities get the best of you. Surround yourself with people who can add to your knowledge.
Find and study successful people, you can learn from their mistakes. Stay focused and true to yourself and finally master the technology.
What is George Dfouni’s future plan?
Despite the current situation, I sincerely believe that the future will be bright. My immediate plan is to stay focused and positive. Grow my consulting and management business or just join a team that can help me grow and I can bring my experience to them to drive their success.
I am very open to all the opportunities that the future may present to me. I pride myself on being flexible and adaptable. I think the best way to plan for the future is to make the most of the present. My professional experience and my accomplishments cannot be ignored, I intend to use them to rebuild a new chapter of which I can be proud.
To learn more about George Dfouni – www.georgedfouni.com
The key is to make sure that the goals I set for myself are aligned with the five criteria SMART, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound, I have an anchor on which to base all my concentration and my decision making.
Posted on April 27, 2021