Sue Leikis, originally from New Zealand, is the Manager of Palazzo Colonnades, boutique, high-rise holiday accommodation apartments in Surfers Paradise and has been in the hospitality industry on the Gold Coast for the past 10 years. During that time, Palazzo Colonnades has been one of GCOMM’s most loyal customers.
Tell me little bit about yourself. What is your professional background?
I spent 13 years in IBM in New Zealand in different administration, sales, and marketing roles. My last role with IBM was Marketing Manager of the New Zealand PC business.
From IBM, I went to Digital Equipment Corporation. Digital were late to enter the PC market worldwide. I was offered the opportunity to manage the newly established PC division in New Zealand. I enjoyed several years managing this business until 1997 and was offered the role of Managing Director for New Zealand just prior to the acquisition of the company by Compaq worldwide. After the Compaq acquisition I was appointed General Manager Sales and Product Marketing and late in 1999 accepted the role of Director of the Commercial Personal Computing Group. In November 2000 I transferred to Singapore to take up the role of Director Channels Development responsible for the Asia Pacific region.
How was that experience?
It was tremendous. I was based in Singapore and had responsibility for the development and execution of a consistent strategy for Compaq’s product distribution. This included the definition of channel segmentation, channel programmes, terms and conditions and new initiatives for Business Partners across the region. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting and experiencing all the countries in the region. A real highlight was a trip to Nepal to address a conference. It was a great experience.
When did you start with Palazzo Colonnades?
We had a long term plan to buy management rights on the Gold Coast. When Compaq was acquired globally by Hewlett-Packard, we made a decision to do it sooner than we had planned. It seemed like the right time, so we packed our belongings into a container in Singapore, and flew to the Gold Coast. That was 10 years ago. We’re just beginning our 10th year of managing this building.
About the time that we were looking to purchase management rights, two major organisations had purchased a lot of the larger buildings on the Gold Coast so there was very little on the market. Fortunately, when we came to Palazzo Colonnades we knew we had found a property of which we could feel extremely proud.
How did you decide to go into hospitality industry?
We had had investment property on the Gold Coast for several years and understood how the mode
l worked. It seemed like an excellent opportunity to run our own business and leverage a lot of our background skills in sales and marketing. I reflected very early that there wasn’t anything I’d learnt in my career in IT that wasn’t applicable in running a small business. People skills, business skills – you need them all.
Yes I did. Running the PC business unit at Digital was the closest thing to running my own business within a major corporation. We had a team of 22 people in the unit. In less than 3 years we achieved number 2 in sales in New Zealand for PC units behind Compaq and ahead of IBM. When you have a small team, focused and engaged you can achieve wonderful results. We operated an end to end business and had responsibility for procurement of product, warehousing, sales, and marketing. That was the taste of running my own business and this is the reality.
How did you find out about GCOMM?
When we came into the business, there were clone PCs in the office. Given my heritage, I said “no way”. I picked up the phone and rang Compaq (now HP) in Sydney and spoke to the channel manager to find the best reseller on the Gold Coast. Data FX was the recommendation and Steve Cannard was the nominated contact. After an initial meeting we put plans in place to replace all the hardware in the office and operate the business on Hewlett-Packard equipment. That was the start of a relationship that has expanded over time. I’ve never been disappointed to this day. GCOMM are now responsible for our hardware, telephony and Internet and we have the reassurance that they are only a phone call away.
How would you describe your relationship with GCOMM?
I developed a relationship with Steve from the beginning and have worked closely with Mary. She provided a lot of support when we first implemented the in-room wireless broadband in all the apartments. We utilised an organisation that specialises in in-room systems but mandated in our proposal that we wanted the Internet services to be provided by GCOMM. The challenge was how to assess the usage and the appropriate plan.
With close communication and monitoring systems Mary was able to review our usage and recommend the appropriate solutions proactively. This is the real value of a close partnership.
For the last 10 years we have had a partnership with GCOMM and they’ve supported us through some difficult situations. You can’t put a value on that. Although we are a small business we receive excellent attention whenever we have had a problem. The technical guys are great – Peter, Jay, Troy. If we experience Internet connection problems or email problems we can contact someone on the phone. We had a power surge that affected one of our systems in the office. Peter worked until midnight to re-build the system and had the unit installed and operational the next morning. Extraordinary service.
With our engagement with the GCOMM team, Steve, Mary, or the technical team – they all always take the time to understand the issue we are experiencing and the impact on the business. Whether it’s a problem we’re experiencing or something we want to be working on in the future, they take the time to understand the requirements and what we are trying to achieve.
What are some of the biggest work-related challenges you are currently facing?
If I look at the business model we operated 10 years ago and what we’re doing today, it has moved phenomenally. Keeping pace with the channels that will get you to the markets you’re best suited for cost-effectively is an ongoing challenge. Spending time to understand the operators and identify partnership opportunities is also challenging.
The strength of Australian dollar has created some challenges in this industry and provided temptation for people to travel overseas.
Traditionally the majority of our guests came from Australia and New Zealand. We are now seeing a huge shift with customers coming from China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The Asian market is now a major part of our business.
The only other big challenge in the industry is the ease for people to critique you online. We always hope that if our guests do have an issue, they will tell us and give us an opportunity to put it right whilst they are with us. Whether it’s TripAdvisor or an online rating system, the sites where we can respond, we do, to both negative and positive feedback.
What kinds of things do you enjoy doing in your free time?
In this business we work 7 days a week and in our down time I really enjoy wining and dining. I am a passionate All Blacks follower so during the winter months, if the New Zealand rugby team is playing, I’m booking time to be in front of the television screen. My other big passion is exercising. I love being at the gym and getting life’s balance right. When you’re working 7 days a week, you need to stay fit.
What does the future hold for you?
I see us doing this for a few more years. The enjoyment and the energy are still there. I still learn something new every day, whether it’s where the industry is going or just the engagement you have with the people.