Becoming a hotel general manager was once a dream for S. Aulia Masjhoerdin.
Now fulfilling that dream as Aston Priority Simatupang Hotel and Conference Center’s General Manager, Indonesia Expat sat down with this empathetic and strong-willed man to talk about the importance of listening as well as not only looking after customers, but also staff.
Tell me a little about yourself.
I’m originally from Padang, West Sumatra, but I was born in Canberra, Australia. I’ve lived in Australia for 25 years. My family moved there in 1958; started off staying as a diplomatic family but then we applied to have permanent residency. Growing up in Canberra, I’ve basically dived into the service industry. I’ve worked part-time at restaurants and hotels as a waiter, a cleaner, a breakfast cook, a duty manager and an assistant manager for Pizza Hut. I eventually returned to Indonesia around 1990-1991 where I first worked at Sahid Jaya Hotel for four years in the sales department.
Then, one of my clients at that time offered me a job in logistics. I took that job for the next eight years but it got boring. I knew I had to head back to hospitality at this point. Aston Group accepted me – I was initially based at Aston Sudirman, which is now Aryaduta Suites – and from that, I eventually became the Director of Sales at Aston Rasuna in 2004. Three years later the corporate office asked me to become general manager in 2008 at Aston Rasuna till this present post as GM of Aston Priority Simatupang.
What was the appeal of becoming the General Manager of Aston Priority Simatupang Hotel?
I’ve always liked working with people and, frankly speaking, the hospitality industry is what I resonate with the most. My father wanted me to become a doctor or lawyer but I knew deep down inside that wasn’t me. Actually, it was my dream to become a general manager – maybe when I was 20 years old. It’s been three and a half years now since I got appointed as the general manager in Aston Simatupang. Maybe the fact that I was in sales; one important factor as a hotelier is to know how to sell the product.
Based on this property’s concept, what are the differences found here compared with other hotels in the area?
This property, first of all, is next to the toll road so access to get to SCBD as well as Bogor and Soekarno Hatta is easy. From what I understand, this Simatupang area is going to be the next Rasuna Said area within perhaps the next five years.
Our strategy is, if you’re looking for a hotel with meeting incentive facilities in South Jakarta, Aston Simatupang is your number one choice. We’re actually expanding our meeting rooms soon because we’ve been rejecting requests to facilitate meetings, since it’s always fully booked. We have 296 rooms and are currently operating 277 rooms. Something that I think is lacking here is the fact that there isn’t a shopping centre nearby, like what our competitor has in Pondok Indah. Luckily, within the coming year, a shopping centre in Tanjung Barat will be opening. I see that as a chance for more people to come over to Aston Simatupang.
How does this hotel respond to the many four-star hotels in Jakarta?
In Jabodetabek, we’re amongst the list of top-notch hotels. We’ve achieved several awards from online travel agencies like Booking.com, Traveloka, Xpedia, etc.
What lessons have you learned throughout your career?
Particularly in the service industry, one of the lessons that people have to understand is to learn from experience. If you don’t learn from what people have to say, you are obviously bound to get critics here and there – maybe the service level or facilities are not good – well if you don’t act on it, people are going to talk about it, which gives you a reputation. But if people start talking and you start fixing, obviously people are going to have a better impression. Let’s say there’s a complaint; guests will be keen to find another hotel for their next stay. How is it that we get the existing customers to come back and at the same time earn new customers? We need to maintain excellent quality. Do not just cover what didn’t work to fool new customers.
Another lesson is to look after your staff. If you don’t look after your staff, they won’t look after you. Behind a successful general manager is their staff. Staff are very important to me. Treat your staff well by listening to them. I lead my team like they’re my family, I want my staff to willingly come to work, not to dread coming to work. Also, what they want is important, nobody wants to be in the same position for three years so if you think they have potential, you should guide them to reach that goal. I tell my department heads this all the time: if you have someone who’s sincere and clever, your job will become so much easier.
What do you do in your spare time?
That’s a time to work, to rest, and to enjoy. If you need a break, go take that break. That’s my typical style. I plan my time ahead for a holiday like going to Yogyakarta, Bandung, and Padang etc. Other than that, I visit friends.
What is your favourite holiday destination in Indonesia?
I enjoy the cold weather so mountains are where I tend to explore. Bukit Tinggi, West Sumatra, is a nice place. Don’t get me wrong, I like beaches like Bali, but the cold weather feels much better, perhaps it’s because I lived in Canberra for a while – it could get really cold during winter, down to -10 degrees.
Do you have any hobbies?
Automotives. I like cars; Ferraris, Lamborghinis. I’ve had at least 60 cars throughout my lifetime. Nowadays I only own four. I actually like to customise and modify my cars – well, just 50 percent of them. Modifying cars releases my stress. I don’t have a lot of time to go to car exhibitions but I do make time for Gaikindo or a Mercedes-Benz club meeting.
What five words describe you best?
Honest. Disciplined. Consistent. Team Player. Caring.