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This story will be about project management. Well, to be honest, this one is about particularly bad project management. Back in semester 3 we had a course called “Rooms Division’. One of the much dreaded assignments was delivering a presentation on a hotel of choice, preparing a case study that identifies all the strong and weak points, from location to customer service. We had to come up with a detailed research and an original presentation, so we split up into several groups and rolled up our sleeves. Well, most of us.

I fell into the trap many amateur entrepreneurs fall into by choosing to work with a bunch of friends we enjoyed an occasional beer with. We had a queer nationality mix: two Russians, three Arabs and one Korean.

We had a few group meetings where every time we would come up with the most brilliant ideas. Our presentation skills were so outstanding, we could make Steve Jobs cry.

Weeks passed by, spring came to Montreux, the weather was stunning and we haven’t even chosen a hotel for our case study yet. Other groups were running around stressed; we saw them moody and weary in every study room, dark circles under their eyes, print-outs lying in piles around them.

But we were absolutely in no rush; we had everything it takes to deliver a great presentation effortlessly. Even now when someone says ‘procrastination’, I think that this project of ours could be placed in a dictionary as an illustration. Only 24 hours before the presentation was due, we realized that we hadn’t done anything except for having a few drinks to the success of our team. Years later, when I came to the Middle East, I realized that Arabs rank second in procrastination after Russians, and if you are brave enough to work with both at the same time, you have to be the one giving the magic kick in the pants to everyone. And god only knows how much I loathed taking the initiative back then. But in 20 minutes, I drafted a ‘to-do’ list and delegated the tasks. We had to interview several hotel managers, do a few test calls, check the hotel’s competition, and make a professional looking Power Point presentation… In a nutshell, we had to squeeze the workload of several weeks in several hours. I finished my part fairly quick and spent the rest of the day running around from one group member to another, putting presentation bits and pieces together, monitoring phone calls, and most of the time raging and kicking the furniture. Later on I described it as a “deadline doom cycle”: panic, anger, bargaining, acceptance, red bull. We have finished the research by midnight. By then we have reached the “red bull” stage. We spent the rest of the night in the conference room rehearsing and lining up the chairs and desks, trying to find an ideal room setup. Needless to say we didn’t have table linens and used clean bed sheets instead and we only finished printing out hand-outs by 7:55 due to a major paper jam that occurred in all printers simultaneously.

At 8:00 a.m. we were standing in front of the class with dark circles around our eyes, a bad conscience and yesterday’s shirts. I don’t know whether it was desperation and adrenaline rush that made our research look convincing, or maybe we really were a good team after all. But we got something like 7 out of 10. Not bad at all. What did we do after? We slept. I don’t even remember the hotel we presented. But I did learn a few lessons that day. I am sorry to say this, but working with your friends usually doesn’t cut it. Stepping out of your comfort zone does. So I guess, from that day on I have worked with school ‘nerds’. Not because Bill Gates warned us to be nice to them (he had a point though, chances are really high you’ll end up working for one) but because they can teach you a trick or two about self-organization and time management. And yes, I am being Captain Obvious here, but accurate time estimation is a better tool in meeting deadlines than red bull. (Most of the time!).

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About the author

Glion Institute of Higher Education
Glion Institute of Higher Education is a private Swiss institution offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in hospitality, luxury and event management to an international student body across three campuses in Switzerland and London, UK.
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