John Aritho, general manager of the Beverly Hills Hotel, is a strong believer in networking.
“Networks make people’s net worth grow. And I always say wherever I am, whatever position I am in, whoever I meet, it is for a purpose, and I make sure that there is a connection that helps their business and my business grow.”
John was born in Kenya where he grew up in a little town in the foothills of Mount Kenya where coffee was grown. After completing hotel studies at university, John travelled to India and on to Sri Lanka and Singapore where he worked in various organisations. “I really learnt the trade and more importantly learn about Indian cuisine, which I absolutely love.”
In commenting on his career choice John explained, “I chose my career out of a love for food. I also had various options as a really good basketball player, so I had to choose between playing basketball professionally or getting into cuisine. At that time, in the eighties, there were only really cooks and not chefs, but it was something I really loved doing.”
His career has not always been smooth, and he has had to face a variety of challenges along the way. John commented that moving from country to country where you have to adopt different cultures and different styles of working as well as dealing with other external factors has been difficult at times.
John says that another challenge in the hotel industry has been getting the right staff with the right positive attitude towards guests, which has been a challenge in some countries more than others. In reflecting on his career path, John believes that he has been successful through learning from the people that have been there before him. “I have learnt a lot from my leaders and various directors and managers that I have worked under. I am one of those people who tries to learn from other people as much as possible and I learn from my own mistakes.”
The key leadership skill that he has learnt is the importance of listening. “I think that listening to what my staffs’ needs are and especially understanding what is really troubling them and what makes them happy is important. Then I move to the next step which is listening to the consumer and the shareholders of the business. If you don’t listen to what the staff, shareholders and the leaders are asking for, then, I do not think that you can be successful.”
John’s future goals are to continue his career path in hotel management and to grow with the company. “But simpler than that is to make sure that the people who work under me grow into my shoes and bigger shoes if possible.” The importance of people in his life is evident in that he finds his inspiration to succeed in them. “I am inspired by a lot of people – I am inspired by innovators, I am inspired by pioneers, people like Richard Branson – not because of the millions that he has made but because of the kind of outward thinking out of the box. I think that one of the key things required to succeed is continuously learning. I read as much as I can. I try and learn and grow myself through the various courses that I enrol myself in. Education doesn’t stop and I would advise both young and older people to continue learning.”
John is devoted to his family and strives to create a work/life balance. In order to disconnect and relax he says he spends time on his hobbies and doing things that make him happy. “I love nature and I love the outdoors, so I do a lot of motorbike riding. I love old things, so I restore old fashioned cars in my free time. I try to be as mechanical as possible to understand how things are built – that is one of the ways I disconnect.”
The motto he lives by is very simple it is: “Work hard but learn to unplug.”