Natasha Thorp, Director of Operations at Cheverny springs, began her career at the Crillon Hotel in the heart of the capital, as a Housekeeper Coordinator for 7 years. After an experience at the InterContinental in Paris, she flew to Martinique in 2014, and became Accommodation Manager of a Relais & Châteaux. A year later, in Les Baux de Provence, the Domaine de Manville is happy to count her among its staff, where she has held the position of Accommodation Manager for four wonderful years. After having acquired a solid background in management and climbed the ladder with some of the great names in the luxury hotel and palace industry, Natasha joined us in 2020at the beginning of the Sources de Cheverny. Interview.
- What were your motivations for starting out in the business?
I was born in London and have lived in many countries since I was a child. My family has always loved to travel and it was they who gave me the taste for tourism. The curiosity of a new culture, a new language... It was natural for me to turn to the hotel industry to pursue this passion. What I particularly like about the luxury hotel business is the dreamlike atmosphere, the quest for perfection and the attention to detail. When a new day starts, the world stops, you are in a bubble. Selling the dream to the customer and seeing them satisfied is a real motivation for me.
- Why did you choose Les Sources de Cheverny?
What attracted me, beyond a hotel opening, was the fact that I belonged to the Les Sources de CaudalieIt was an emblematic hotel, a house with values that spoke to me.
- How did you come to manage the hotel?
My ambition was to become Director of an establishment, which was possible thanks to Alice and Jérôme Tourbier who trusted me.
- What are the essential qualities required in your profession?
If there is one thing I have learned from my past experiences, it is the importance of respect for others. Respect someone and they will respect you. This is what I try to apply with my teams. I have always had an open and curious mind because of my Anglo-Saxon origins. I encourage as much as possible the initiatives and the evolution of each person.
- As Operations Manager, do you follow continuous training?
I draw a lot of inspiration from the testimonies of former and current hotel managers, and I also read a lot of books on management. My experiences and the fact that I have held managerial positions now allow me to take on this new role. I never stop learning, my teams make me grow every day.
- What does your job involve on a daily basis?
I make sure that the house is well kept and that we deliver a perfect service. Our image is challenged every day, with each new customer. My role as manager is to congratulate work well done, but also to encourage efforts.
- What are the most exciting projects you are working on at the moment?
We structure our teams and do our utmost to ensure that our employees are fully integrated and fulfilled in their jobs. With the aim of always satisfying our customers, we work with local partners to develop new activities and services in order to stand out from the competition.
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of your job?
The pluses: my job allows me to be versatile, to have a varied job in which there is no routine: I am in contact with customers, teams and suppliers, so I am at the centre of the action. The minuses: the fragility of our industry, which suffered greatly during the health crisis. The loyalty and recognition of our employees are at the heart of my concerns.
- What are the most satisfying moments? Your driving force, so to speak?
What makes the difference from one establishment to another, apart from its architecture and decoration, is the human element. I need to have a team around me that understands what is emotional. We are here to offer, to give, not to receive. What makes me happy is to make everyone a hero of well-being and customer experience. The success of a company is down to the teams.
- What qualities are you looking for in a candidate, both in terms of skills and personality?
Beyond his qualifications, the candidate must be ready to be of service, to offer and to be generous. Above all, he or she must be willing to give pleasure in order to give pleasure.
- What advice would you give to a young person entering the profession?
The hotel industry is very rich and varied, these are multi-skilled jobs, I advise young people to be curious, to be respectful and to make proposals.
- Can you explain the organisation of the hotel?
The advantage of our company is its human size. Our structure allows us to be as close as possible to the action and thus to the client in order to meet all his expectations. I have an operational team within the hotel (a manager for each department) which is at the heart of the action and we also have a team which works on strategy at the General Management in Paris (marketing, sales and finance).
- In your opinion, does French talent export well and why?
French know-how has always been appreciated abroad. Our culture, gastronomy and art of service are held up as examples. The French cultural and historical heritage are values that are rooted in our roots, and we owe a lot to our artisan bakers, cheesemakers and pastry chefs, among others.
- Could you tell us about your customers and their expectations?
I enjoy working in small organisations, which allows me to be in contact with people and to meet them in an authentic and spontaneous way. With the teams, we try to offer unforgettable and emotional moments. Our customers are looking for nature, emotions and serenity.
- Has the clientele changed over the last ten years?
The customer will always have the same level of demand, but we can see that they no longer have the same expectations: they want time, space, emotions and sharing.
- You had a serious accident in football, your other passion. In your opinion, how do you bounce back from difficulties or failures?
I played football for a long time, a team sport that I compare a lot to my management. A failure, like a success, is a collective event. I compare myself to the captain and not to the coach, because I am on the field with my teams in pain and in joy.
- Are there good and bad failures?
The most difficult thing is the fear of failure and not knowing how to bounce back. I believe that in every failure there is a solution, sometimes it is better to take risks than not to dare: "I never lose. Either I win or I learn", said Nelson Mandela.
- Are we all equal in the face of hardship?
In reality, no one is, we are all unique, no one will share the same combination of elements (qualities, defects, past, health...). My life changed 4 years ago, a physical pain that led to 4 back operations in 4 years, the last one in March 2020. My life would never be the same again, I had to relearn everyday gestures... a trauma that changed my life and that inevitably left after-effects. My mind and my state of mind have changed since then, I enjoy each day that passes and I want to show through my testimony that we can overcome difficulties.
- What did you learn about yourself and your skills?
"When you want to, you can. After my third operation, I lived in a rehabilitation centre for several weeks to recover, it was a nightmare. I thought the worst, the third operation was still a failure, it was impossible for me to walk, I thought my career was over. What kept me going was my family, my children and my partner: I had no right to give up. My mind took over, I regained my self-confidence, and as in team sport, it is important to say that we are never alone. It's a whole team behind you!
- What positive points can you draw from this?
I thought that this ordeal was going to put a definitive stop to my career. I am enjoying and working hard to continue my career while I can, it gives me something else to think about. My positive spirit has intensified, my motto: "Always look on the bright side of life".