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“Dare to Succeed!”

“Dare to Succeed!”

On 2 December 2016, out of 500 candidates, Delphine Giraud was awarded the silver trophy in the “Female leader” category at the Women in Business Awards. At 44, this passionate entrepreneur lifted the Novotel Le Brezet, in Clermont-Ferrand (France), to a recognised level of excellence. What are the secrets of her success? We spoke to Delphine Giraud – a General Manager with a head full of ideas.

On 2 December, you won the national Female business leader award at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Paris. What are your memories of that moment?

A great deal of happiness because I wasn't expecting it and it was the first time I had entered. The awards often go to leading Michelin-star chefs or founders of innovative companies, they don't normally go to people in a role such as mine. I got a huge amount of support for my nomination. This prize does not just belong to me, but it is a symbol of pride for the city of Clermont-Ferrand, the region of Auvergne and all my colleagues in the hotel industry. Above all, I wanted to dedicate my award to my team and share it with the owner of the establishment who trusted me and gave me the resources I needed to succeed.

How did you get to this level of responsibility?

After completing hotel school with a specialisation in tourism marketing and hotel management, I worked and travelled, mainly in Spain and Canada, before working at the Group's HQ and then for ibis. The owner of the Novotel in Clermont-Ferrand spotted my skills of adaptability and my ability to be the "hostess". He recruited me as an assistant to the General Manager, with whom I was able to complete my training. This is why I strongly believe you do not leave school as a fully-formed manager, you have to become one with hard work and will-power.

What were your first steps in this role?

The bar was very high and, as a woman, I felt like I had to work twice as hard. I devoted myself to my work and, for the rest of the time, to my two children. You need to recognise which sacrifices it is worth making. Thankfully I am very persistent because it takes years before you learn how to get it right. But when you invest your passion and positive energy into something, things tend to go pretty swimmingly.

How do you think being a woman influences your management style?

First and foremost, I'm able to add some feminine touches: changing uniforms, carefully selecting the flowers for the hotel, and so on. I also think my management style is gentler and more compassionate: I am very clear in my instructions, I tell people what is acceptable and what isn't, I am very firm but I am always ready to listen to my employees. We share our congratulations at the birth of a new child as well as condolences at the death of someone in their family. If they are having problems, they know that they can come to see me about changing their timetable for instance. Also, I trust my employees, even though I am in control behind the scenes. Finally, in terms of recruitment, I am proud to have achieved parity in my teams as well as equal pay.

How were you able to use your passion and energy to improve the hotel?

The hotel had 96 rooms, three stars but an enormous potential. Despite the crisis, I convinced the owner, using studies to back up my argument, to renovate and expand. This helped us to achieve a fourth star under the new standards. We built a Spa and a fitness centre, we created new "executive" rooms and doubled the size of the meeting rooms. The team grew from 65 to 90 employees. We also successfully achieved the environmental certification ISO 14001. In 2015, we reached the "gold" level in the AccorHotels Planet 21 programme. Finally, the hotel became the first in its category and for its capacity in Clermont-Ferrand. It has become a meeting point for many people, for instance, for the Clermont-Ferrand Hoteliers Club which I currently chair.

How have you managed to bring the hotel to life?

You only get out what you put in: that's the principle key. There is quality in what we do, but you also need to offer warmth. With that in mind, I organised public relations events to inform people of our services: a special evening to celebrate the annual opening of the pool with 300 important figures from around Clermont-Ferrand, parties, jazz events because I am a big music fan, barbecues, exhibitions, free hotel stays handed out to our best customers, and so on. These initiatives helped to forge memories and created a solid bond with our customers.

Why do you think that it is still necessary to prove that women can be as successful as men?

With the exception of a few women who have achieved remarkable things, like Sophie Stabile at AccorHotels, we rarely talk about their professional success. Also, women are less willing to be nominated for awards because they often underestimate their success even though they have an abundance of skills. That's why I decided to join the judging panel for the Women in Business Awards. In 2017, I hope that I can encourage other women to take part!

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