Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Jeremiah Pauw, Peacock Hospitality Group: Overcoming Challenges and Embracing Sustainability

In this exclusive interview with Jeremiah Pauw, owner of Peacock Hospitality Group and the Fernie Fox Hotel in Canada, we delve into his inspiring journey from the oil and gas industry to hotel ownership. Pauw shares his greatest challenge of transitioning from a budget brand to a boutique hotel during the pandemic, as well as his innovative solutions to staffing issues. He also recounts a heartwarming story of offering a job to a vulnerable guest, showcasing his commitment to both his employees and customers. Join us as we explore Pauw’s future plans for business expansion and his valuable insights on navigating the small business landscape.

Interviewee Name: Jeremiah Pauw

Company: Peacock Hospitality Group (Fernie Fox Hotel)

Intervirew Host: Jesse Samberg

The Interview

Let’s get started. First, we’d like to know more about how you started your business journey

Jeremiah Pauw : My journey into hotel ownership started back in 2007. I was working in Oil and Gas exploration in Canadian artic. I had recently gotten married and had a child on the way. My work schedule of 3 weeks in the field and 1 week home in Melfort, Saskatchewan was not ideal for raising a family. My wife and I decided to make a change. Having no idea of what to do we embarked on a travel adventure to figure it out. Along our travels we found ourselves in Fernie staying at the Super 8. We stayed in town for a few days exploring and found we really liked Fernie. It was a small mountain town with a great community. As luck would have it the owners of the Super 8 that we were staying at became friendly with us and told us that they are thinking of selling the hotel. My wife (Marina) and I had joked that maybe we should buy it. We both had zero experience in running a hotel and it seemed like it was a pipe dream. But we decided to speak with the Bank and see if it was possible. 4 months later on April 1 2008 we were the new owners of the Super 8 in Fernie BC

Reflecting on your business history, what stands out as the single greatest challenge you’ve successfully navigated, and how did you overcome it?

Jeremiah Pauw : After running the hotel successfully for a few years we quickly learned that the Super 8 flag was not a good fit for us. It is a budget brand and it hampered our growth and we felt a bit like glorified managers not hotel owners. We did not have full control over our business decisions as we had to answer to the franchise and follow their standards and rules. We decided not to resign with them and go independent. We had a vision to transform our hotel from a Budget brand Super 8 to a boutique hotel that was as eco friendly as possible. So on April 1 2020 we officially dropped the Super 8 brand and became the Fernie Fox Hotel. This was a very scary decision as it was also at the beginning of the Covid pandemic. Travel had stopped and the tourism industry had ceased to exist. We very worried about the future but we turned the situation into a opportunity and we pivoted how we operated. We stayed open and housed front line workers and essential travellers. We also took the opportunity to reinvent our whole business. We renovated the entire property, installed 54 kw of solar and installed a culture of environmental sustainability into our way of doing business. When the pandemic ended we were a brand new property with a new ethos and way of operating. Business returned and we are having record years.

Businesses often face ongoing challenges. What does your business consistently grapple with, and how do you tackle these challenges head-on?

Jeremiah Pauw : I would say that one of our biggest challenges now is staffing. We had issues retaining staff and hiring the correct staff. One of the reasons it is hard to find staff is because Fernie is a expensive place to live and accommodations are to expensive for service workers to afford. We decided to house our staff. We bought an apartment complex with 37 1 and 2 bedroom apartments so we were able to offer our staff a affordable place to live. We also raised our starting wage to $24.00 per hour for all positions. This is higher than the industry average and is a living wage in Fernie with subsidised housing. We believe in an employee first model. The customer first model has been the industry norm forever and has been proven not to work because with out engaged enthusiastic employees to make customers happy my business would suffer. Our employees are an essential part of our success and need to benefit from it as well.

Can you share with us the most unforgettable story involving a customer or client? What made it memorable, and what lessons did you draw from the experience?

Jeremiah Pauw : We had a guest that stayed with us during the pandemic. This person was classified as a vulnerable person and the province was paying the bill. We had a contract with the province during the pandemic to help house vulnerable people. She would sit in the lobby everyday for a few hours playing games on her phone. Staff got to know this person and they became friendly. This person was friendly but extremely shy and reserved. It was obvious they had experienced some trauma in their lives. When this person stay was coming to an end they had nowhere to go. My staff had taken a liking to this person and felt that we should give them an opportunity and offer them a job in our laundry room. We were look for a person to fill this position, so we decided to try it out. This person still works for us years later and is a valuable teammate in our operations.

Looking ahead, what are your current plans for your business when you retire?

Jeremiah Pauw : No plans for retirement yet. We have plans to expand our business over the next 5 years we are planning to build 40 more hotel rooms on our property.

Navigating the small business landscape can be both challenging and rewarding. Can you share a bit about the specific hurdles you’ve encountered in areas like sales, marketing, and adapting to changing customer trends?

Jeremiah Pauw : Customers can be demanding and pleasing them is not always possible. Do what is right, stand up for what you believe and forg ahead even if it is hard. Follow your instinct and dont loose sight of your goal. But once your reach your goal make sure to make a new one.

Leaders Perception magazine would like to thank Jeremiah Pauw and “Peacock Hospitality Group (Fernie Fox Hotel)” for the time dedicated to completing this interview and sharing their valuable insights with our readers!

Interested in connecting with the host of this interview series? Feel free to reach out to Jesse Samberg on LinkedIn: Jesse Samberg’s LinkedIn Profile

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