Please state your name, your position, and a bit of your Business.
Jean-Claude Branch – Founder and CEO of Emerald City Hotels
How did the business start?
I started as an analyst at Merrill Lynch in San Francisco. I am Sydney born but studied international business and finance at the University of San Francisco. I originally thought I would work in the financial world but a successful renovation of a San Francisco heritage home at 21 years changed all that.
When I returned to Australia, I started renovating heritage homes. Then a bigger project came up, a 30-room historic hotel called Cremorne Point Manor. I was lucky to get backing by private investors and renovated, rebranded and rebreathed life into the beautiful building that was built in 1910. I took it from 3 stars up to 4 stars. That was quite an achievement. Soon enough there were enough hotels to create a brand “Emerald City Hotels”. Emerald City Hotels now has as part of its portfolio: Cremorne Point Manor, Dalziel Lodge, Glenferrie Lodge, Cremorne Point Manor, North Sydney Suites and soon The Albert, Mosman.
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What are the challenges you met and how did you manage to cope up with these challenges and reach your current status?
What challenges haven’t I met? Jokes aside, I would say the biggest challenge is infusing heritage and modern accommodation. Anyone can knock down a building and put a kit home or standard unit block on a site, but to take into consideration the history of a building, the cultural story it has to tell and the vision of the modern architect is a unique skill set. Many of these parts rub up against each other, all the time. It’s my job to work through the problems and create a quality result.
Who influenced you in this industry and how did he/she influence you?
A great mentor for me has been Joost Heymeijer. I met him when he was the General Manager of the luxurious Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa near Lithgow. After many stays there myself, we finally got into a conversation and I learned a lot from him. I then would take him to lunch when he lived in Sydney. Joost has a bar of excellence that you rarely come across. He has been very influential.
On a personal note, a great mentor has been my grandfather. His name was Albert and is an inspiration for the hotel name. That and the fact that the name Albert has quite a history in Mosman.
How did you manage to market your business and compete with other agencies in your niche?
We market our business the same way we compete with other businesses. We have an edge; infusing heritage and modern accommodation allow for a unique experience. We also have dedicated staff that understands the importance of customer service. As you walk into any of our premises, we have the saying “Welcome Home” displayed to greet you. We genuinely try to convey the warmth of home with the convenience of a hotel.
Stay unique to who you are. Find your unique strengths and work on those. Don’t just be a copy of someone or brand you want to be. Where is the fun in that? Working for yourself is much harder, you never actually take a holiday, even when away I am not ever truly away from work, These days with ubiquitous data globally the challenge to working for yourself or starting your own business is trying to find the time to balance the all-consuming project and your family life. Trust me, it’s the biggest challenge and I’m still working on it!