SAMANTHA CROFT is the Director of Operations for Southern Sun for the KZN region, and she also looks after the resorts in South Africa.
“I’ve been with Southern Sun pretty much all of my career,” says Sam. “I trained with Protea Hotels; I had a sabbatical and went to Sun International at Sun City for eighteen months and came back to Southern Sun, so I’ve worked my way up through the ranks.”
The position Samantha had before this one, was as the general manager of Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani. Her big project there was to join the two hotels and create one big iconic hotel, which was launched in 2012. In 2018 Samantha was promoted to regional director of operations.
Samantha spends her days working with people – both guests and employees – so she says her day comprises of people. Her daily challenges are then related to guests or sorting out service delivery issues and sometimes staff. She says, “My big thing is to try and create an environment in which people can grow. I feel that if you have that environment, people can prosper, they are happier and are automatically more motivated, therefore, they deliver on your service promise.”
In addition, currently a major challenge that the hospitality industry is facing is that, traditionally, they’ve had to deal with matters within their control and matters within their building. Samantha explains, “For example your delivery of eggs doesn’t arrive. Now we are finding that we are dealing with external factors; like the sewerage issue, the beaches closing, and the rioting. I find that this is quite a challenge because there’s not much influence you have over those things. You’ve just got to try and get your team to work around those obstacles as best as they can.”
Samantha is also the chairlady of the Tourism Forum of the Durban Chamber of Business and Commerce. She was requested to join the organisation by the CEO Palesa Phili. Samantha said, “I am very excited for this journey and to see how the Durban Chamber has grown and started using relationships and collaborations to get things going in this city.”
INSPIRATION FOR THE JOURNEY
Speaking of who inspires her, Samanatha says that because she meets so many different people, there are various people that have motivated her and inspired her on her journey. Early on in her career, she was influenced by a lady who back in those days, when there were very few female managers, or senior managers, was probably the first person in such a role.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen her cry, and yet she is a softy. So, it’s not about being this hard-iron lady, it is about being able to portray the strength that you have. And not being one of those ladies that turn to tears and hopefully someone will feel sorry for you and that’s how you get your way. But over time I’ve also dealt with many managers along the way from whom you can also learn how not to be. Sometimes people have quite bad traits in their leadership style and when you go through the journey you kind of remind yourself that’s how you shouldn’t be. It’s not always taking the best out of people, but also ensuring that if you think there is something wrong, that you try and focus on not incorporating that into your leadership style.”
Samantha commented that she finds that the youngsters of today, the millennials and Generation-X, are into instant gratification. As such the youth of today, feel that when they have their degrees, they should become managers straight away. Her advice is that your degree on paper means that you have the knowledge, it doesn’t mean you know how to implement it yet and you need to do your time in the trenches.
She commented, “It helps you along the way because sometimes you may have staffing issues where staff can’t come to work because of taxis that are not running etc. Your operations still need to work and if you don’t learn how to do the menial tasks like checking in a guest or cleaning out of rooms, you’re not going to know what to do. Whereas if you learn along the way, this knowledge clicks in automatically. We have a saying that you need to do your10 000 hours and those really are your building blocks. I always say to people be patient and in time your turn will come.”
In order to unwind Samantha exercises every day. She lives in Ballito and drives to Durban quite early in the morning because she goes to gym. She says, “Four days a week I run and one day a week I have a personal trainer, I also have a running partner.”
Samantha has just recently learnt to body board and is overcoming her fear of the ocean. She has a huge respect for the ocean but loves spending time on the beach. ‘I was always nervous of the sea and now I’m starting to learn something new,” Samantha said.
In conclusion said Samantha, “This initiative is a great opportunity for women in KZN and I say KZN because I think we have had a tough time over the last couple of years. We were joking the one day saying that all we haven’t had was the plague. Every time you think you are overcoming something, another hurdle lands in your lap and I think that KZN has overcome these. I think we have tenacity, so I think this initiative will really help motivate women in our province.”