“Covid has acted like a time machine: it brought 2030 to 2020,”
Loren Padelford, vice president at Shopify Inc.
Our industry is going through a once in a generation change. I believe I’ve got a lot of value to give and it’s my purpose too help.
So much has changed over the last 18 months and things will never go back to the way they were pre-COVID. Things will be different forever and we need to adapt. I want to help hotels navigate that path.
I am in a pretty good position to do that, and it’s not just because I love technology and hospitality. I know how to adapt and change, see the opportunities no one else sees and help others along the way. That’s a pretty big claim and those that know me well call me humble. I am a very private person but there are some things that many close friends and colleagues keep telling me I must share so that you can understand what drives me. They call it my Entrepreneurial Spirit and they say people need to know, “They need to know you are a person who is really able to help.” So here goes…….
I grew up in business
My parents owned camping stores. Mum used to joke, but I believe it’s a true story. When Dad picked Mum and me up from the hospital after I was born we had a make a delivery to a customer on the way home. My childhood years were spent at my parent’s shop. I remember being picked up from kindergarten by one of Dads staff on his bike and we would get the lunches on the way back to the shop. As a 4-year-old my primary job was to cut up the boxes. I also got to watch my Dad and I learnt so much from him. I was also fortunate to be able to help customers. One of my first recollections as a 5-year-old was talking to a couple about a particular caravan, sharing the fun we had had in it until my Dad was free to serve them. Storytelling was just one of the things that I learnt from watching my Dad. I am pretty sure they brought that Caravan. It was this grounding that gave me my passion for service and for business. No matter who, I worked for in later years I always gave 110% and treated those businesses with the commitment & passion as if it was my own.
Before I created Technology 4 Hotels, I had a couple of other businesses. One company that I had sold tyres to the mining industry. It all started during the mining boom after my Uncle read an article that multi-million dollar mining machines were “on stumps” because of a global tyre shortage – he figured we’d find tyres and sell them to the mines. When we started it, we knew nothing about mining, nothing about tyres, however, I had visited China a few times, had some goods made and imported some stock. Within 12 months we had a business turning over $1M from my tiny study and we were selling to the major mining companies in Australia. It was during the mining boom and I knew it would not last forever, and when the GFC hit, I sure felt it.
As fate would I have it, I was then approached by a company I had met 6 months earlier about helping them find a customer for 300,000 litres of refined oil that they had stockpiled. As there wasn’t a market here, I found a buyer in Vietnam. They took the bulk of the product and a company in India also took a few 20,000 litre ISO tankers. I drafted and negotiated the contract of sale, arranged the shipping, all the documentation and sought the necessary approvals from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment for export. It was a shame but once the 300,000 litres were gone there was no more.
At that point based on the suggested need from a friend in the mining industry, I developed some photochromic safety glasses. In summary, the lenses went from clear to dark when exposed to the sun. The idea was that they would be ideal for the drivers who came out of a mine driving a huge truck who had to change from clear safety glasses to safety sunglasses. I sourced the lenses from Italy and had them manufactured in China and went thru all the approvals. I sold quite a few thousand pairs but in many respects, the technology wasn’t quite there. The product was ahead of my time.
A Bump in the Road
While I was working in these other industries, I was still working with hotels and in 2010 I decided to focussed fully on my passion and created, Technology 4 Hotels. Whilst in a rapid growth phase for the business, in 2015, I broke and dislocated my neck. I spent a fair bit of time in intensive care, couldn’t drive or lift anything over 5 kg for 6 months. I kept it pretty quiet and still managed to keep building the business. I even hired more staff. The job interviews were pretty funny as I looked like a mad man. I couldn’t shave or get my hair cut as I had to wear a brace 24 x 7 for 3 months – even when I showered! I clearly looked severely compromised yet I was conducting job interviews.
I grew up a catholic and whilst I am not practising, I certainly believe in a higher power. My specialist said to me on more than one occasion that he still can’t believe I survived. I should be dead or in a wheelchair. My view was that I had certainly been given a second chance. I just need to work out why and what my higher powers purpose was for me.
Less than a year later part of my purpose was revealed. I hadn’t seen my parents who lived in Melbourne for almost a year because of the neck. I went down for business, had dinner with them and stayed overnight. That morning my Mum passed away, completely unexpectedly. I was there for a reason and despite doing CPR for nearly 20 mins before the ambulance arrived we weren’t able to resuscitate her. But I was there for Dad. As often happens, a little over 12 months after Mum passed on Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My purpose was to care for him in his last weeks at home as he didn’t want to go into care. This was one of the most difficult personal challenges of my life. I became quite run down myself and got glandular fever, which knocked me around for a number of months afterwards.
I was still grieving but decided 2020 was the year that Technology 4 Hotels would double in size again. Then this little thing called COVID came along. I stayed true to Technology 4 Hotels and helping the industry recover. I could see it would be a while before hotels came out of shock, let alone were ready and able to work with me so, I created two additional businesses and I recently sold one of them.
Embracing Experiences and Experts
I’m a lifelong learner. I have mentors and business coaches. And I’ve been into personal development for a long time.
Those that know me also know that I’ve done a fair bit of charity work over the years. Hands Across The Water is the charity that my family and I have supported since 2012. I have completed multiple 500 Kms rides in Thailand and the business group that I belong to and ride with has raised over 2 million Australian dollars in the last 5 years.
The last ride was in 2019 and I was fortunate to share the experience (and it is an experience) with my 16-year-old son Joshua. I mention the charity rides as if you have ever done anything like this yourself you know doing something like riding 500Kms in 5 days in the heat of Thailand is both physically and mentally challenging. You can’t help but walk away from the experience changed. When Peter Baines the founder of Hands Across The Water asked my son Josh what he thought of the ride he said;
“I didn’t think it would be so hard or that my Dad was so crazy that he keeps coming back and has done 5 of these.”
It’s a combination of my childhood experiences, family business, starting my own businesses and the personal challenges over the last 5 years that have shaped me.
The reason I am sharing all this, (apart from peer pressure) is to share that I have faced some incredible business and personal challenges and always come out stronger – maybe a few more grey hairs and battle scars, but I have truly become the person I am today.
Following my Heart
In the last year and a half, I have realised that I’m happiest when I am educating and helping people. When I think back as a consultant in my 20s, I was writing educational articles and educating people about the opportunities and risks they were evaluating. It’s always something I have enjoyed. I also loved training staff. When I was a Property Management System installer, I enjoy imparting knowledge. Technology 4 Hotels, has been my way to help hotels in that technology space.
I now realise that my purpose is to help and educate
In line with that, I am calling myself a Technology Concierge. Similar to a hotel concierge if you went down and you asked for a restaurant recommendation, they would ask you, what type of food you like and potentially what sort of budget you had in mind. With hotels, I do the same. I ask them what their challenges are, and then help them to identify technologies that could help them to address them. Ideally, the technology increases revenue and reduce costs. I normally identify a couple of technologies. And then work through the process with them.
I have always leveraged technology to grow my own businesses and I now want to help hotels do the same using all the skills and experience that life has gifted me.
This is my purpose.