John and Sue Harvey are the operators of Quest Newmarket, an apartment-style hotel in the heart of Auckland’s thriving shopping district.
The couple were recently named Franchisee of the Year at the annual Quest Apartment Hotels New Zealand and Fiji Network Conference 2019 in November, a huge achievement for the Harveys and their 14 on-site staff.
“We were absolutely stoked, not only for ourselves – it was an endorsement for our staff,” John told Hotel Magazine. “It meant more for us because it meant that the staff are getting recognised for doing the job correctly. It basically tells you you’re doing your job.”
“We’re just a small team, but we operate as a family,” said Sue. “Everyone pays special attention to their area.”
The two business veterans brought a great deal of experience to the table when they decided to join forces and work together. Sue had spent the best part of sixteen years working for Mercedes Benz selling cars, whilst John had spent close to 40 years in the construction industry.
“Sue brought her ability to deal with people,” John explained. “She was top of the game in selling Mercedes cars, so her ability to look after people and communicate was invaluable. For me, I’ve been running businesses for 40-odd years, so whether it’s a hotel or a construction company, it’s still a business.”
By prioritising their staff, the Harveys are able to maintain the high standards they demand of themselves, and which are expected of them by their franchise partners, Quest. The couple make no distinction between themselves and their staff, be they cleaners, managers, or receptionists – all are on-site to perform a job to the best of their ability.
“Unfortunately, in hospitality, you’ll sometimes come across someone that doesn’t have the right attitude,” Sue noted. “We don’t have anybody like that, thankfully. We’ve got really good, hard-working, lovely people that we respect.”
Whilst the people-focused aspects of hospitality proved the perfect fit for the couple, some of the administrative systems required a learning curve. “I thought you’d just answer a phone and take a booking,” Sue chuckled. “But it’s nothing like that now – maybe 40 years ago.”
Also tricky for both John and Sue was the sudden need to share their vision with a new co-worker – each other.
Both coming from high-ranking backgrounds and used to making their own decisions, there were some teething issues when it came to having to work together to lead the business.
As Sue put it, “It was like putting two bulls in the same china shop. I’ve never been a stay-at-home wife; I’ve always been battling it out against men to sell cars. So I’ve always known how I want to do things, and John is used to running his own business and doing things his way. So we had to find a line somewhere in the middle.”
Alongside their own cooperation, John and Sue must keep in mind the demands and standard practices of Quest. As relative newcomers to the hotel industry, the couple expressed appreciation for the guidelines put in place by Quest to keep the hotel up to scratch.
“We pay Quest to be here with our franchise fee, so I like to use them as much as possible,” said John. “Quest have fairly high standards of how they want things to run. If I’m doing it right, and every other Quest is doing it right, it should be all the same.”
In the years since taking up the mantle together, though, the couple have found both strength and utility in their joint participation.
“We’ve become a ‘We’ rather than a ‘Me’,” Sue explained. “If a couple wanted to come into a business like this and one person was stronger than the other, or someone was more willing to compromise, it might be an easier transition, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a better formula for long-term success.”