Ninety-nine percent is not good enough

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“Ninety-nine percent is not good enough.” This was the message given by speaker Kim Johansen to the Pattaya City Expats Club at its Sunday, September 25 meeting at the Amari’s Tavern by the Sea Restaurant.  Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg introduced Kim who was the builder, operator, and now former owner of the Pattaya Bay Resort Hotel.

Kim has had a long and distinguished career in the field of emergency medical services.  He has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Dr. of Public Health Degree. He served as Chief of the San Francisco Ambulance Service for 18 years, most notably during the 1989 earthquake. During his career he has been responsible for the emergency medical care of five U.S. Presidents, a health care advisor to the Chinese government, coordinator for the emergency medical services for Pope John Paul’s visit to the Philippines in 1995, and in 2001 he began serving as the Director of Health & Safety for the 20th World Scout Jamboree held in Sattahip, Thailand – a three year project.  He has been in Thailand ever since.

Kim Johansen relates his miraculously successful experience designing, constructing, managing and selling his Pattaya Bay Resort Hotel.Kim Johansen relates his miraculously successful experience designing, constructing, managing and selling his Pattaya Bay Resort Hotel.

Kim mentioned that at the time of his previous talk to the Club about the hotel, he had just completed construction and started operations.  He has recently sold it to a hotel group based in Bangkok.  Using a PowerPoint presentation, Kim launched into one of the most informative and interesting presentations the Club has had.  He pointed out that when he undertook to build a hotel, he had no hotel business experience other than having been a guest in numerous hotels; but being a guest, he knew what he liked and didn’t like; e.g., adequate electrical outlets, lighting, equipment that works, and comfort. Kim said that the underlying guiding principle for both construction and operation was that 99% was not good enough – it had to be 100% right.

Apple, the managing director of the DMC Happy Learning School, explains her unique approach to teaching foreign languages.Apple, the managing director of the DMC Happy Learning School, explains her unique approach to teaching foreign languages.

The first part of his presentation dealt with the initial planning and construction, including how to find the right contractor, terms to put into the contract, and oversight of the construction work.  He said he kept the building at 8 floors because anything more than that would need an environmental review and approval from Bangkok; which would be more time consuming. He explained that respecting Thai culture and looking after the workers welfare helped to keep a satisfied work force. As a result, the construction projected to be completed in 12 months was finished in 10 and a half.

He then explained how he set about hiring and training staff to provide the type of service he expected.  He also said that a key to getting this service was to treat staff well and provide them with a good salary, benefits, and rewards for good performance. He said they learned quickly about his philosophy that 99% was not good enough. That philosophy, he attributes to the success of the hotel noting that it had an average occupancy of 85% for four and a half years with 65% of their guests being repeat customers. For operations, the hotel’s motto was “traditional Thai service with modern conveniences.”

Jan Chris Von Koss (left) and Richard Silverberg listen to Richard Smith describe the Club’s new, additional, group health insurance policy that will provide coverage for some older members.Jan Chris Von Koss (left) and Richard Silverberg listen to Richard Smith describe the Club’s new, additional, group health insurance policy that will provide coverage for some older members.

Kim said that from the start, he wanted everything done legally. He ensured that taxes were paid, all computer software was licensed, immigration reports were made as required, no underage guests were permitted, and friendly relations were kept with the police and other officials.  This, he said, saved him a lot of grief when a disgruntled former employee tried to cause problems by making complaints to labor authorities, police, and other officials alleging violations.  He concluded by saying that the hotel was always an investment and that when the market was right, he sought a buyer. He explained the buyer’s due diligence and how he had the sales contract include a requirement to keep on the present staff.

After Kim answered many questions from the audience, Richard Silverberg updated everyone on upcoming events and called on Roy Albiston to conduct the always informative and sometime humorous Open Forum where questions are asked and answered about expat living in Thailand, recommendations for restaurants and movies are made, an and perhaps a joke or two are told.