Justus van Dam wins the NXT GM Challenge, organised by the Postillion Hotel Group

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Justus van Dam?

I was born in Amsterdam and grew up in Hilversum. I am the eldest of four brothers. My parents have a company together, so I come from a quite entrepreneurial family. I started Hotelschool The Hague in 2015 and will soon graduate.

How has your time at Hotelschool The Hague been? Any favourite subjects?

At Hotelschool The Hague I have learned the importance of valuable skills. For example, certain soft and strategic skills are crucial to successfully run a business. I personally very much liked the course of Strategic Development, because it provides the knowledge and tools to establish a long-term strategy for a business. The course also gives you the skills to evaluate it within the market, thus compare it with the competition and global trends. Furthermore, I really enjoyed CMS; with the Communicating Challenging Messages course I learned how to establish an effective conversation during crucial and emotional moments. I believe that the skills taught in this course are extremely helpful, both in a professional and personal environment.

Could you tell us more about the NXT GM Challenge and your experience?

The Postillion Hotel Group started the challenge in cooperation with HotelloTop, a hospitality networking organisation. I found the challenge a little bit by coincidence, while I was scrolling down my Facebook feed. I saw a post about the project and decided to apply. The Challenge has different phases: the first one is the selection of ten candidates based on their application. I was one of the ten selected candidates! The second phase consisted of a series of challenges where candidates were eliminated throughout the day. Each phase was graded and the candidate with the highest score won the challenge. And I did! Since 1 September 2019, I have been the General Manager of the Postillion Hotel Amersfoort Veluwemeer for a year.

Have you always wanted to become a General Manager?

My passion has always been hospitality and after starting Hotelschool The Hague, I quickly realised that the combination of hospitality and business administration was a great fit for me. In the past, I used to work at the Pulitzer Hotel and decided to perform my final internship there. After winning the NXT GM Challenge, the General Manager of the Pulitzer Hotel was eager to coach me on in-depth knowledge about the managerial level of a hotel. I was welcomed to attend management meetings. One of the most important things I learned is to evaluate the budget for the Pulitzer Hotel for 2020. This experience helped me develop the yearly budget for the Postillion Hotel, prior to even starting there as the General Manager.

Will there be somebody guiding you throughout the challenge at the Postillion Hotel Amersfoort Veluwemeer?

I was lucky to have a conversation with the current CEO of the Postillion Hotel Group and asked him the same question, as this opportunity is quite a challenge! He just answered: “Do you want somebody to hold your hand?" which - I think - implied that I should just go for it and that I would figure it out eventually. He also explained how lucky I was to have the possibility of becoming a General Manager at such a young age; it usually requires years of experience. “You are basically cheating on others who have to work at least ten years to become a General Manager,” he joked. There will be so-called "coaches of the industry" which will guide me throughout the 12 months and provide me with feedback, guidance and advice. Each month, I will have the chance to meet a different coach. For example, I will be meeting with the General Manager of the Okura Hotel, and I will also be meeting with the Managing Director of Bidfood, which is a very large food supplier. We will analyse my performance to improve and grow.

What do you think makes you different compared to the General Managers who have ten years of experience?

My top management experience is yet to be developed and therefore, I am flexible and open towards procedures. Managers with more experience tend be stuck into many processes and habits that they developed over the years. I am aware that I need to learn all the tasks and duties, while experienced managers already know those. I believe I am bringing new perspectives and angles, and it comforts me that the entrepreneurial mindset of the Postillion Hotel Group allows me to make mistakes and learn from them, in order to further develop myself and the Group.

What inspires you? What advice can you give to students who want to become General Managers?

I personally get very much inspired by innovative concepts such as Zoku, because it motivates me to implement new ideas into existing business concepts. I am very interested in ideas that are based on shared experiences and look forward to seeing what could be realised at the Postillion Hotel in Amersfoort. Luckily, I have the freedom to implement changes in the hotel if they are feasible and after approval from the senior management. I consider myself very lucky to have this kind of empowerment and I’m sure I will learn a lot from it. If I had to give an advice, I would recommend making sure to be aware of the various responsibilities that come along with a position. In my case, I need to be aware that I am responsible for all the employees, and it is important to be mentally prepared for all kinds of situations and scenarios that could occur.

What do your future plans look like? Do you have an idea already?

After being given this amazing opportunity by the Postillion Hotel Group, I can see myself pursuing my career with them. They have offered me the chance of a lifetime and I would really like to continue working in this company.

Do you have any advice or tips for the current students of Hotelschool The Hague?

All I would like to say is: “If you have a dream or passion, fight for it and set yourself a deadline to make it happen: pass your courses, follow your dreams and pursue what makes you happy.”