Business of Happiness

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LEONG SU YING

ACCOUNTANT

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL SINGAPORE

How long have you been in the industry? I joined the industry in late 2010, so it’s been about eight years now.

Can you tell us more about your role and what you do on a daily basis? I’m an accountant, so I help to look at the hotel’s budget and come up with weekly and bi-weekly forecasts for the hotel. Put simply, I evaluate the various hotel departments and assess how much the hotel is spending on things like labour expenses, food costs and everyday purchases. I will then recommend any changes or strategies that the hotel can implement to increase our revenue.

What inspired you to pursue hospitality and join the industry? I really like the people aspect of the industry and the service-first nature of it as well. To be frank, hospitality wasn’t the first career option that came to my mind. I studied Chemistry in university for a year but I knew that it wasn’t my calling, so I switched courses and pursued Hotel Management instead.

Also, I had a short stint working part-time selling neckties at a mall before I started my university education. I enjoyed interacting with people and working in the service sector, so that was what drew me to the hospitality industry.

Do you get a lot of interaction with guests in your current role? I don’t get as many opportunities to interact with guests compared to my colleagues at the front office. I mostly communicate with guests via email or phone, but even then I do assess their moods and see how best I can assist them to resolve whatever issues they are facing.

I normally take an extra step and anticipate any other questions they might have, and go the extra mile to provide answers before they even ask. So I do have a part to play in shaping the customer experience with the hotel.

How has your career journey been like so far? I started at Four Seasons Hotel in the Human Resources (HR) department. I left Four Seasons to work in a different industry for a while, but I rejoined the hotel to work in the Finance department where I managed payroll and some of the hotel’s finances. That’s how I ended up as an accountant for the hotel.

What made you decide to take on a Finance role? When I came back to Four Seasons, I was managing the staff payroll which was closely related to what I used to do in HR. But as I took on more projects and responsibilities, I eventually moved further into the financial side of things. Unlike what most people might think, it’s not just strictly about crunching numbers. My team and I actually help our colleagues in other departments make sense of the numbers.

For example, some department heads might panic if their expenses are higher than expected. My team and I will then walk them through their finances and if they are overspending, we will advise them on how to manage their department’s budget better in the future.

What has been your most memorable experience in your career so far? There was once I received a thank you note from a colleague from another department. I was in the accounts receivable and credit department, and the note said: “Thank you for everything you do. Keep smiling!”. It was a simple gesture but it really made my day. It reminded me that while we work together to take care of our guests, we need to take care of each other as well.

Can you tell us more about your “Employee of the Year” award? I was in the accounts payable department that year, and at the same time I was also taking on the labour specialist role where I assisted with setting up the electronic attendance system for the hotel. The electronic attendance system helps us to record the actual time that each employee clocks in and out. We’ll then use the data to calculate labour productivity and see how we can schedule our manpower more effectively.

There was a lot of troubleshooting done to ensure that the parameters set in the system were churning out the correct hours and the various shifts set-ups were correct. Certain reports also needed to be customised to suit our requirements. So I had to work closely with the vendor and our various departments to ensure that the new system would work well for us.

I had a lot more responsibilities that year, and I was able to juggle the multiple roles quite well and it was nice to be recognised and rewarded with the Employee of the Year award.

What motivates you to do your best every day? Here at the Four Seasons Hotel, my colleagues and I follow a Golden Rule: “Treat others how you would want to be treated.” With this in mind, we make sure we give our best in everything that we do for our guests. I also believe in turning customer complaints into opportunities to do something good, so that motivates me as well.

What advice would you share with someone who is interested in joining the hotel industry? There’s something to learn at every juncture, so don’t be afraid to try new things or new roles. Even if you have to take a step back and do things that you’ve done before, approach your tasks with a positive mindset. Think about it this way: With more experience and knowledge, you’d probably be able to do those same things better.