42 year old Thomas Christiansen is at the highlight of his career. As General Manager of Grand Millennium Sukhumvit, he runs the hotel with common sense and a Danish mindset, and that appears to be a good combination.
Some people have a clear goal in life. They have direction and it almost seems as if a golden path lights up the way for them. These people have talents that make their choice of career is so obvious – they were born to do it. Thomas Christiansen has been the General Manager of the Grand Millennium Sukhumvit for five months, and it seems that he is one of those people.
Business in the blood
Growing up in Vejle as the son of the most successful hotel and night club owner in town, Thomas Christiansen’s biggest dream was always to make it big within the same line of work.
“I grew up in the business,” he says. “Before I could even walk or talk, I sat in my stroller in the kitchen of the hotel, and when I was older, I started joining my father at meetings. At an early age, I learned a lot about running a hotel because I experienced it through him.”
Thomas Christiansen recalls how interesting the hotel world always was to him and it was the only field he ever wanted to work in. Therefore, he immediately accepted a job in Paris when Disney offered him a position at one of their hotels. It did not matter to him or to Disney that he was very young at the time.
When Thomas Christiansen left for France and his new life in the hotel business, he had just graduated from high school the day before. Between now and then, he has only returned to Denmark for vacation.
For a long time, Thomas Christiansen worked all over the world. After living in Greece, Africa, Russia, America, and Spain, he got a job at Palace Hotel in Beijing. From there, his career in Asia took off.
As he moved from country to country, Thomas Christiansen continued to climb up the business ladder of the hotel world. So far, he has been in charge of several luxury hotels in South East Asia, and in October 2009, he started his new job as General Manager of the Grand Millennium Sukhumvit in Bangkok.
Scandinavian approach to management
It has been a long time since Thomas Christiansen left Denmark, and although he misses it at times, he does not think he could ever live there again.
“I think it is too complicated to work in Denmark. Work days in Thailand are long but at the same time I have a good life here.
“I have so many more opportunities to bring ideas to the table and change things at the hotel than my colleagues in Denmark do,” Thomas Christiansen says, and to him the challenges and influence a job gives him are very important.
Having lived in Thailand for nine years, it has become home to him and it always will be.
But even though Thomas Christiansen has left Denmark for good, he is still very proud to be Danish and he tries to incorporate the Danish mindset into the way he runs one of Bangkok’s best hotels.
According to the General Manager, this is a good approach to hotel management, and he firmly believes that he is creating better employees as well as a better work environment by doing things Danish-style.
“I don’t want to be the boss that my employees are afraid of or ‘that guy on the fifth floor’. I want to work side by side with them, and I think that is a particularly Danish mindset. That daily contact is so important and so far it has gone well. It seems that I am doing something right, anyway,” he says with a laugh.
Flair for hotel management
It does indeed seem that he has got it right when it comes to running a hotel, but according to Thomas Christiansen, he owes a big part of his success and rapid career advance to luck.
“It is almost as if my career has been planned ahead somehow,” he says and adds that he has always been very lucky.
“I have worked at some good hotels that have continued to help me develop my skills, and I have had excellent superiors who have helped me advance career wise.”
Whether Thomas Christiansen’s success has been due to higher powers or not is debatable. In any case, luck, in the hotel business, can only get you so far and Thomas Christiansen does admit that luck and talent are often closely linked and that he is actually very good at his job:
“Running a hotel is actually not that difficult. Our job is to provide the guests with a high service level and a good experience. My ambition is to give them more than they expect. I am good at service,” he says and adds with a grin:
“In the hotel business, that means I am good at making money.”
Thomas Christiansen has the skills and the eye for a successful business. His resume as well as the ambition he radiates speaks for itself. Both have undoubtedly also helped shape his career.
“I have never actually quit a job,” Thomas Christiansen says, and he explains that he has always been fortunate enough to receive increasingly better job offers along the way.
His father’s legacy
His early experiences with hotel management have given Thomas Christiansen an edge and a solid foundation for a successful life in the business.
Watching his father work and build successful hotels and bars up from scratch has been a tremendous source of inspiration for him.
It has also provided him with an instinct that helps him decide whether a risk is worth taking or not.
“I always have a gut feeling,” he says.
“But I make mistakes too. I am no super hero, but most of the time, I am right.”
On several occasions his gut has inspired him to take chances during crisis and it has almost always turned out to be the right decision.
“Sometimes it is necessary to make an investment. That’s what we did during the economic depression. We didn’t cut back on service for our guests. Had we done that, we would have been like any other hotel,” Thomas Christiansen says, and that is the one thing a five star hotel cannot afford to be if it wants to stay ahead in the hotel world.
This is what Thomas Christiansen has dreamt of his whole life. It is what he has always wanted and now he just feels privileged to be able to fulfil what he almost believes is his destiny.