Back of House, Front of Mind
“Back of House, Front of Mind” is a podcast presented by Healthy Mind Menu, an industry-led initiative that aims to improve the lives and normalise conversations around mental health for those working in the hospitality industry.
Welcome, Anneke Brown
Join us in this episode as we celebrate International Women’s Day with Anneke Brown
Anneke Brown has spent her 25-year career traveling the world with hospitality. She is a founding member and Acting Chair of Women in Tourism and Hospitality WA, and a Commissioner on the Board of Tourism WA. She is also a proud and devoted mother to a gorgeous three-year-old boy. Anneke’s international experience includes roles at Aman Resorts. As the global Director of Training for Aman Resorts, Anneke was part of the project team for 8 resort openings in Cambodia, India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Caribbean.
In Australia, Anneke’s management roles include Moondance Lodge in Margaret River, Resort Manager of the iconic Longitude 131 at Uluru, and General Manager of COMO The Treasury, Perth. Anneke’s passion for Western Australia and the tourism industry led to her forming her consultancy business Anneke Brown Consulting in 2020, specialising in hospitality and tourism projects.
What is your current Occupation? Tell us how you spend your days.
I run a consulting business offering services to tourism and hospitality projects. My clients are both in Western Australia and internationally. Bringing an international standard to hotel design and operations, along with excellence in training and education, the business provides solutions to Western Australian organisations with the desire to elevate their offering. I look after approval pathways for developers, navigation of the government approvals process, then onto operational design working with architects on the guest flow and staff flow requirements. Further to this I provide budget proposals and feasibility studies, and pre-opening recruitment and training proposals.
I am the Acting Chair of Women in Tourism & Hospitality WA which is a voluntary committee whose aim is to support, mentor, encourage, inspire, and motivate women in our industry. I am a Commissioner on the Board of Tourism WA, since July 2021. I am a mother of a gorgeous 3-year-old boy!
Tell us more about your experience in hospitality.
Throughout my 25-year career in hospitality, I have had the privilege of traveling the world and gaining valuable experience in various roles. My journey started with a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Western Australia, which provided me with a strong business foundation. I then dove straight into the travel and hotel industry, working in operations and training.
My first role in hospitality was at the Subi Hotel in the mid ’90s, where I began as a waitress and worked my way up to a Supervisor. I then ventured to Sydney for a job with Flight Centre and worked as a travel agent for 10 months. After working in various hospitality and travel roles in Australia, I took on an opportunity with the luxury group Aman Resorts overseas. As their global Director of Training, I was exposed to the world of hotel projects and was fortunate enough to be part of the project team for 8 resort openings in countries such as Cambodia, India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Caribbean.
After my time with Aman Resorts, I returned to Australia to work in management roles at a boutique hotel in Margaret River and then as the Resort Manager of the Australian luxury icon, Longitude 131 at Uluru. In 2010, I moved back to Perth to become the WA General Manager of an Australian Registered Training Organisation, where I led the team in a multi-million dollar hospitality training program across the Pilbara.
In 2014, I began working on the COMO The Treasury, which opened in October 2015. As General Manager, I led the team in delivering an internationally award-winning hotel to the Perth market. I am proud to have had such a diverse and rewarding career in hospitality and am excited for what the future holds.
Explain the reasons why mental well-being has become important to you.
Hospitality is like no other industry. Most of us start in the industry at a very young age, straight out of school with very little life experience. Yet we are thrown into challenging situations where we have to make decisions on the spot. The lessons you learn at a really young age are amazing – dealing with people and their varied emotions, dealing with time pressures, dealing with money, long hours, late nights, alcohol-influenced people, etc. Maintaining a healthy mindset is so important in order to handle all the above.
The first major life challenge I faced when working in hospitality was very early on – about two years into my first waitressing job at the Subi, I lost my father. I vividly remember just wanting to work all the time to take my mind off it, but that wasn’t healthy – and I even had a terrible moment where I was so tired and physically/emotionally exhausted that I snapped at a customer – a regular who was complaining about his bill, but it tipped me over the edge.
It is important to me when I operate a venue to be very aware of the experiences that the team is facing and to remain open to support them when needed.
How do you prioritise self-care and balance it with other responsibilities in your life? Work-life balance. (Sleep, nutrition, connectedness, physical activity, downtime)
The balance! The juggle! Becoming a mum recently has added even more importance to work-life balance. Hospitality can be all-consuming. Being a GM of a hotel is a 24/7 job – you are on call at all hours, every day of the year! So it is important to set yourself up for success.
Managing a team means employing dedicated people to take on responsibilities. You must train your people, set them up for success, delegate tasks and responsibilities, empower them, and then you must trust these people. This is the only way to truly have balance.
Finding what to do in your downtime is important. Being glued to social media can be a terrible time waster, so put boundaries on that time – limit the minutes you allocate to ‘scrolling’ – then make sure you move on to other more enriching activities.
It is ok to say no to things – if you simply cannot fit them into your schedule.
Prioritise the things that are important – that make you smile.
How do you inspire well-being in those around you?
Happiness is key – it is so important to enjoy what you do. It is not always fun and games, so you need to accept that but always find the purpose in what you do.
Hospitality is about entertaining people. If the team is enjoying themselves it is obvious to the guests. The reward is seeing guests truly enjoying their stay or experience.
There is real adrenaline in hospitality – it’s fast-paced and you have to be 100% switched on. You have great fun in a great team – when everything just flows.
Taking ownership of your contribution to the success of the business is important.
You give a lot of your energy to hospitality covering all the above points. So it is important to find your balance – what you enjoy doing in your downtime. Find those friends that lift you up, make sure you engage with them, and share your experiences, everyone needs their ‘cheerleaders’ in life.