Léna Le Goff has been the general manager of Les Sources de Caudalie since December 2018. After almost twenty years of service within various international hospitality groups and renowned Parisian venues – Dokhan's, Grand Powers and, lately, Le Grand Hotel du Palais Royal – she is back in the Bordeaux area, where she had worked in the past at the Regent Grand Hôtel Bordeaux. Now, from a palace nestled in vineyards, she reveals the reasons of her choice, but also the values that now govern the way she sees her profession.
Vendom.Jobs - After working for important international groups, why did you choose a family-owned company?
Léna Le Goff - Les Sources de Caudalie is in fact the second family company I have worked for [after the Grand Hôtel du Palais Royal]. I would say that it all depends on one's personality. I am a very independent person; I like to contribute my ideas in a project. Working in a family business gives me the possibility not only to develop a project with the owner and act as a GM, but also to have a supporting role. After a bond of trust is established, the owner gets to consider you as a partner and consequently a real collaboration can be set up. The sense of achievement in that case is much closer to an individual fulfilment.
V.J. - How does this environment/this area inspire you in terms of experience and excellence?
L. L. G. - I wanted to come closer to nature and give sense to my mission. When you have acquired a certain experience and have travelled a lot, you feel the need to link with your values. My own personal values come within the scope of corporate responsibility; in other words, I aim at playing my part and making the world “a little better”. It was essential for me to find myself in a place that has a bond with nature.
At Les Sources de Caudalie, we grow our vegetables in our own vegetable garden, within a responsible approach and in a biodynamic practice. The emphasis is on local food systems, etc. That way, we give sense to our profession, not only as hoteliers, but most of all as luxury accommodation professionals, as we preserve a bond with our direct environment.
Customers also share this approach. Of course, they choose Les Sources de Caudalie to enjoy a unique experience. To them, the venue is a soothing hideaway. Several customers confided how pleasant it was for them to satisfy, within our establishment, their need to get out of their daily environment in a positive way, while allowing themselves to get pervaded by the venue and what it has to offer.
V. J. - What are the assets of this type of establishment (compared to large city hotels)?
L. L. G. - One chooses to stay at Les Sources de Caudalie for specific reasons. Either you explore the location for the grands crus and the vineyards of Château Smith Haut Lafitte. Or you are interested in the SPA and the Caudalie products. You mostly enjoy the place for the authenticity of a splendid venue and environment, but also for the way the buildings were restored, using only natural, old materials and reusing them when possible, like the indoor swimming pool built three years ago with reclaimed wood. In that sense, Les Sources de Caudalie is infused with authenticity, grounding and a quest for meaning. That is also deeply reflective of the questioning nature of our time.
V. J. - In your view, what are the keys to hospitality and luxury accommodation?
L. L. G. - To me, luxury always meant to have a choice. For example, if you want to be completely taken care of, you can. That implies that if you wish to order a coffee from room service, you can do it, but you can prepare it with your own espresso machine in your room as well. Or you can ask room service to take care of your clothes, etc. My view of luxury is to have, at all times, the choice to lead the life you wish.
From my perspective, the keys to hospitality are, above all, empathy and a good listening attention. To be able to detect, in a very caring manner, the experience that the customer wishes to enjoy. Everyone has different expectations. Everyone will have a different way of judging a successful experience. In luxury accommodation, the main mission is to understand, in a very swift and intuitive way, how you can sublimate the experience of the customer standing in front of you. This task has to be carried out in a very personal manner; this is why listening is essential.
V. J. - Do you perceive future trends in this industry?
L. L. G. – An increasing trend that is already present is the concept of beauty, and the good that goes with it. Of course, the aesthetic dimension is very important and has already been present for a long time in large luxury palaces in cities worldwide, on the Côte-d’Azur or in our regions. Now, this notion is associated with the concept of good. People are not only looking for well-being, they also embrace a quest for meaning. My perception is that everything revolves around those three pillars that together generate a harmony, a circle [aesthetics, good, meaning]. Today, if you want to succeed in luxury hospitality, you must satisfy the need for beauty, aesthetics, and for good under all its aspects – from the food you offer, to SPA treatments, to the quality of the surrounding air, to the light in the room, etc. And finally, the capacity to give meaning to all that, in regard to your own personal quest.
V. J. - Is this a recent awareness in luxury accommodation or is it something that you saw developing during your whole career?
L. L. G. – Actually, I feel that I saw this concept growing. Perhaps this is only my feeling as a woman, a somewhat maternal point of view for this desire for harmony and realization. Usually, women reflect these values, but I think that there is an increasing awareness that if you have means, then you also have duties and responsibilities. Though this understanding is quite recent, everyone is starting to share this vision.
Another significant point is the transition towards the digital era. Over the past two years, I have seen this trend becoming increasingly prevalent and changing our lives in an almost total way. Almost as it happened for the industrial explosion era, we must consider how digital technology is changing our consumption patterns, the way we perceive our consumption but also how we behave, how we think, how we share ideas; all that is changing professions, especially in the service industry.
V. J. - Isn't this precisely a challenge to create a beautiful harmony between a quest for authenticity and the fast and exponential evolution of digital tools?
L. L. G. – Working with private owners gave me the opportunity to assess more directly the way digital technology is dealt with. There are actually two tendencies: the first aims at developing hotels centered on digital technology and is usually followed by more urban and contemporary hotels that really integrate it in their offer. Grand Powers, le Grand Hôtel du Palais Royal and Les Sources de Caudalie are extremely elegant hotels, which hold a true aesthetic dimension where digital technology is not a guiding principle, but an auxiliary support that helps keeping the establishment connected with the times. It is necessary that digital technology goes unnoticed, that it contributes to our vision of authenticity and elegance until it becomes an almost natural element that is available when you need it, but not necessarily put forward. It is extremely important for an establishment like Les Sources de Caudalie, which takes over the area's architectural codes, rich of its traditional materials, to integrate digital technology through small and almost imperceptible steps.
V. J. - In your view, what is successful management?
L. L. G. - I believe that managing implies first a frequent reassessment with the teams you work with. Managing should not be static. Moreover, digital technology is precisely changing the way we interact with others and our relations, even at work. Therefore, a successful manager is someone who knows how to listen, who is benevolent and understands the motivation keys of the people around him/her. At the same time, it is important to create support. We all try, on all levels, to understand the context in which we are evolving, its limitations, to get to know how to position ourselves in this environment. A good manager must explain where the guidelines are, where the aim is. All this has also to be done while giving some meaning to the mission. As humans, customers or staff, finding meaning in what we do is essential.
In my opinion, successful management involves two aspects: a careful listening and understanding of motivations to help teams be fulfilled and functioning and, in parallel, the creation of context and meaning to communicate, so that people adhere and everyone can move forward together. To achieve this goal, I am always pleased when team members submit proposals that we can examine and improve together in adequacy with the values conveyed by the venue (for example reducing waste production). That approach makes us all responsible and allows us to participate and find fulfilment in the company in addition to our allotted daily tasks. The whole organization can only gain from that.
V. J. - What is your luxury?
L. L. G. - Following my experience in Saint-Martin [managing the Radisson Blu], my luxury remains the turquoise blue of the Caribbean Sea and its luxuriant vegetation, and also the intense green of the tropical plants. In that environment, with a constant temperature around 82°, the body feels wonderful and nature is everywhere with its colourful explosions. The luxury given by nature makes us realize that nothing lasts, that this beauty is fragile and that we are responsible for this heritage. It is important that we understand that the work we have to carry out there can also be achieved through communication and common actions.
Translated by Tania Ricci
33650 Martillac - FRANCE