Barry Robinson has been the President and Managing Director of Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific since 2003 and President and Managing Director of Wyndham Hotel Group South East Asia and Pacific Rim since 2009. Combined, the business has a portfolio in South East Asia and the South Pacific of more than 120 properties and is rapidly expanding across the region.
Barry would describe himself as being passionate about everything he does. He told me that he tries not to focus on small things and believes strongly in having a go. Barry enjoys being a driving force behind the growth in their business and the development of the more than 4,000 people they employ.
“To see people build their careers and personal brands in leaps and bounds as the business expands is exceptionally fulfilling.”
While he needs to be working and evolving his career, a work-life balance that gives Barry time with his family and down time for himself is very important. Barry lives on the Gold Coast and tries to surf every day that he is there, he likes playing golf and enjoys going on ski trips with his family.
Being a great admirer of Barry’s story, I decided to reach out to him and I’m glad he took his time to give us an authentic insight into his story.
When I was about eight, my father and grandfather decided to get out of the furniture business and build a hotel as a family on the North Island of New Zealand. It was my first foray into the hospitality business. I worked in all areas of the hotel: gardening, washing dishes, making beds, cleaning rooms and waitering. I even started behind the bar when I was just 13, which was the youngest age legally allowable for an owner’s child then. Both my father and grandfather were very successful businessmen and seeing them succeed helped me believe I could follow my own ambitions.
What unique and creative strategies if any did you use when you were first getting started?
I moved on from the family hotel to become one of the youngest hotel managers in New Zealand, then took up leadership positions in Indonesia and China, before joining Wyndham in Australia. No matter the market, guests are seeking personalised and memorable experiences, and that has always been my focus. I learned the lesson early in the way my father and grandfather prioritised service culture and I had respect for that.
Grit and determination are two traits I have had from an early age and they have helped me forge a career in this industry. When I was younger, I had a few reasonably serious health issues that could have held me back, but I refused to let them. Before entering the corporate world, I owned several of my own businesses, which taught me how to work hard and overcome obstacles. I learnt that nothing is guaranteed and we do not know what is ahead, so if we have a positive attitude, we are prepared to respond in the best way possible to a setback.
I am passionate, committed and driven and this mindset was imparted to me by my parents and developed in response to the challenges I experienced when I was younger. In hospitality, this mindset has helped me focus on how I can innovate, adapt and provide truly unique service to match evolving customer needs. I develop this mindset in myself and others by looking at what I can improve about my own life to make me a better person, both in what I give and impart to others and how I lead. I have always endeavoured to lead by example and I believe it comes across as genuine to everyone who works with me.
Most people would acknowledge that there is a financial component to success, yet I believe success in our business is measured principally by the culture we create. To get like-minded people working in alignment and creating a point of difference builds a company that is truly unique. That is the way to leave a legacy, and that is difficult to emulate.
Moving forward in business or in any endeavour involves a continual process of development and rising above challenges. That has always been something I strive to do. Once, I did not like the water, but I earned my diving ticket and I surf every day. I am not comfortable with heights but I have my pilot’s license. We are all going to have experiences in our lives that create fear or anxiety, but it is how you deal with them that determines your success.
One of the more common causes for failure that I see is self-doubt. I believe people who are not really committed to their plan or vision have a higher chance of failure. Another reason for failure is not being decisive enough – indecision can prevent the right move being made at the opportune time. When I set out to achieve something, I do not allow myself to consider failure as an option.
The best piece of advice I have come across is to be honest with yourself and others around you. My father and grandfather had strong values and I saw this form of honesty modelled from a young age. In a professional example, if people avoid giving honest feedback through performance appraisals or evaluations, it can actually be more detrimental to an employee than giving sound advice, setting new goals and suggesting ways to improve. To realise your potential, you need people to be honest with you and you need to be honest with yourself.