Women in Business – Surviving the First Two Years: “Network, network, network.” Interview with Sandra Gannon

Interview with Sandra Gannon, founder of Revenue Puzzle, on her experiences being a woman entrepreneur.

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Please tell us a bit about yourself, and describe your company.

Hospitality was a childhood’s dream. I was only seven when I walked into one of the few 5 star hotels in East Germany, saying to my mother that I will work here one day. There was a very slim chance back then. 

I started 26 years ago with an apprenticeship in Germany, then moved to London to become a receptionist. I worked my way up through Front Office, Assistant Manager, Group Sales, Events, Leisure sales – you name it, all of these positions in the UK or the Middle East before finally arriving in Dublin. 

I became a Director of Revenue Management at the Westin Dublin, before going off to join O’Callaghan Collection to gain a different group experience, and finally pre-opened the Marlin Dublin, a complete new style of hotel offering to the Irish market. When COVID hit I decided it was time to share my years of experience and established my company, Revenue Puzzle

Increasing revenue in hotels and allocating resources is certainly a puzzle. Revenue Puzzle offers project-based, short or long term support. Anything from a daily – weekly check-in with a hotel to ensure that their revenue strategy and forecast is still on target. We can support interim revenue management, audits, or just have a one-time session. 

I have always seen revenue management like a puzzle; individually not very important, but crucial to see the big picture. You can’t make something work if the pieces don’t join together, and that’s what I am here for; I love seeing efforts and strategies in work. 

My motto is “Selling the right product to the right customer at the right time for the right price with the right message”.

I am also a mother of two amazing children, who vacated their playroom for me to take over as home office and even designed a sign for during my zoom calls to highlight new company. With them I learned to see things through their eyes, nothing is a problem, there are only solutions, and to look forward. They are trying to teach me patience every day for the past 10 years. 

 What has been the most challenging thing you have faced in the first two years of operating your business? How did you overcome it?

I set my business up 3 months into a major pandemic with the aim to help hospitality businesses bounce back when time is ready. With continued lockdowns since, and most countries not having reopening dates, business trading has been challenging. I have used that time to build up my connections and company content. Building relationships has certainly helped me to get my name out and see positive outcomes so far. 

Can you highlight some of the digital strategies initially used to get your business off the ground?

As I set up I registered on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Youtube. I found regular content worked best for awareness. So I experimented with content like #todolistmonday, #facttuesday, #roundupfriday etc. I found posting mid-morning gave me the best exposure, As much as my own postings it’s important to comment on other posts.

What are some of the biggest digital marketing challenges you have faced to date? How have you overcome them?

I found that for me only LinkedIn really worked as a platform. I tried paid adverts both on Facebook and LinkedIn but given the service I offer is very specific and niche I found that ads dont really work for my business. It’s more about getting the name out. 

Do you have a preferred platform for marketing? 

Due to the business I am offering I found LinkedIn the best platform. That way I can connect with potential new clients, industry experts and suppliers as well as staying up-to-date with any changes & developments.

Please tell us what led you to the path of entrepreneurship. 

I was made redundant a few months ago. I am going to be honest here, I was upset, broken and could barely believe it. 

I survived recessions already, but COVID was stronger. The hotels in Ireland started to reopen (well and closed again) without me. After 26 years in the workforce I just could not allow myself to be unemployed. I had an amazing few months spending time with my kids and husband, I got to know them even better, from a very different perspective. 

With everything changing I started looking for opportunities outside hospitality, and sent out a lot of applications. However, I realized that I have spent 26 rewarding years in this industry and I am very much driven by hospitality. Now I would like to share my experiences. Huge thanks to all the former colleagues, friends, and family who encouraged me to create Revenue Puzzle!

What are the three most important things every woman entrepreneur should do, when first thinking about starting a business?

I saw these posts a few months ago on one of the social channels and thought they were very appropriate at the moment. My hotel-based door seems to have temporarily closed, but an opportunity came from it. I am now working on sharing the knowledge I gained over the past 26 hospitality years with potential new clients. That would be my first advice.

My second piece of advice would be to build up a trusted network of contacts. Whilst I have 26 years of hospitality experience, in the last year, the industry had to adapt and become increasingly agile so staying on top of any changes and improvements is vital and can only be done through a network of experts.

The third piece of advice would be to clearly map out your set-up strategy. What do you need for the likes of a website (logo, content, offers, testimonial, etc), social media, the attraction of potential clients – do not rush it; build a detailed roadmap and then roll the sleeves up. 

Are there actionable steps a woman in business should take to ensure that her company is successful in two years?

Network, network, network. As a new business, you need to become visible, depending on what the business is most likely social media. You need to build relationships you can call on to support your upcoming rocky road as well as getting the name out. For me, it was that when hotels are thinking about their commercial strategy that my name would pop up into their mind. I had to come out of my comfort zone and become very public. I joined podcasts and social media channels, co-host podcasts, and chatted to senior people I would have traditionally looked up to, in order to learn from their years of experiences.

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