Since launching our mentorship programme, back in April 2020, The Growth Works has been keen to learn more about the mentors and mentees who make up our network. This profile series offers a glimpse into the minds of industry leaders who are generously sharing their time and expertise with our mentees, as well as shining a spotlight on the upcoming talent within our industry.
Name: Meir Razzon
Why did you get into hospitality?
How I got into hospitality is an interesting story – first and foremost I travelled a bunch as a kid. I went to college in the US but I was born in Turkey and throughout my childhood, we just travelled a lot so I am sure that had a big effect. Throughout my travels I got to meet a lot of amazing people.
I was in the last year of college and I was just going to get into an industry and it kind of came to me. I don’t remember explicitly saying: “I am going to be in the hospitality industry” but what happened was that my roommate at the time came up with a project plan for HostelPass. Our first project was similar to the interrail pass, where you can buy a number of nights you want to travel in Europe and you can stay at the best hostels for a fixed cost and it would be curated according to your preferences, it would be only vetted, high quality hostels. That’s how I got into it.
I was doing an entrepreneurship minor at the time and when my roommate came up with it, I said: “This is great, this is exactly what I want to do, I want to travel in Europe, I want to travel around and meet hostel owners and build this easier way to travel basically. It aligns with my age, with my interests, I have loved hostels before, where I met amazing people, and I got to experience new cultures and all that buzzy travel world.” At that age, with that passion, I was like, this is what I am doing.
When I first started the project, it wasn’t a final decision on hospitality but after going to all the conferences, meeting the industry experts, understanding the holes and how lacking it is in terms of technology and thought-leadership in some ways, how stagnant it is, pushed me to stay here basically.
What are your career highlights?
Starting HostelPass was a big leap for me personally, because it is the first job I had. Starting that company, for me at the time, fresh out of college, raising $100,000 was one of the highlights in terms of my development.
I’d say that what I enjoyed best was that I got to do a 15 minutes talk at the StayWyse conference in Amsterdam, explaining what HostelPass is and explaining our vision for the hospitality industry to over one thousand attendees when I was fresh out of college. It was amazing. I always find myself to have these higher strategic visions of what could be done, so that was a good outlet to meet people, meet the largest hostel chains, CEOs, people 30, 40 years older than me basically, who know the industry really well, they were very receptive..
Another one would be that when Covid-19 first hit, I was before working on long-term, extended stay projects at Sonder. When coronavirus hit, more than 70% of the revenue became extended stays. So I got to work with people that I don’t usually work with to build up the sales team, without any sales experience.
At Sonder, I got to learn the revenue management part, I’ve learnt data analytics and then I got to learn sales and strategy – how can we reach out to customers, how should we allocate supply. Thinking about these problems, before and after coronavirus, was definitely a highlight at Sonder.
What is the project you are most excited about right now?
I am a yoga teacher, I love wellness, yoga, meditation. What excites me a lot is that, in the post-Corona time, I don’t think the world is going to remain the same. People are not eager to go into cities to see a few attractions, nor do they want to go to crowded cafes any more.
There is going to be a structural change within travel, where it is going to coincide with living as well. I think wellness and community is going to take a big part of that. I am talking with two people who have started their own hotel / wellness / yoga space with long term programmes in Southern Turkey. I might join them for the time being.
What excites me overall is bringing in the elements of wellness, hospitality and living together. I want to do that in a place where it is warm, where it is out in nature, less screen time, more people time.
What are you most looking forward to after the pandemic?
I think we are never going to be non-pandemic, we’re never going to say “The pandemic is over, life is back”.
I am mostly excited about people being able to freely come back together and group in communities. What I am excited about is creating communities, enabling living situations that push people towards achieving more happiness. And I think the model will have to change.
This shift from “We have to make the most money every single year and year over year growth” that has to change into contentment and people actually enjoying being in a place while building a sustainable business, because it’s not going to be three, four days stays probably, it’s going to be three month stays or one month stays.
Loyalty and experience is going to become a lot more important in my opinion. I am looking forward to building a company or taking part in a company or a lifestyle where we enable good interactions, people achieving what they want, people feeling good about themselves at a good, affordable price point. It is going to be a service but it is also going to be a cooperative living together kind of situation.
Why did you join The Growth Works mentorship programme?
I met James at a conference that Mews was setting up and he told me that he was doing a project. Basically, at the time it was the beginning of Coronavirus, I was very involved in the trends of hospitality and things were changing very fast.
Basically there are two reasons: one is to learn core principles of revenue management – to be able to help Sonder and just excel my career in that way, to know more, and the other thing was I wanted to put more pen and paper in terms of what I want to do with wellness and hospitality.
I got to meet some people who would give good support and talks on what could be done and what is out there in the market, good introductions. To summarize, I would say, information, network and just to push myself forward.
What are you looking for in a mentor?
I am looking for a good conversation partner, who listens and helps deduce good insights.
I believe everyone is in a unique situation where one person’s experience is not going to necessarily translate into yours, but I think the most important thing is being present, being active, being cognisant and just being able to make connections with other people.
I want a mentor to challenge me and ask me questions in a way that pushes me and broadens my thinking. Another thing that I value obviously is experience and knowledge, especially if it is going to be for a specific topic like revenue management or sales.
Tell us one thing you’ve learned since you joined the programme / from your mentor
A lot of things really. First of all, I’d say I learned about thinking critically about the recovery and of how to look at different sorts of data. Most of our conversations have been around shaping talks and future plans and balancing work left at Sonder with potentially doing my own thing.
One other thing was courage. I felt confident and supported enough to jump on to my own thing and go on an adventure. So that’s also helpful. And I know that I have a good group that I can rely on if I need help; that is always encouraging.
Would you recommend The Growth Works mentorship programme? Why?
Yes, and mentorship comes in a lot of ways. I think it is getting a lot better with more people joining. Initially, my programme was three people, quite randomly matched but then again, this is how things start.
I think there is a need for the hospitality people to come together, now and always, just because the industry has changed. It was always a collaborative space, but now more than ever and it is always good to have a larger community where people can rely on, where people can exchange ideas, learn more about new products, new tech. It’s about keeping that spark, just trying new things to make hospitality and living better.
That should be the underlying thinking of anyone who is in the industry – “How can I make the industry better, how can I make people’s lives better?” And, I mean this is more personal, but sometimes you see that being mixed with questions around like “How can I make the most money always regardless of the situation”? Of course, you’ve got to make money and it is a business, but, I think, learning how to balance that is the largest next challenge for the hospitality industry.