Flavio Bucciarelli grew up in hotels, as his dad was a successful general manager in Italy. But rather than attempting to emulate his old man, Bucciarelli was determined not to be a duplicate.
The problem was that he wasn't sure what to do instead. So, having studied business in Tokyo, Lausanne and the UK, graduating with a diploma, degree and MBA, he was hungry to make his mark.
However, fate wasn't having any of this free-will stuff, and Bucciarelli ended up instead representing his dad as a one-off favour at a businesses meeting at the Rome Cavalieri Hilton hotel.
Standing out from the older crowd, Bucciarelli got talking to the hotel's general manager and had been offered a sales executive role there by the end of the night.
"At 27 I had to make the decision to start at the bottom and prove myself," he says. Now I look back and ask why, when I knew and had lived in and around hotels most of my life, I didn't do it sooner."
The young Italian accepted a modest salary, put in the work, and by 1997 had been headhunted to work as sales manager for the Milan area at Starwood Hotels. Rising to director of sales and marketing, Bucciarelli moved over to operations at the start of 2002, becoming resident manager at Starwood's Westin Palace Milan hotel. After six months he was ready to take another stride and returned to the UK in his first general manager's role at Starwood's 350-bedroom flagship Skyline hotel.
Thanks to his operational experience in Milan and his sales background, the move didn't faze him. "Basically it's all about asking the right questions and making sure you have the right people in the right place," he says.
Although describing himself as hands-on, Bucciarelli does his best not to step on anyone's toes. A live-in manager, he makes sure his family life is kept separate from work and usually has weekends off. His working days tend to average between 11 and 13 hours, being available to talk to and support his team during the day before catching up on correspondence in the evening.
One of his first decisions at the Skyline was to reopen the indoor tropical pool area as a destination venue, Sky Bar, helping transform the Skyline's image from that of an "airport hotel" into a contemporary, stylish one. In 2003 the Sky Bar cemented its reputation as a place to go in its own right with the launch of a club night, Mumbai Nights, in partnership with Indian catering company Madhus.
Bucciarelli has this simple advice: "The secret is that if you say you're going to do something, you have to do it."
Sales executive, Rome Cavalieri Hilton hotel
Director of sales, Milan, Starwood Hotels
General manager, Sheraton Skyline London