An Interview with Talitha Despomare

What is your job all about?
I’m responsible for the administration of The Dylan, from general finances to reporting and payrolling. My most important tasks are related to drawing up the P&L, the budget and management reports. This means that I’m on strict deadlines to deliver these documents to both the owners and the management. The Dylan is a small hotel, so besides these strategic activities, I am also involved in operational activities, such as registering invoices.

Is that an advantage?
Yes, I suppose it is good to know the details and background of our numbers. In a meeting with the owners, for instance, I can quickly explain certain discrepancies, just because I may have dealt with the invoice of a specific transaction.

Would you still be a bit nervous to report the figures to the owners then?
Yes, you could say that I always feel a healthy sense of excitement to present to the owners. In December, we usually discuss the budget for next year and then it’s interesting to see if we have done the right thing. But in those meetings, there is also room for adjustment and improvement. We always try to find new opportunities to increase our revenues.

Do you feel it is your responsibility to look at opportunities? Or do you rather control costs?  
Well, controlling costs is my primary responsibility. For example, if our chef wants to purchase new china, I should be the one to question whether this is strictly necessary. But down the line, our General Manager takes the final decision. I can only advice and mirror the financial implications of certain investments. In general, we take it slow at the beginning of the year. And then, if we see that the year progresses in a positive way, we can slightly loosen our restrictions and further explore healthy investments.

And under general circumstances, how do you keep a hotel financially healthy?
Basically, by keeping an overview and controlling every penny. Whereas most of my colleagues at other departments primarily look at revenue, I also look at costs. A hotel is a labour-intensive business, so we always need to see if an investment makes sense. Additionally, I also attach value to our cash flow. We can do extremely well, but if we’re running behind in recourses, we simply cannot keep up with our suppliers.

Although most of your work happens on the backend, how do you make sure not to lose the guest’s perspective?
It is our unwritten rule to prioritize our guests above any other work. Nine out of ten times we are in contact with guests regarding a copy of their invoice. We then want the post-check-out experience to be at the same level as the service within the hotel. Whether it is about a reservation or invoice, we just want to extend this core promise from start to end.

So, hospitality should be in the heart, even when working at the accounting department?
Absolutely. I studied accountancy but ever since I started working in hotels, I didn’t want to leave this industry. I just love the dynamic 24-hours excitement of a hotel.

And why were you born for this specific job then?
Because I’m a controller in every sense. I used to be much more of a perfectionist, but I managed to release that a bit. However, I still want to keep an overview of everything we do. I’m actually a typical left-brainer: I love puzzling, analyzing and organizing numbers.

A bit more personal then. To which restaurant, bar or cafe do you like to go on a beautiful spring day?
I love to grab a seat on a terrace, enjoy a cold beer or a nice glass of white wine and watch people passing by. Preferably after work, anywhere along the canals.

And if you had to pick a favourite spot in the Dylan?
Then it would be exactly this spot: at Vinkeles, right here at this table. Look at this view on our inner gardens. Isn’t that beautiful?

And what could we… 
Wake me up for at night? Haha, I knew this question was coming. Well, I’d rather not be woken up for anything. But if you decide to wake me up, then it would be candies. The sweeter and the more colourful, the better.