This week on the #YOURPRO series, we speak to Ginevra Puccioni, our #Hospitalitypro. Ginevra is the General Manager of Cabbiavoli Estate, a luxury castle and farmhouse estate located in the Chianti region, one of the most amazing areas in Tuscany, Italy.
Current job: Cabbiavoli Estate Founder and Manager
One word that best describes how you work: Relentlessly
My biggest fear: Acrophobia (fear of heights)
My secret wish: Walk the whole Camino de Santiago from London to Compostela
My role model is: my godmother, Wanda Ferragamo, a humble and tireless entrepreneur and matriarch
First of all, tell us something about you and your business.
As a child, I can recall that one special day in the shadow of the castle when I had my Grandmother all to myself. I still feel the warmth of the sun, the touch of her hand, and the smell of the cut hay in the fields. My memories are feeling safe, happy, and special. So even after having studied gemology and dedicated over ten years in multiple countries, producing, buying, and selling precious and semi-precious stones, when my father asked me to come home to Cabbiavoli, I felt as if I had to say yes. I loved the idea of creating those same memories for others. This is a property that has been in the family for over 150 years. It still has so many stories to tell, and so many emotions to share yet.
How did you adjust your business in this unusual time?
Creating a “personal experience” with the property is crucial- and that means listening to what our clients are saying – and what they are not saying. It’s easy to establish a relationship when they are here with us, so in this period, we strived to establish stronger personal connections with agencies and strengthen our long-distance (direct) relationships with clients. We listened to their hopes and concerns, which prompted us to look for solutions “outside the box.” For example, rescheduling reservations to 2021 and opening bookings to the local market with extra flexibility on minimum stays and cancellation policies.
How can you engage with your loyal guests and with the new ones?
When clients enter Cabbiavoli, they enter our home and our family, a family with hundreds of years of births, deaths, battles, and arranged marriages; as the Italians would say vita, morte e miracoli (life, death and all the miracles in between). We offer real stories, real info and real photos on social media that share who we are so that our guests are engaging with us before and after their visit to Tuscany.
All guests receive a copy of my book on the family history, as a precious gift to further enhance the bond with the property. It took me a long time to compile it as it includes the history of the property since its original foundation in 1210AD. Incidentally, some ‘actors’ are visible in the family portraits or buried in the chapel on the grounds, including the family dogs!
As a hospitality pro, what can you suggest to keep this type of business alive?
Being a small business, I am in touch with every client, and this has been our successful recipe since I started the business in 1997. It has been our experience that relationships and reputation matter now more than individual transactions. In the age of ‘immediate gratification’ and self-service, people want to live genuine and personal experiences. Furthermore, when people go on holiday they want to relax, enjoy themselves, and in many cases, they want to know from local experts what to do. Genuine advice from local people beats any travel agent’s ‘package’.
Tell us your trick to have a good work/free time balance in your day.
When not travelling, I work from home; it is important to have clear boundaries between work and personal life. I am an early-bird; before my family wakes up, I walk around London for an hour and a half; I then get my children ready, walk them to the tube, this is our special moment together. I sit at my desk with my third coffee at 9:00 am sharp and start my workday. When I finish my workday, I dedicate time to the family and only reply to urgent requests.
Tell us how is a typical day of your guests in Cabbiavoli nowadays?
Before customers arrive, I email them a list of activities they can do in the area, including booking services for the main sites to avoid queuing and disappointments.
Customers usually arrive with the expectation to have a packed agenda. Often, after the first day, once they have experienced the local hospitality, including food and wine, they slow down and reduce the ‘activities’ to the morning, with afternoons spent by the pool and walking around the grounds, before the dinner feasts.
Now please fill the gap about your five pro tips:
- Your golden suggestions in this new way of travelling: Travel locally
- How to stay positive: Practice gratitude
- Best place to recharge: Observe your world with an open mind
- A good activity for your health: Early morning walk and an evening glass of wine!
- A game for your brain: to switch off – jigsaw puzzles, to engage – reading a book
We are starting a new WeGiveIt series, #YOURPRO, asking experts and leaders of different industries to share how they are adapting to the sudden change of lifestyle and what is it their new normal. The first expert of this series is Robbie Fotheringham founder of RF Bespoke Fitness for Children and Adults.
Location: London and anywhere you are
Current job: RF Bespoke Fitness Founder
My favourite website is… Sadly BBC News in this current time.
My favourite book is…What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, by Mark McCormack. Quiet, by Susan Cain
My role model is…Sports icon growing up Jonny Wilkinson. Current: My parents
My favourite food is: Italian
My life dream: Happiness/contentment and to live by the sea.
First of all, tell us something about you and your business
I run a bespoke fitness business – RF Bespoke Fitness – carefully designed to develop physical and mental wellbeing for adults and children. Services include Personal Training, Sports Specific Coaching and Mentoring. Our RF Trainers come to you whether you’re at home or abroad as part of a package. Through my years of playing professional sport, personal training and illustrating children’s books I’ve managed to build a rather niche business for myself. I’m able to combine the physical aspect of training with creativity and imagination. This recipe has allowed me to bring out the very best in my clients, young and not so young. I have the great good fortune of a career that I love.
How have you adjusted your working day for this special situation?
We are in a unique situation with a lot of uncertainty during this time. Some are more fortunate than others. For me, I have had to adapt fairly quickly to the online world, as a good deal of my work is face to face. I’ve been lucky enough to have a successful client base through word of mouth, but as a secret introvert, having to film myself online and create content on social media has taken me way out of my comfort zone. However, in being this lockdown has been a blessing in disguise for me. I’ve been able to push aside my fears and develop video workouts and challenges each week to keep my clients engaged, and motivated. I’ve found that short and sharp video clips along with a 20-30 minute live online sessions is the way forward. I don’t know why I haven’t done this before!
Tell us your trick to have a good work/free time balance in your day.
I believe structure is key. Things that I feel are important to factor into your day are the following: Exercise, of course, this can vary from 10 minutes of stretching and moving to a HIT session, or going for a gentle jog. This will keep you energised and motivated and above else distracted from any worries. Reading and arts and crafts. A superb way to unwind and again take your mind elsewhere. Socialising and communication. This will keep you sane. I try to call one friend a day who might be by themselves or in a worse position than me, and this is where gratitude falls into place. Live in the present rather than worrying about the past or future. All easier said than done I know, but if you can factor those into your day, it will have a big impact on your mental health and productivity levels.
How can you engage with your clients and keep them loyal while working from home?
I’ve always had a great relationship with my clients, and quite often I would have to travel for work being away for a few weeks at a time. I always make sure they have a programme to follow whilst away. I try to keep in touch as much as possible whether that might be a quick call or text message to check in with them and see how they are progressing. I think this approach has worked pretty well so far. The lockdown situation is not too dissimilar, in fact it’s spurred me to develop new ways of communication such as Zoom and video calls.
Do you have any favourite digital platform to do online sessions?
How important is your social life for your mental wellbeing?
Hugely important. If you’re like me and run your own business it can be a lonely world. You have to be proactive in making time for your friends and loved ones. It has a large impact on your confidence and mental state. I like to keep my head down during the week and make time on the weekends to enjoy a social life. I do believe we all need human contact and having a relationship over the phone is not quite the same. I enjoy moments of solitude, whereas some of my friends require constant attention! But getting the balance right is key.
Now please fill the gap about 5 golden tips to maintain your healthy lifestyle:
- Best sport/activity to practice at home: Any exercise that does not involve equipment. This can be yoga or bodyweight exercises to lift your mental state and energy. I sometimes enjoy a quick HIT session for 15 minutes in-between work to keep me energised.
- A good diet: suggests 3 key things shouldn’t be missing: Foods rich in Vitamin D. I grew up in Scotland, so naturally deficient in this area. Try to fill your plate up with a rainbow coloured variation of foods. This means you are more likely to be getting a sufficient amount of nutrients in your diet daily. I think protein whether it’s from plant-based food or meat, we all need this to help our body’s recovery from exercise, to feel more energy and to boost your immune system
- How to keep your friends close: I believe it is important to call your friends in these uncertain times. I know they might not admit it, but they will appreciate it so much more than a WhatsApp message or over a group chat.
- How to get your ‘me time’ with partner/family always around? I moved back home to Scotland just before the lockdown. We are very fortunate enough to have plenty of space to escape the madness. I tend to take myself away for a walk or run.
- A game for your brain: I love Scrabble and Boggle. It’s fun and competitive. I also love to play catching games with various tennis/footballs, almost like juggling. It’s a great way to warm up the brain and improve hand-eye coordination at the same time. Ideally, you need someone to play with!