Describe your role in one sentence:
Whilst some view legal as an extension of the development team, as we play a key role when securing new hotel deals, our job is to provide all the legal expertise our hotels and wider business need to operate and grow safely.
What are your proudest achievements after six years with Cycas?
Typically, in many organisations, a legal team might be considered “the department of no”, and one that isn’t always that involved in day-to-day operations. Since I started working with Cycas six years ago, I’m proud that my collaborative approach means we’re very much seen as integral to the company’s growth, and my team has a reputation for finding the best legal solutions to help facilitate new deals and partnerships.
What are the biggest legal challenges of working across multiple countries?
The biggest challenge is always that, as we expand across Europe, every country has very different ways of doing things. This means it’s vital that our team understands all the small but important things that can make all the difference in the way we operate, from employment law to contract-signing processes. So this is where being fluent in four languages (Dutch, English, French and German) comes in particularly handy!
What is the biggest misperception about your team?
Before they get to know us, some people might assume our team is great at understanding law, but possibly doesn’t understand the intricacies of hotel business in the same way - which couldn’t be further from the truth. For us to draft the best contracts and fix any potential legal issues at a hotel level, it’s absolutely essential we understand the operational process. And the benefit of having in-house lawyers that fully understand how the business works is we can add genuine value by drafting deliverable contracts that all parties benefit from. Just like the rest of Cycas’s leadership team, we regularly work from our hotels too, ensuring we’re a familiar face to our Cycadettes and not just a mythical name only ever seen on emails.
What trends have excited you most over recent years?
It’s great to see how the trend towards digitisation is having a positive impact across all business departments, including the legal function. From our side, the electronic document management system we introduced a few years ago has proved invaluable, making it even easier for our hotel teams to manage their day-to-day business operations, and ensuring they can maximise the time they spend making our guests smile. Also, being able to close contracts through e-signing makes the process so much more efficient.
The Fun Five
What inspires you?
When things get tough I try to remember that behind the clouds the sun is always there ready to shine through again. That was something that helped me a lot to remember during the recent lockdown periods.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Like many young people, I didn’t have a clear career plan when I was growing up. And, even though a aptitude test flagged I should consider going to hotel school, I nearly turned my passion for scuba diving into my career. During my military service I became fascinated by the fact that it had its own code of justice and went on to study law and, after several years working in real estate finance, finally fulfilled my hospitality destiny!
What causes are close to your heart?
Working at Cycas, where we hire by personality and everyone is encouraged to bring their true selves to work, I’m conscious that there are still a lot of workplaces out there that are less inclusive. Three years ago I therefore joined the board of Workplace Pride, an international platform promoting LGTBQI+ inclusion, and spend a few evenings every month helping other businesses understand what they can do to help their employees be happier at work.
What’s a recent Cycas highlight?
I’m always hugely proud whenever we sign a new hotel to our fast-growing portfolio and love helping close new deals. But last year I also got the chance to captain one of the four teams in a company-wide initiative called Cycas Smiles – after all, who else is better named to lead Team Yellow?! Introduced to bring our on and off property Cycadettes even closer together across our many hotels and markets, the inter-team rivalry and chance to inject extra colour into our engagement app Fourth certainly proved a lot of fun during a challenging year.
Where would we find you at the weekend?
I have two children – a boy and a girl aged 7 and 10 – which means I turn into a glorified taxi driver at the weekend, though in true Dutch style, I cycle with them everywhere, which at least ensures I get lots of exercise. As a family man I love to spend time at home, pretending to be doing something useful in the garden, or enjoying the water next to our house, whether on ice-skates, swimming, stand-up paddle-boarding or taking our little dinghy out to deeper waters.