Interview Ms Anna Pecoraro
Ms Anna Pecoraro granted us the following interview, which tells the story of her adventure with the family hotel.
Who is Mrs Anna Pecoraro?
It is not easy to describe oneself. I always let people judge me for my actions. I consider myself a very simple woman, friendly and respectful of others. I am the mother of three children and the grandmother of eight grandchildren.
How did you start your adventure in the hotel business?
My entry into the world of tourism entrepreneurship was as unexpected as it was unwanted. In 1991 I received a call from my father Augusto Pecoraro, owner and proprietor of the Hotel Rosanna. Dad, who was left without a secretary, asked me to help him for a short period until he had found another receptionist. This period went on and on. Although I had no knowledge of the business management and accounting of a hotel, I decided to answer my father’s call and found out that the financial situation was quite serious, if not very serious, and therefore difficult to remedy.
I tried to convince my father to sell to avoid certain bankruptcy. He didn’t listen to reason and I had no intention of taking on this burden, having left the hotel business more than 25 years before. One day, after I had invited my father to sell for the umpteenth time, I heard the secretary call me to tell me that my father had gone up to his room crying. I rushed to him and found him sitting on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands, sobbing. I remember being struck by the small puddle that had formed at his feet: they were my father’s tears. The doctors had given him no more than six months to live, and this man saw lost everything he had built up in a lifetime of hard work. His legacy was disappearing before his eyes, and there was nothing he could do. He would leave us wrapped in sadness and despair. I approached him, hugged him tightly and said the words that would mark my life forever: <<Don’t worry; I will help you! >>. Dad lived another three years. The strength to react and fight the evil in him, I think, came from the hope that somehow he would be able to save the hotel, obviously trusting in my support. The real big help in the final part of his life – he was going to leave for good after three months – was to turn to my ex-husband for help. To my surprise, he offered to take over the business, with all the trappings, thus saving my father’s name. In 2001, the old Rosanna’s was demolished to create a modern establishment more in keeping with our times. Today, almost thirty years later, we are here to tell our story.
Can you tell us about your first steps as an entrepreneur?
My first steps were characterised by a lot of fear. As I told you, I was called upon to take on this challenge at an early age, and I had no experience of entrepreneurship. I did not know anything about good and proper business management. Everything seemed insurmountable to me. Accounts, invoices, suppliers, customer management and many other daily tasks that you can imagine in a business like ours. The feeling was that of being swept away by a river in flood that I could not contain. I remember mornings when, as soon as I woke up, I was surrounded by a deep anguish that took my breath away. The thought of having to face another day of problems was unbearable for me. At that time, I received a great deal of help from Marina Furlan, my father’s former collaborator, who got me from nursery school to university in just a few days. She did an extraordinary job of giving me knowledge and a bit of confidence. Once I had decided to stay by my father’s side, I set myself a goal and kept my eyes on it, and in this way, I managed to overcome the great discomfort I had inside. This is my modus vivendi. It is my great strength that allows me to reach goals that are sometimes impossible. I should have stayed only a few days, but more than thirty years have passed since then.
Mother, wife, grandmother. How did you and how do you manage to combine private and working life?
Simple! Not having a private life. Ours is a family of entrepreneurs. By the time I took over as director of the Rosanna, my grown-up children had already taken over the family fish business. We all found ourselves immersed in our own thoughts and our daily chores, sacrificing the human connection that I had managed to create in my ‘previous life’. Today, although I keep my relationship with my family alive and constant, I feel the weight of the silences and the interminable periods that sometimes separate us. I have learnt to consider my staff and collaborators as family and to call my office home. This is often the burden of doing business.
What are the major difficulties for a woman in this profession?
Compared to men, I think that in all professions women find it more difficult. To be a woman, wife, mother and entrepreneur means marrying both roles. Being a woman, a wife, a mother and a businesswoman means having both roles, living parallel lives and dealing with a hectic pace that is sometimes unbearable. But we women – I don’t want to offend the men – have an extra gear, a passion and an inner will that characterises and distinguishes us. Unfortunately, many times these qualities are not enough and women have to choose between family and career, inevitably risking losing one or the other. I think that today we can bridge these gaps between the sexes by rethinking the world of work, providing all the necessary support to enable each of us to choose our professional life. Much still needs to be done, but we are on the right track.
Do you remember any particularly difficult moments you had to face?
In thirty years of activity, as you can imagine, there have been countless moments of difficulty. I remember the early years, my fears, worries, bills to pay and zero bookings. Difficult situations to overcome. But throughout my life, in times of despair, I have always found relief and new strength by turning to a “Friend” whom not everyone recognises as such: Our Lord Jesus. It is His Spirit that has guided me all these years. I remember a July one summer long ago. I was on the phone with my ex-husband and crying in despair because the August calendar was completely empty. I remember Aldo’s voice saying to me: “Do something, do something! Then, gripped by discouragement, I went back to my mother’s house and suddenly, gripped by desperation for what I was experiencing, I turned to the crucifix, shouting repeatedly: it’s all your fault, it’s all your fault, everything is possible with you, it would be easy for you to solve my problem, I need a full calendar at least, at least from the first of August to the 10th of September. Immediately afterwards I realised that I had failed Him and from a state of aggression I moved on to asking for forgiveness. When I got back to the hotel, the secretary told me that the phone was ringing off the hook. The hotel was filling up and filled up until the 10th of September. I still smile at the memory of that episode. On the morning of the 10th, the hotel was empty. I turned to the crucifix and said to Him: If I had known that you would grant me my wish, I would have asked for a few more days. Such episodes have been frequent in my working and non-working life.
How do you overcome professional adversity?
It is essential to always keep in mind everything that depends on our actions, being aware that within us there is a strength and courage that only needs to be sought and awakened. We must not think about why this obstacle is in front of me, but how to face it and overcome it, and not see it as an adverse fact, but as a positive one, because nothing is negative in life. Just focus on our goal: to solve the problem and keep working. In my life I have been confronted many times with barriers that seemed insurmountable. Thanks to my faith and the inner strength it generated in me, I have always managed to climb the mountain, look ahead and set out on the next path.
How do you choose your collaborators?
Talking to them. I always like to talk to candidate employees, to have a dialogue with them and see if they can give me what I look for in all my employees: love and passion for their work.
What does Mrs Anna think is the right relationship with the employees?
I have had a lot of staff over 30 years and I have always tried to deal with them with the utmost respect. I always address my staff on a “Lei” basis, as is only right and proper when respecting a person providing a service. Even with long-standing employees such as Mrs Luigina Babbo, who has been with me since the beginning, I continue to address them in a very respectful manner, even though I am aware that our relationship goes far beyond work. Luigina, as I like to call her, is now an important and irreplaceable part of my life. We are united by a relationship of family trust which I hold dear. Nevertheless, I am convinced that in professional life we must be aware of our roles and respect them beyond all reason. I want my employees to always feel protected and to find in me a point of reference where they can confide in me and where they can find concrete help. The door of my office, jokingly called ‘The Confessional’, is always open.
Jesolo yesterday and Jesolo today: what has changed over the years?
Many years ago at the beginning of my career, our hotels were mostly run by locals. Country people who were used to hard work and offered an almost family-like service. Today, things have definitely changed. The needs of tourists are very different and the big hotels are adapting their standards to the needs of the moment. Everything happens faster and more frenetically. Jesolo has undergone a radical transformation. Over the last few decades, Jesolo has evolved from a purely tourist town to a residential city, with increasingly modern and sophisticated housing complexes. A Jesolo society has therefore developed that animates the town even during the winter months. I have always been used to the frenzy and impersonality of the big city, but here in Jesolo I have found the tranquillity and familiarity that I have been looking for for a long time.
More than 20 years at the helm of her hotel, always maintaining the highest standards. What is the secret of Mrs Anna’s success?
There are no special secrets to reveal. Every person who loves his work and is passionate about it can achieve success. Difficult moments serve to strengthen us. I was catapulted into this world that I did not seek and did not want. But I learned to love it, respect it and deal with it. To set one’s own goals and invest body and soul in achieving them. To improve day after day, not to retreat. Convince yourself of your abilities and make the most of them. The road to success is around every corner of our lives, with a bit of luck, which never hurts, it must be recognised and followed.
Why stay at the Hotel Rosanna in Jesolo?
As I said before, the way of welcoming guests has definitely changed. The big hotel chains have adapted to the speed and frenzy of our times. What counts today are large numbers and the speed with which the desired results are achieved. However, there are still realities such as ours that maintain their modus operandi unchanged and that respect the old unwritten rules of welcome and hospitality. As far as I am concerned, I have lived my private and professional life according to a principle that speaks of respect for oneself and for others: “Do not do to others what you do not want done to you“. These are the values that have accompanied me throughout my career and that I have always wanted to pass on to my staff and my customers. When I run my hotel, I try to imagine myself outside the reception desk. I identify with my guest, I think about what I would want if I were in his place. I question myself, looking for solutions to satisfy them and I work to implement them. I think this is our strength: attention to detail, a friendly welcome, simplicity and love for our work.
Entering your office one cannot help but notice that you are a very devout and spiritual person. How important was and is faith in your professional life?
For me, faith is everything! Love, spirituality, devotion, humility, sacrifice, strength, awareness, help for others and much more are the teachings that my faith has given me throughout my life. In the darkest moments, I have always turned to God, his son Jesus and the Virgin Mary for comfort and strength to overcome life’s adversities. I am convinced that my path has been designed and willed by God, who has allowed the many hardships, worries, anxieties and fears of these years with the sole purpose of making me grow and become stronger. I feel His energy and strength in me that accompany me in every decision, support me in every discouragement and strengthen me in every weakness : both in my private and professional life.
Mrs Anna, you ‘hide’ an extraordinary passion and talent. If you walk through the floors of the Hotel Rosanna, you can see some of your works on display. Can you tell us about them?
I have always wanted to travel and discover the world ever since I was a girl. Unfortunately, during my married life I was not able to exploit this great passion of mine: my ex-husband was not very fond of travelling. After the separation, with my children now grown up, I decided to dedicate a part of me to this old and great love. I love discovering new cultures, visiting faraway and inaccessible places and adapting to local customs and traditions. I have found a fantastic travelling companion in my dear friend Stefania. Together we share our experiences and another great passion: photography. I started by attending courses almost as a joke, in which I understood little or nothing. Until I met Maestro Orio Frasseto. From that moment on, my relationship with the camera began. Concentrating on the lens, on the image, on the moment I want to immortalise is like losing myself in another dimension. Everything disappears: problems, worries and thoughts vanish as if by magic and I abandon myself to an almost transcendental state. With a touch of satisfaction, I display my photos in the corridors of the Rosanna where my guests can look at them and comment on them with me.
I have no regrets. Perhaps the only regret I have is that, because of my job, I was unable to build a closer relationship with my family. However, I feel lucky, I’m sure I’m a point of reference for all of them, a shoulder they can always rely on and lean on in times of difficulty. Ours is a family of entrepreneurs and inevitably the numerous commitments, the many hours of work and the frenzy of everyday life require a sacrifice even in human and emotional terms.
What’s in Mrs Anna’s wish drawer?
I have no desires, I have always lived without expecting anything more than what I had. Perhaps this is why I am able to face my daily challenges with serenity, always looking forward to the next goal.
There are plans to renovate and improve our hotel. I am trying to involve my staff in some new projects, listening to their ideas and working together. Our aim is to continue to offer our guests new emotions and a service that is attentive to their needs.
What advice would you give to young people, especially women, who want to pursue an entrepreneurial career like yours?
Let’s say that I have been lucky enough to live two lives. The first was a comfortable one, characterised by comforts and every kind of benefit that an economically well-off situation can offer. The second was made up of sacrifices, hard work and many worries. I wouldn’t trade the second life for the first for all the gold in the world! I want to tell young people not to stop at the economic aspect of their life project. Of course money is important for living: yesterday there was bartering, today there is money. I remind them that there are situations and experiences that enrich our spirit more than money, that shape us and make us appreciate who we are. Concentration, study and passion are indispensable for achieving one’s goals. But what they need to look for most is love. Love for what they do, love for their neighbour, love for those around them and those with whom they work. Love for small things and love for themselves. Only through this extraordinary feeling will they find the right fulfilment for a successful life.