The ice that reached just in front of Boutique Hotel & Restaurant Glacier ceased to exist. The entrepreneurs Justine and Jan Pyott, however, translated the history of the retreating glacier into their business model. In this article they share three principles that may serve as a source of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs.
It’s the year 1855. Standing on your balcony in Boutique Hotel & Restaurant Glacier, you oversee the picturesque valley and observe the hustle and bustle on the upper and lower glacier, which is famous for the Swiss village Grindelwald in the canton Berne. The lower glacier reaches 500 m out of its gorge, just in front of the bridge below your hotel. It is the only alpine glacier that flows below 1000 m above the sea level.
Like every day, your fellow ice workers with their heavy equipment, horses and carriages, cut ice blocks from the massive structure and prepare them for their journey. Some of them will even travel as far as Paris by train to chill food and beverages as the electric refrigerator still remains to be invented.
Experience the consequences of natural resource exploitation
It’s the year 2019. Standing on your balcony in Boutique Hotel & Restaurant Glacier, you look towards the glacier canyon you will visit today. It is famous for the Swiss village Grindelwald in the canton Berne. The lower glacier does not exist any longer but you are about to wander through its gorge on a wooden bridge. You have read that the impressive rock galleries are up to 300 m high and that the mountain water rushes into the valley directly below you. In the afternoon you have booked a paragliding flight to oversee the picturesque village from bird’s eye view.
Tell a meaningful story
“Justine is driven, reliable, witty and sparkling.”
“Jan is passionate, creative, dedicated and sometimes funny.”
“Because sometimes you are not.”
Justine and Jan Pyott sit on a blue couch in the lobby of the hotel they decided to renovate and open in 2018. “Boutique Hotel Glacier is small, comfortable, and a storyteller”, explains Justine. Jan, while bending down to pat their dog Zeela, adds: “Grindelwald has a second name: the glacier village. Our desire to tell the story of ice harvesting and the retreating glacier determined what we made out of this hotel.”
Thanks to countless days spent in archives, research on innovative hotel concepts and conversations with the villagers, Boutique Hotel Glacier is now a 4-star boutique hotel offering 28 rooms of modern design. To tell the story of the retreating glacier, the couple has defined three principles that form an integral part of their business model and may serve as a source of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs:
1) Educate your clients
“There is a fine line between hospitality and teaching people lessons," Justine begins the conversation. “But we are ever so happy to talk to the guests who seek the discussion with us, ask for advice and understand what we are trying to do here,” Jan elaborates. The staff are encouraged to tell the story of the retreating glacier and point out the spot just below the wooden hotel which marked its lower end. “It’s visual and hence easy to understand”, he declares. The two business owners hope to pass on the following messages to their guests:
- Use less plastic – Justine Pyott: “If our guests ask us to refill the water bottles in their rooms, we explain them that we can gladly fill them up with fresh tap water on their behalf. Lots of our international visitors are surprised about the excellent water quality we are fortunate to have in this region.”
- Be aware of your everyday choices – Jan Pyott: “Our kitchen grows its own vegetables and herbs. The message is the following: If everybody contributes their share on a small scale, we can really make a difference.”
- Recycle – Be aware of how much waste you produce per day. In a second step, inform yourself about ways to reduce this amount and recycle properly.
“What is amazingly rewarding it to receive an email from a former guest who has for example improved something back at home,” the two declare while smiling at each other. Nevertheless, they also point out to have realistic expectations and not force anything upon guests. If they are interested, they will search for the conversation with you.”
2) Run your business sustainably
The couple has implemented the ‘Creating Shared Value’ approach of Porter/Kramer (2011) into their operations in the following way:
- Guests – Strive to offer them the best, personalised accommodation and restaurant experience while passing on knowledge at the same time.
- Society – Seek to generate prosperity and sustainable development in your community while respecting culture, tradition and values.
- Environment – Understand whether your business carries a heritage and has an associated responsibility. Use tap water, natural heating and avoid plastic waste where possible. Analyse the services and objects your business requires and research if there is a more sustainable option available.
- Suppliers and partners – Strive to build lasting relationships. Source seasonally and locally.
- Employees – Nurture a culture of recognition in a flat structure. Try to provide year-round jobs to all staff.
3) Use design elements wisely
When moving through the premises, guests find small details referencing the glacier and its history: from lamps in the form of ice cubes, over historical photographs, to the logo – it is almost impossible to not get curious about the story behind the hotel’s name.
A nudge in the right direction
“In 2010 you could still see the glacier from the hotel. Nowadays, it retreated 1500 m higher. We can only recommend fellow entrepreneurs to approach their environment with open eyes and ask themselves whether their business can act as catalyst for change – as small as this change may appear in the beginning,” the entrepreneurs say.
This article is a part of the ’Millennial CEOs’ series in which we zoom into Millennials’ lives and ask ’What drives the next generation of business leaders?’.