Virpi Saarinen’s journey in hotel concept development began in 2007. A Norwegian real estate company, her employer at the time, offered her the opportunity to join a hotel development project in St. Petersburg, Russia. Today, she is in charge of three Primehotels development projects.
Her current duties are project-based and require the ability to manage exceedingly large projects. Virpi believes that her personality and her passionate approach to work have brought her where she is today. The job requires tremendous dedication, consistency, and the ability to solve problems and manage the interests of various cooperating stakeholders. However, a clear vision of the outcome and project objectives are the foundation for everything.
”You need the ability to see the forest for the trees, but you also need to see each individual tree. To grasp the big picture, you have to be able to adopt a birds-eye view to the entire project. And while calculated drill-downs on specific details are necessary, you can’t wallow there or you’ll lose the big picture.”
According to Virpi, the vision is the set objective, the foundation that every decision ultimately builds on. Under her guiding hand, this vision becomes a tangible hotel concept. The vision, and later the concept, begins with a holistic review of the property; what is the entry path and what is the mood evoked by the surroundings. For Hotel Mestari, the vision was clear and the property gave a clear foundation for the hotel concept. In everything we do, we always need a clear objective. The hotel concept and the vision of the outcome are used as a sounding board for all decision-making. Every decision needs to support the hotel concept and the vision of the outcome.
While Virpi likes to think outside the box, she’s also quick to remind that there is no need to reinvent everything. According to her, it’s always impressive when a stakeholder or a colleague approaches a traditional way of doing from a new perspective, giving it a new edge. The passion and motivation demonstrated by others delights her and drives her forward.
“My stock answer is that I’m hands-on. I’m not the kind of person that talks you to death.”
In creating hotel concepts, Virpi focuses on the qualities of the physical product that give it a competitive edge. But she believes that people, the personnel, and the customers are at the core of every concept. They are the ones that complete the hotel and set the mood.
”At a hotel opening, it’s not my place to be on the limelight. The hotel belongs to the new owners, to the staff, and to the hotel guests.”
As the development manager, Virpi mainly works with professionals from various fields. In each project, the partners include the planning team of the entire construction project along with Virpi’s project-specific development teams. Each participant has a clear role and specific duties in every development team, clarity that is essential for achieving the desired outcomes. Over the years, Virpi has improved her understanding of project development, its principles, and the various fields of planning involved, which has increased her ability to challenge and give notes to highly specialized professionals on a wide variety of issues. The only field of planning she rarely challenges is structural engineering. Virpi’s ability to see the project from a business perspective is also essential for getting maximum revenue out of each square foot of space. Her current supervisor has been a great motivator in this area.
To Virpi, it’s important that each person involved feels that they contribute meaningfully to the project.
”Over the course of various projects, I’ve talked vision and I’ve talked hotel concept all the way down to personnel level, explaining what we are doing. It’s important the work is not just about performing duties but about creating something new. Something meaningful.”