Q&A: Jo Fort, General Manager, Birdsville Hotel & Innamincka Hotel

Ali UrenBusiness Case Study, Tourism & HospitalityLeave a Comment

Outback hotel

Opening her eyes to “new possibilities” for two iconic Outback hotels saw General Manager Jo Fort engage Kiikstart last year.

What’s followed is a “quiet little revolution” at both The Birdsville Hotel and The Innamincka Hotel that began with an idea for a business makeover and evolved into staff development work involving all staff.

Located in Outback Queensland and South Australia respectively, Kiikstart’s Virtual Scholar program has enabled staff to undertake remote training with our director, Ali Uren.

General Manager Jo Fort explains the shift.

Kiikstart: What services have you engaged through Kiikstart?
Jo: I had heard of Ali prior to meeting her at the 2017 SATIC Conference. It was generally agreed that the Kiikstart approach was refreshing, and that she was potentially a consultant who could assist us with staff development and improving customer service, particularly at point of sale.

Why did you engage Ali and how has she helped the Birdsville and Innamincka Hotels?
Jo: When I met Ali I had a vision of empowering management to think like entrepreneurs – that way I imagined I could step back from my already overloaded role. I knew that work needed to start at General Manager level first.

What changes have been made and what changes are underway for your businesses?
I can honestly say there has been a quiet little revolution that has resulted in a makeover in what we do and the way we present to our guests. Ali has helped our businesses by assisting us to deal with the tricky issues, and helping our team to come up with ways to do the job better. Choosing to live and work in the Outback can place people well out of their comfort zone and, while it may seem exciting, it’s like any job; it can be mundane and repetitive. Living close together and having to work on relationships at work, as well as outside of work, is challenging.

She’s encouraged us to think imaginatively, to be creative, and to question work practices. If the actions don’t fit with our values and vision, then they have no place in our life.

How has Ali helped to streamline the change process?
The development process is streamlined to suit individuals. Ali is persuasive, but she also understands that some concepts take time, and that from little ideas, big things grow. As a group we are excited, inspired, encouraged and motivated to stand out from our competitors and to be notably excellent in general.

Ali guided me in the early phase of our plan to get myself and then our team to think outside the box. Once I was happy that the foundations of the business were strong under her guidance, the business strategy, roles and responsibilities were fleshed out.

How would you describe Ali’s coaching style?
Ali is a tenacious, tireless trainer who works from her heart. She is 100% authentic and what you see is what you get. She is as terrifying as she is inspirational! I have used the word ‘terrifying’ because it’s the only word I can think of when your tasks aren’t done and you have a session booked with Ali. She is not up for ‘the dog ate my homework’! Ali believes in what she says, and she has the experience and background to back up her teaching. I understood from the beginning that it was my role in my learnings with Ali to set aside the time to do the work and set the tone.

To what extent have you relied on technology throughout this process?
Heavily! Technology has enabled us to learn with Ali through the Virtual Scholar program. That’s been the great strength in the way we’ve done things. Simply parachuting in to learn in one hour will not grant the paradigm shift we’re now seeing unfold. We have the technology, so we use it!

How valuable do you think your investment to date has been?
I believe I have invested wisely in engaging Ali. Not only is she a fantastic resource, but she has become a friend, and I look forward to continuing our journey. Sure, it’s a business decision to invest in staff development, but already there are outcomes and a level of maturity on-site that was not seen before. We are thinking before we act, and we are empowered and confident as a group.

To find out more about coaching options for your business, including our remote Virtual Scholar offering, get in touch with Ali at
enquiries@kiikstart.com or phone 0428 593 400.

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