10 Years of Invision – Living Life in Full Color
Kevin Beauvais is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Invision Hospitality, a management and strategy provider for the hospitality industry. He and his wife Therese are well- known in the business and philanthropic circles in Bangkok. In his previous position as Country Manager for Marriott Thailand and General Manager of the JW Marriott Hotel Bangkok, Kevin was active in the Chamber and served as AMCHAM Board President in 2002. He was also the initiator and driving force behind the establishment of the AMCHAM Thailand Charitable Foundation ( now known as the AMCHAM Thailand Foundation). Kevin is also Chairman of the Board of Operation Smile Thailand, a non- profit organization that provides free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for children throughout the country. On the occasion of Invision’s 10 year anniversary, AMCHAM’S Communications Director, Deanna Despodov, sat down with Kevin to discuss the highs and lows of the hospitality business, the power of philanthropy, and sustainable business practices.
You started your business when the world was on the cusp of the global economic crisis and are now celebrating Invision’s 10th anniversary – that’s a pretty significant accomplishment. What were some of the biggest challenges you had to overcome and what are some successes and victories that provided the impetus to persevere? What motivates you to keep going in the face of adversity?
Coming out of a big multinational to start our own business 10 years ago, I don’t think I anticipated how different it was going to be. Working for the big brands you’ve got all of the resources and the people, everybody swims in their own lane, everybody does their job, nobody takes a risk, but there’s not a lot of entrepreneurial nature in that. I think realizing we were an SME took a while, and in the transition from a big multinational to an SME the biggest challenge was human resources. Having the right team has always been our strength, but in this new venture the challenge was finding the right people without knowing what we needed exactly. So we went through a lot of transition in the beginning to figure out what we needed but today we have an amazing team and a solid platform.
Another challenge we faced was trying to present the tenets of the brand without it being tangible. It’s difficult when you are launching a new brand, you can have the best Powerpoint presentation of what your brand is going to be like but until someone can see and experience it, it doesn’t seem real. Today, our two brands, GLOW and MAI HOUSE, are real and solid and growing in Southeast Asia. In addition to Thailand we are present in Malaysia and Vietnam and we have a number of other projects in the pipeline. At this stage we are extremely careful about the partnerships that we enter into. We seek partnerships with likeminded, decent people because not everyone is looking for a mutually beneficial relationship. We have to find people who have as much respect for us and our experience as they have for their money and their investment. Our goal is not to be big, our goal is to be good. I don’t care how many hotels we have as long as we have good partnerships and good hotels.
I think what keeps us going is the fundamental belief that what we set out to do is still right and the drive to provide something that is unique and personalized. When we developed GLOW, our mid- tier brand, the tag line we came up with that is just as good today was “The Surprise of the Ordinary Done Well.” That sounds very simple, but it is the simple things that people really want - like a comfortable bed and a great shower. These comforts were missing from other 3- star products, and it was our goal to change that and provide travelers with a better option, but not a higher price.
What is next for Invision? How are you planning to grow and evolve after the first 10 years?
Today we have 10 hotels open and six addi-
tional signed deals. Going forward we want to be able to add two hotels a year to our portfolio, which we think is sustainable and reasonable in terms of the demand on our time. The next couple of years will be very busy and by the end of 2019 we will probably have eight GLOW hotels open, up from four today. The upscale MAI HOUSE brand, which we just launched in Phuket ( Patong Hill) a few months back, is also growing. We have two under construction in Vietnam – in Ho Chi Min City and Hoi An Beach.
Myanmar is a market we are keeping an eye on for the right opportunity to present itself. We are also starting to spend more time in Myanmar with Operation Smile so it makes sense in terms of how we make use of our time efficiently. I think Indonesia and the Philippines are markets we need to be in, but we will wait until we have the first three countries stable and then grow into those countries as we find the right opportunities. Long term, I think I would die very happy if we had a really strong regional brand.
The Bangkok business community knows you not only as a successful businessman, but also as a notable philanthropist. You were the founder of the AMCHAM Thailand Charitable Foundation and now for many years the Chairman of Operation Smile Thailand. Where does this drive to do good come from?
I think the charitable spirit was instilled in me from a very young age. Both Therese and I grew up in very small towns where it is just natural to help your neighbors, to help your friends, to help your family. Additionally, the Scouting program was a real benchmark for me because it gave me leadership opportunities at a very young age and I think that helped form who I am, which was further facilitated by the charitable business environment at Marriott. Every step of my life I have been immersed in environments that encouraged helping others and I don’t think I know any different, I think it has just been built into who I am. My goal was always to retire early and then become an Executive Director at a charitable foundation. In the end we chose a different path and opened Invision. When we started our business, we committed to dedicating 25% of our time to charitable activities and 75% on business, and we have mostly managed to keep that schedule. I believe that there are points in our lives when we have time to do charitable work and there are points in our lives when we have money to be able to help charities, and when you are really fortunate you have both time and money. We have been involved with both the AMCHAM Thailand Foundation and Operation Smile while still running our business. In the past 10 years of involvement with Operation Smile we have gone from a couple of missions a year to doing a mission almost every month. We are now helping 1,200- 1,400 children a year and we have helped over 11,000 children since we started. Our charitable efforts give us more joy than anything we get out of the business. Every day I wake up, I know I’m going to make a difference in the life of a kid. Not every day I wake up I am sure I am going to be successful in the hotel business.
With the AMCHAM Thailand Foundation my goal was to put a strategy in place so we can streamline the good deeds and intentions our members already had and establish a legal entity so we can provide tax benefits and recognition. This was one of the priorities for me as AMCHAM Board President and it makes me proud to see how the initiative has grown over the years. I am also proud that we have managed to motivate others and get them involved with both the Foundation and Operation Smile. I think that motivating people to join your cause is one of the hallmarks of leadership.
Does your philanthropic streak extend to your business practices as well? What are some ways in which you strive to do business responsibly and in a sustainable way?
As business people, we constantly have to ask ourselves: how are we going to help our communities? But we need to be careful to respond to actual, not perceived needs and do our research beforehand. With every hotel I ever opened, I’ve thought that it would be a great idea to have solar panels on the roof, but that just wasn’t practical in the past. Today, I am heartened by the advances in technology and the availability of storage solutions for solar power.
There are two components when it comes to sustainability: the people and the environment. When it comes to people, we need to take care of our employees and their families, and we also need to connect with the communities where we operate. On the physical construction/ building side, there is recycling, reusing of materials, building on existing footprints, energy efficiency and a lot of commonsense stuff that people don’t do. So getting the entrylevel of sustainability on environmental matters is really pretty simple. We don’t sell our brands as green brands because that’s greenwashing and overstated, but I think we have to be responsible and do what we can. Maybe some day we can create a brand that is going to save the world, but for now we want to operate in a respectful fashion, making sure all details are being focused on and our impact on the environment and our communities is as positive as it can be.
Kevin and Therese Beauvais ( right and left) with U. S. Ambassador Glyn T. Davies and Mrs. Davies ( middle)
Kevin Beauvais ( second from right, standing) at a school dedication ceremony