· Economy&Business · · T. Cristina Freire · P. Nuno Almendra

Margarida Almeida

«Our great mission is to always do more and better»

When the doors began to close and anxiety took hold of many families, the solution, to save condemned projects, lay in her and her entrepreneurial strength. A law graduate, Margarida Almeida found an opportunity in the economic crisis to set up a hotel management company. With a simple structure, it offered solutions and created a market niche able to meet the requirements of the most demanding hotels. While operating in this segment she has picked up companies in the throes of bankruptcy and attracted new clients. Over the years, she has created a portfolio that contains many luxury hotels and houses that have a story to tell.

You had failed businesses in your care; how did you deal with the process?
I was an administrator of a company that developed tourism projects, when the crisis that occurred between 2009 and 2011 knocked on our door. As I had a legal background, I realised that there was no way other than bankruptcy, no matter how much the financial partners hoped otherwise. But the clients of these businesses did not feel that burden. We did everything in a very organised way and prepared the workers for what was going to happen. The whole process was not easy; there were exchanges and tense moments. We had to explain to the people why they were going to lose their job. I was in the same situation, but I would be the last one to leave.

«Nothing is done without luck in life»

And you created a new company: Amazing Evolution.
At the end of 2012, to my great surprise, one of the international financial institutions that was supporting one of the projects, that we didn’t let go down, asked me to send a proposal because they liked the approach we took in the process. I understood that I did not have a business to make the proposal. It was all a bit of a rush and, in the process of setting up the company, the name Amazing Evolution came up. I remember thinking it would be too ostentatious, but a friend who works with brands liked the name and I became convinced. I asked her to create a logo with a clover, because nothing is done without luck in life.

How did investors find out about your business?
At the banks, many private clients started wanting to develop hotel projects, fully aware that they didn’t know anything about hotel management. We started with a Portuguese family office, then came the second and third. Today we have sixteen hotels in operation, five more in the planning stages and more than 50% of our assets are from private investors.

What does Amazing do exactly?
We are a hotel management body, but we don’t just manage the project. We have a team, with various skill sets, which allows us to keep track of everything, from the idea to opening to the public. We supervise the construction work, as we are not builders, so as to see if everything is within budget and that it is harmonious for the final client. We also keep an eye on the licensing process because tourism projects have their own set of regulations and we have experience in the sector. In operational terms, we do the hiring of those who will work in the operation. We take on the role of the general manager and manage on behalf of the owner.

Have you ever thought about having your own hotels?
No. We don’t want to have hotels, although it is tempting. The project we manage feels like ours. I can say that they are all mine, in the sense of responsibility, giving the best service to the client, translating into greater profitability for the owner. Our great mission is to always do more and better, so that we can be a benchmark in the market. Hotels exist to serve customers and it is the customers that are the focus of our attention.

And where are you finding the teams to run those hotels?
This is very difficult. Few people are let out of specialist schools and I think it is necessary to pass on the message to these students that the hotel industry exists because there are customers who pay to stay in hotels. So we have to treat them well in order for them to remember this good experience and to come back, becoming regular guests of the hotel and this is what the schools still do not teach.

«We have sixteen hotels in operation, five more in the planning stages and more than 50% of our assets are from private investors»

So you also train people?
Yes. Part of our structure at Amazing deals with training future employees. And the last interview is with me. Those who choose the tourism sector must like serving others, whether in accounting or in the front office. They must be prepared to serve others and, when working, the interests of others always come before theirs. This is what work is about in the hotel business.

Was the crisis an opportunity for you? 
I can see that today. At the time I did not realise what was happening, and I was focused on solving problems. I was not thinking I had an opportunity before me. I was very happy where I was, I would have worked the rest of my life there in the job I was in, but, now that seven years have passed, I look and see that it was an opportunity I grasped, genuinely and unintentionally. 

You recently started managing ‘Local Accommodation’. Was that another opportunity?
Yes, and again, almost by chance. We have a client, a private investor, who bought a house and asked me if I was also doing management in the Local Accommodation segment and I thought straight away that it could be interesting. We developed a sub-brand and created Amazing Homes and Villas and it’s as if it were a hotel. We do the check in at the house, we serve breakfast, we do the daily cleaning and, if the client wants to have a dinner at home, we also do this. But there is one particular detail: the houses have to have a story to tell.

How do you feel in this job?
Very happy. I feel very fortunate to get to have a team - with employees who came from the other company (with me for more than 15 years) and others who joined the new company - that makes me feel that I’m on the right track. We are about thirty people and I feel like this is my home. I am surrounded by an amazing family.

Cristina Freire
T. Cristina Freire
P. Nuno Almendra