It has taken 19 years for Birchwood Hotel & OR Tambo Conference Centre to become the market leader for business tourism in the southern hemisphere. Founded by current director, Kevin Clarence, and his late father Brian Clarence in 1997, there are many entrepreneurial lessons that can be learnt from their story. Read Kevin’s lessons in business and in life here:
Don’t be closed-minded, take risks if you see the potential.
- The Clarence-family saw the need for a hotel and conferencing venue close to OR Tambo International Airport after observing the thousands of business travellers entering Johannesburg all year round.
- They decided to build their concept in Boksburg – previously not associated with corporate business in Johannesburg based on its proximity to OR Tambo International Airport.
Base your new business on your strengths and find a business partner whose strengths complement your own.
- Kevin Clarence had a knowledge of building hotels, from his years spent in construction at Grinaker Building, and his late father had experience in property development. The two pooled family knowledge and experience to create their vision of a hotel with conferencing facilities close to OR Tambo International Airport. Bringing on the right shareholders, in this case his father and the late businessman Charles Kawalsky, also played a crucial role.
Maintain your vision for your business, even through challenging times.
- The Clarence-family recognised the tremendous growth and opportunities in the business tourism industry, and the need for a one-stop facility for the booming SA business sector.
- Even since Brian’s passing, Kevin has maintained the vision that they both sought to achieve and has grown the facility into something they never imagined possible. He has even named the lunch hotspot after him – The Brian Clarence Café.
Don’t be afraid of further investment or expansion.
- In 2014, Kevin introduced “a hotel within a hotel” concept with the introduction of an exclusive wing of the hotel aptly named Silverbirch @ Birchwood, a distinctive product designed to meet a specific set of requirements very different to that of larger groups; an investment of over R50-million over two years.
- Birchwood Hotel currently consists of 665 hotel rooms, 60 business conferencing venues, a Mangwanani Spa and two on-site restaurants; The Grill at OneTwenty and BC Café.
Always, always listen to your customers.
- Kevin realised that there was also a need for “price-sensitive” individuals, bigger groups, and minimalistic travellers. In February 2016, Kevin introduced ValuStay @ Birchwood, a product for larger groups and those looking for a no frills, centralised stay.
Keep a close eye on your competitors in order to stay ahead of the game.
- Birchwood Hotel currently has three products catering for very different markets, Birchwood, Silverbirch and ValuStay @ Birchwood, ensuring better occupancy for the Hotel and more affordable rates for hotels guests.
- The demand for free services has become a big factor in maintaining and attracting new customers; largely due to competitors offering free services to secure business. Birchwood Hotel have tried to stay ahead by providing complimentary services such as high speed Wi-Fi and an hourly shuttle to and from OR Tambo International Airport.
“Starting a business is never easy but through hard work, dedication and a passion for your product, service or industry, it is possible to make it a success,” says Kevin.