An exclusive interview with John Seaton, Chief Commercial Officer
In this entry of “Insider Perspective,” we sat down with John Seaton, Chief Commercial Officer at Cendyn. John’s interview highlights his leadership in hospitality technology, and how his role pushes Cendyn to innovate and evolve.
What’s your professional background? How did you start your career in marketing and hospitality industries?
After starting my career as a professional tennis coach, in June 1995 I decided to make a career change and joined Utell, a leading marketing company for the hotel industry. At the time it was part of the Reed Travel Group alongside TravelWeekly, the number-one read travel magazine in the world. This introduced me to the exciting world of PR and marketing, so much so, I attended night school and passed my Chartered Institute of Marketing exams in the UK. It seems so long ago now, but I think the saying “time flies when you are having fun” really applies to me because I have had a lot of fun working in this industry over the years.
Throughout my career, mergers and acquisitions have played a major role in shaping the hospitality industry and through one of these mergers around the time of the dot.com explosion, I was introduced to the technology side of the hospitality industry and specifically the skill of selling technology to hotels. I instantly fell in love with it and have continued to be involved in technology sales ever since.
What are some defining moments or pivotal points in your career that shaped your leadership style?
People have often looked at me with surprise when I say I went from tennis coach to marketing, to sales but I actually think tennis and coaching refined my leadership style. Being a sports coach is all about helping others develop their skills to the best of their ability and I think many of us have had the privilege to work for and with some amazing and inspiring leaders that do just that, many of whom have helped shaped me to be the person I am today. As I’ve moved through different industries and grown into my role at Cendyn today, I have had to make some adjustments to how I work and manage along the way but early on I was given three great pieces of advice which I try and remain true to every day:
- Treat people the same way I want to be treated.
- No surprises – be honest and upfront with your colleagues and expect the same back from them.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but when you do, learn from them …. and don’t make the same mistake twice.
How have your role and responsibilities evolved during your time at Cendyn?
I have had an incredible 4 years at Cendyn. Starting with the exciting responsibility as Managing Director, to lead Cendyn’s expansion into Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific (APAC) leading to now, as the Chief Commercial Officer. It is amazing how in four years, we have gone from having one employee outside of the USA to now having offices and employees based in 10 different countries across EMEA and APAC. The company growth we have seen globally has been incredible and this is down to the amazing team at Cendyn. As we start the next chapter of Cendyn’s story, I am delighted to take on the role of Chief Commercial Officer and drive our growth globally.
What are your main responsibilities as Chief Commercial Officer at Cendyn?
Supported by a highly motivated sales team, my main responsibilities are; to oversee the growth of Cendyn’s customer base globally, continue to strengthen long-standing relationships with our existing customers and, ensure Cendyn remains the technology company of choice for our industry as it relates to CRM, Revenue Management and Group Sales tools.
What’s the most interesting, exciting, and enjoyable part of your job?
Our industry is moving at such a fast pace and to keep up is both challenging and exciting. On a day-to-day basis, I get to work with some really smart and passionate colleagues at Cendyn and they keep driving me to be the best I can possibly be. I love interacting with so many people from so many different cultures.
What do you observe as some of the hottest topics that interest hospitality insiders the most?
The buzz word for the industry is ‘Personalization’ and Cendyn is right at the heart of everything a hotel can achieve by embracing this. Some hotels are already starting to use their data to understand their guests which in turn, is allowing them to engage with their guests in the right way. I do believe the number of hotels looking at technology to enhance this aspect of what they do will continue to grow.
Improved guest engagement can be anything from being able to communicate effectively with a guest, anticipate their needs by understanding the data behind the reservation or ensuring that the right communications are delivered at the right time by the right channel. We are also now exploring the ability for hotels to offer personalized pricing. This is huge for the industry as hotels would be able to deliver the optimum rate for any guest based on their historic behavior and preferences.
A lot of us who work in the hospitality industry are passionate about traveling. What’s on your bucket list for travel?
I have had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout my career to all four corners of the world but often just for work. Now that my children are of a certain age, I am looking forward to experiencing some of the places I have visited but this time as a ‘tourist’ with my family.
Your career must have taken you to many places in the world! Among your leisure and business trips, what’s your most memorable travel experience?
First of all, flying with my daughter (13 years old) is always fun as she wants to be a pilot, so she gets mega excited even just walking into an airport. I have always wanted to drive the California Pacific coast road and last summer I was able to do that enjoying the delights of Napa Valley, Yosemite, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, San Diego and finishing at Disney. The sheer size of Yosemite was mind-blowing. However, my favorite country to visit in the world has to be Italy. Italian food, wine, weather and architecture is simply perfect.
How do you plan and prepare for your leisure trips?
Actually, I leave the leisure trip planning to my wife. She is so much more organized than me. If it was left to me to organize, we would probably end up traveling with 1 t-shirt, a pair of shorts and no sunscreen for a 2-week summer vacation!!