You know more than you think you know. We´ve had VIP customers stay with us. Thanks to my background in event planning and in the service industry, we met and surpassed expectations and got some great reviews.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alessandra Pérez-Cirera. Alessandra Pérez-Cirera is the owner and manager of La Palomilla, one of Mexico City’s premiere Bed and Breakfasts boasting a colorful and authentic LatinX experience in the La Roma-Condesa neighborhood. Pérez-Cirera got the travel bug early, as she divided her early years between Mexico and its northern neighbor the United States. With two Master level degrees in journalism and business, her career began in the entertainment industry in CDMX at CNN, Televisa and the dot coms. She then headed to Los Angeles to follow her love of music and hit her stride working with top level clients like A&E Television Networks and Netflix. As corporate burnout hit, Pérez-Cirera returned to Mexico City determined to create her own business that would give her a better work/life balance, engaged her creativity, and celebrated Mexican culture. In 2016, La Palomilla was born. It offers travelers a place that feels like home in one of Mexico’s most exciting, hip and safe neighborhoods, while providing gainful career opportunities for locals who like Pérez-Cirera, desire a workplace that is creative and engaging. When not managing brunch for 10–20 guests or arranging for exotic Mezcal tastings, Pérez-Cirera can be found traveling the world on adventures of her own.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After working in Marketing for 15, years I was tired of proving I was smart, so I thought about renting surfboards at the beach. I still wanted a bit more of a challenge, so I went with the romantic idea of opening a Bed and Breakfast to promote Mexico, its people, and its culture. I visited Tulum and Cabo, but I´m a city girl at heart. After visiting the supermarket 3 times on the same day at the beach (out of boredom), I decided the city was a better option for the La Palomilla project.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Last June, a couple contacted us and asked us if it would be OK if they celebrated their wedding on the terrace of La Palomilla. We had never organized a wedding before, but it was such a beautiful experience. We coordinated the flowers, hair and makeup, the catering, the ceremony, and all of their wedding experiences during the week they stayed with us. It was truly a lovely experience we will never forget.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I went on a trip to Bogotá to see The Arctic Monkeys in concert and I left the night watchman in charge of the night shift. We had an arrival in the evening. I thought I had taught him how to properly charge a credit card but in the middle of the concert I get an alert saying that we had received a reservation payment for 10,000 USD! I wanted to die because the bank obviously blocked the guests´ credit card and they cancelled their reservation with us on the spot. Can´t say I blame them. Obviously though, I refunded them immediately from the middle of the mosh pit. Thank God for cell phone service.
I learned that everybody has to be responsible for their shift and that I can´t micromanage eight peoples’ jobs at all hours of the day. I learned that everybody has to have proper training, as we could have costly mistakes and expenses that could have been otherwise avoided.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We go above and beyond to take care of all our guests. Think of us as your personal assistants in Mexico City. We had one guest that came to Mexico for a bicycle race. We picked up his racing gear, went to rent the bike that was worth over 30,000 USD, took him at 5:00am to the race, and then picked him up when he was done. Bike included! We also accommodated his dietary requests and the special hours he needed to eat because of the race. We did it gladly. He was on his own and he is now a part of our extended family forever.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I´m working with the community to incorporate new experiences to La Palomilla. For example, foodie plans with restaurants in the neighborhood, Margarita, Wine or Mezcal experiences, so that people can have a taste of the Roma-Condesa Neighborhood through the real and delicious food that you can only have here (and for a portion of what you would pay for the same plate in NYC). This will help the community in the sense that you will visit places you normally wouldn’t have, that are curated by us and give back to our neighborhood.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Provide your staff with tools that will help them in their everyday work life. For example, all the people at the bed and breakfast, from the chambermaids to the night watchman have English lessons that the company pays for. This helps them reach out to the guests in a more personal manner and for them to feel confident enough to engage in a conversation with them. It also helps them for their future jobs. When they have these tools, they will get paid better and have better opportunities. I also look at what opportunities somebody has on the staff and I enroll them in the appropriate courses, so they can improve any skill where there is a need for growth.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Be empathetic. Be patient. But let your group know your expectations clearly. Lead by example. Keep educating yourself and your staff.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Marlene Braga. Hands down. She was my mentor and colleague at A&E in Los Angeles. She always taught me to push boundaries and to follow my dreams and my passions. We´re still good friends to this day.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
La Palomilla BNB (lapalomillabnb.com) supports 8 families. We buy everything Made in Mexico so we support Mexican products and Mexican artisans. We believe in being green and helping the planet so we repurposed the furniture, use plastic to a minimum and are good neighbors, good people and serve with our hearts on our sleeves. We also try to spread the word of why Mexico is so great and why you should come visit. I like to think we’re ambassadors for our country.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Hire people that are smarter than you and better than you at the job. My experience is in Marketing. Larisa and Roxana, innkeepers at La Palomilla, have careers in hospitality. They´re lifesavers.
- Play secret boss or mystery guest at your own business place. Imagine the face of the staff when after running an errand I came back with my suitcase and checked in as a guest.
- Trust your instinct and your gut. Ask yourself if what is being presented to you makes business sense and is good for the bottom line in the long run. Be realistic.
- You know more than you think you know. We´ve had VIP customers stay with us. Thanks to my background in event planning and in the service industry, we met and surpassed expectations and got some great reviews.
- The rules change daily. You have to keep up with the trends and not get lazy. It doesn’t matter if you´re working with Google Ads or if millenials are looking for experiences instead of just a stay. You have to adapt if you want to stay in the game.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I don´t think I’m a person of great influence but I do have a small influence in my community. Buy local. Support local businesses. Be kind. Help whatever way you can, even if it is with time. Walk the talk and stay away from plastic.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
¨Enjoy here while it´s here, cause there´s no here there.¨ It has always been very hard for me to be present and enjoy the moment, as I’ve always tried to be a step ahead. In this business you never know what will happen. Everything is a factor. So one step at a time, and enjoy the present.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
My hero has always been Bono from U2. Probably not very original, but I learnt from U2 at a very early age that you have to go big or go home. It was probably at their Zoo TV concert when I was 14 here in Mexico City that I realized this. It was practically impossible to get tickets (or permission), but that´s the first time I experienced magic in a place, in a person or in a venue. I´d love to thank him in person for that inspiration and for going after your dreams no matter how wild. I´d also ask him about his cell-phone carrier and what his favorite place to ̈escape¨ from it all is.