Jüri Jasska – a manager who leads the team to victory in a friendly manner
General Manager of Tallink hotels, Jüri Jasska, is a calm and friendly person. Considering his pleasant and friendly nature, it is rather surprising that one of his special strengths is leading teams. Despite his important position, Jüri never pushes himself into spotlight, but always acts firmly and cooperatively with the success of the whole team in mind. He is never indifferent to other people’s concerns. Everything that can be solved – will be solved. In short – a very pleasant person with whom colleagues feel honoured and pleased to work.
Jüri’s career – from a ticket seller to the general manager – is a really nice success story, because it is not based on crawling over and pushing others aside but built on sincere dedication to work and great people skills, keeping the team happy and business successful even in difficult times. Today, Jüri manages all Tallink hotels in Tallinn, Estonia. (This spring Tallink hotel will also reopen its doors in Riga, Latvia. – T.N)
How did Jüri happen to enter the hotel world? “As a child, I could not even dream about a career in the hotel industry. Times were very different then. Neither did I dream of becoming a cosmonaut, but like many boys of my age during the Soviet occupation, I dreamed of becoming a taxi driver, firefighter or militia-man,” laughs Jüri. (Soviet term for a policeman was – militia. – T.N)
Instead, his working life began in port of Tallinn at Tallink D-terminal as a cashier on the ticket tills. “To be honest, I didn’t even apply for that job myself, it was my brother who sent my CV to the competition. He thought it was time for me to earn a living while I studied at school,” shares Jüri a memory. In the beginning, his main tasks were selling tickets and registering passengers to the ship. But already during the first school break, he was appointed to be the substitute head of shift. “And that was a truly high position at the time!” laughs Jüri.
Parallel to going to school, Jüri managed to work in the harbour for 2.5 years before the first Tallink hotel was opened. He moved to work there as a senior reception desk administrator. “I had never had any training or hotel work experience whatsoever, but as Sir Richard Branson teaches: “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” encourages Jüri to accept challenges.
At first it was difficult to adapt to the hotel environment, as it was a completely new world. All kinds of funny things happened, but as a fast learner, Jüri soon became good at it. After a few years, it was the natural course of things that he became the hotel Reception Manager. “At some point, I gradually began to think that in the long term, my goal is to become a hotel Manager,” says Jüri. Years passed and his dream came true. But before he became the Manager, he worked as a Technical Manager at Tallink Spa & Conference Hotel, and in the same hotel as a Project Manager and Accommodation Manager.
Jüri is very happy that he got a broad and comprehensive experience in the entire spectrum of hotel work before taking on the responsible position of Manager. “Managing different departments, I have become deeply familiar with hotel life, experienced the joys of it and solved endless challenges.”
Finally, in 2019, a real opportunity occurred to apply for the Manager’s position of Tallink City Hotel. There had been many opportunities before, but Jüri had felt that he was not yet mature enough for such a huge responsibility. “At the moment, however, I can say that the job of a hotel Manager is a real dream job! It means working with people, numbers, tracking world events and business, team planning and management – a job that never gets boring. After all, people wake up every morning to a new life, new opportunities arise, so it is for us as well. Hotels are an environment for creating well-being for the guests, a place for creating joy, and it is a great happiness to feel at home in this job. An important aspect of hotel work is that it is possible to be successful only working in cooperation, but never acting solo. Fortunately, I have always been very lucky with my colleagues and teams!” praises Jüri.
Tallink has been like a second home for Jüri for the last 21 years, currently he is 42 years old, which means that he has worked at Tallink for exactly half of his life! “It may seem like a big part of my life, but if you like your work, you will do it every day with the greatest joy,” he says happily.
By today, Jüri is an experienced hotel manager who, in addition to high competence in leisure, travel and tourism business, also has deep technical knowledge. As a child, he liked to take apart radios and model trains to understand how things work. “This was probably one of the reasons why I gladly accepted the offer to become the Technical Manager,” Jüri laughs, “One might assume that the next step from hotel Reception Manager to hotel Technical Manager is not logical, but if the field interests you, you can also move on the career ladder horizontally, gaining experience while moving upwards diagonally, not just vertically.”
The position of Technical Manager gave Jüri an excellent background to understand what and how much is needed in technical terms to keep the hotel running efficiently. “Today, when energy and other prices tend to be high, this huge amount of experience is a great advantage, because you already know how it’s possible to save costs the way that the clients will not get hit!” Technology is everywhere and in everything. “It’s always the case in life that everything you use and that moves – also wears out and breaks down. And each department thinks that it is their problem that has the highest priority. Unfortunately, the Technical Manager can’t be in all places at the same time. Perhaps one of the most important skills I gained from my job was how to prioritise. It seems simple on the surface, but in reality, it is not, and this skill is needed in absolutely every job,” Jüri is convinced.
What is the most difficult and the most enjoyable part of a hotel manager’s job? Since Jüri is a person who does not like to focus on negative things or dwell on them for a long time, he always focuses on the positive. For him, there are no problems, but there are situations and tasks to be solved professionally. “This always gives work a positive vibe,” knows Jüri from his own experience.
“The work of a hotel Manager has complicated, but not hard moments. The most difficult thing is when the guests are not satisfied with the service we provide, for any reason, and the hotel cannot change the situation in any way, because it simply is not in our power. But you always must listen to your guests, hear them out! You must think along, recommend, care, sincerely and from the heart, this itself is sometimes half the solution. We always do our best, because our guest’s well-being is the essence and meaning of all our work. Happy guests and their gratitude is the greatest gift you can have in working life!”
Those, who know Jüri, know that he is a people person and likes to be where the action is. This is also the reason why he spends a lot of time every day in the guest zone. (That’s what hotels call areas where hotel guests move.) If a hotel Manager does this, you’d think he’s a control freak, but in Jüri’s case, the reason is him being an “action” person, who enjoys being among his colleagues and guests, to interact with them, to communicate directly, perceive the real energy of workflows, get a natural insight into the state of things. “Besides, working in solitude is not my cup of tea, I’m a team player,” explains Jüri. This is probably one of the main reasons why he did not pursue a career as an IT programmer, even though he has the relevant education.
“Hotel life is never boring,” praises Jüri, “no day is ever the same as the previous one and it makes life rich in variety, offers exciting moments with guests and allows great conversations with colleagues.” Jüri always tries to be present for his colleagues, both in good and bad times, so that he gets to be part of everything that hotel life has to offer on a daily basis.
“Years ago, one wise former hotel manager taught me: “Know your numbers!”. At first, I didn’t quite understand which numbers he had in mind that I was supposed to know. Today this means for me that every morning when I get to work, the first thing I do is open the previous day’s reports and review turnovers to see how the departments have done. This gives a good overview of the situation. In short – it’s nice to communicate directly with both colleagues and guests, and at the same time know how the company is doing financially. It may sound boring, but for me the most exciting moment of every month is when the numbers about the previous month arrive – income vs. expenses.”
What makes a hotel a very good hotel? Jüri answers confidently: “People! – If there are no great people, no customer will be satisfied with the hotel, that’s for sure! Our personnel – the people who serve our guests – are the ones who create emotions. A positive contact with a great service person makes you forget about some possible negative experiences. Only then follow the importance of the appearance of the hotel and other qualities. Fortunately, our hotels have amazing staff. Also, some major renovations have been gradually done in the hotels to keep up with the times. (In 2021, the Tallink City hotel received a beautiful new appearance with a major renovation; in 2018-2019, the 1st, 2nd and 5th floors of the Tallink Spa & Conference hotel were renovated; the Express Hotel was renovated in 2014.) It is our excellent staff, good services and modern hotels that create a good foundation to overcome crises and face a happy future with a lot of guests,” Jüri is convinced.
When working in a highly responsible position, it is crucial that you have strong support and backup at home and that you can get enough rest. Jüri believes that in every loving family, the members support each other, because this is one of the pillars of life. Jüri’s wife also has a hotel background, and so they sometimes find themselves discussing hotel industry topics in their free time. Their children also seem to like the hotel world very much. “Whenever possible, the children would spend time at a hotel – either in the restaurant, or in the rooms, and it’s not at all easy to get them away from the Aquatic Centre. They have only one important question – “Daddy, in which hotel are you working today?” (Jüri laughs) Since Jüri has three hotels to manage, he moves between them as much as possible to fairly divide himself between all colleagues and different tasks.
Besides family and intensive work, it is also very important to have enough time for hobbies. “I have been fascinated by team sports like football and basketball all my life. I’ve been a football fan longer than I’ve worked at Tallink.” In the earlier days, Jüri also took part in the Tallink Cups (football competitions between Tallink ships and hotels). “But now, it’s time to look at my age in the passport and leave the football field to the younger ones,” he says. Unfortunately, it really is the case with Jüri that he just can’t give 50%, but always 100%. Since in football it can end with injuries, as it happened in the last game, Jüri would rather do other things instead. In Tallink, through a nice cooperation, he discovered bowling. He has been practicing it for the last 15 years and mostly participating in team competitions.
And of course – fishing! In Jüri’s case there is no way around it. He has been a recreational fisherman since childhood. As for a while there were fewer opportunities to go fishing, in recent years he has tried to make up for it. “Fishing means that in addition to having a good time in nature, there is also a high probability of getting something healthy and tasty onto a pan or into an oven,” he says happily.
Regarding keeping the body and mind healthy, Jüri believes that: “Since we all have 24 hours in a day, of which we work at least 8 hours and sleep for about 8 hours, the remaining 8 hours should be arranged in such a way that everyone is happy, including your health!”. That’s why, in addition to weekly bowling practices and competitions, he also goes for long walks with his family when the weather is nice, on forest trails and to outdoor gyms, which fortunately can be found near their home. Regarding spiritual hobbies and books, he admits regretfully that he was not a big fan of books neither as a young child or as a schoolboy. But, about ten years ago, in addition to studying financial wisdoms, he became more interested in deeper self-development, and started to find much more time for books. Currently on his bedside table is the latest issue of the magazine “Investor”, Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich”.
“However, holidays as such, in my case, usually mean spending time with our two cute little rascals, and after that holiday, I would need another additional holiday that I can enjoy just with my wife alone,” he says with a laugh. Their family spends summer holidays mostly in Estonia, sometimes travel to Latvia and Lithuania. Last year, they discovered a motorhome as an excellent tool for visiting beautiful places in Estonia (their homeland) and just to have a different kind of holiday. In autumn or winter season their family tries to have a week-long holiday somewhere in the sun, to recharge the batteries. “Since our son is only 4 years old, we haven’t taken very long trips, but there are great places in Europe too, to spend time with the family. Since in my previous life I was probably Italian (laughs), once a year I try to find time for a longer weekend in Italy – really friendly people and great food!” praises Jüri and adds that of the holidays in faraway places the Philippines gave him greatest emotions and good memories with its fantastic nature, beautiful beaches and, just like Italy – friendly people.
Returning to the subject of hotel business, I ask if Jüri would tell any funny stories that have happened in the hotels? His answer is very professional: “In the hotels many things happen, nice ones, funny ones and sometimes not-so-funny ones, but a hotel is a discreet environment, because it involves the private life of the guests, and we keep it discreet, safe and secure with greatest care and love.” Therefore, we never tell stories that can discredit our guests, these stories remain only between the people involved. However, the guests themselves sometimes tell funny stories on their social media and to their friends.”
What would Jüri recommend to those who are considering whether to study hospitality and work in a hotel? “I definitely recommend hotel work and studying it. All my current and former colleagues have praised their choice, especially because of the new friends, good emotions, and valuable experience they have gained from hotel life. It doesn’t matter who you want to become in the future, but before starting to fulfill your dreams, in my opinion, it’s almost mandatory to work in customer service at least for a bit in your life – it gives you extremely useful experience for every sphere you go to later!”
As we are concluding our conversation, Jüri wishes for all people with good intentions that the new year will be successful and happy! He also invites everyone to come to relax in Tallink hotels, enjoy delicious food and a pleasant atmosphere, organise events and why not – enjoy a sauna, because in Estonia 2023 is the year of sauna!
Interviewed by Tiia Nightingale