A look into Ourselves… Delivering the Only Provence Experience
Five years ago, there were just two of us on staff and under thirty properties offered on
the Only Provence villa rental website. A couple of years before that, a mere five villas,
and two years prior to this–our Dean family (now owners of Only Provence) were only
considering the leap of faith to sell our Orlando home and spend one year in Provence.
Looking back is a beautiful thing, yet never quite as magical as looking forward. We are
proud to say that Only Provence is now one of the leading providers of distinctive villas for rent in Provence offering over 130 high-end properties alongside guided experiences only those who have lived in Provence could possibly share.
This month, our staff took a 2 day break from the regular routine of answering inquiries,
sending contracts, visiting new potential houses and booking chefs, to look within itself.
John Dean, said, “it was time to take a moment to really evaluate what makes Only
Provence what it is, why it is different, and how we can continue to make it better. We
are in the business of managing one of the most precious parts of life–one’s time off. It
is a huge responsibility and we want to do this with the utmost care. We want to deliver
an experience that creates memories. All of this depends on those who have joined us
around the Only Provence worktable.”
So how does a small company like Only Provence look under it’s hood to delve into such questions? Enter John O’Connor from Ceres Management, business-coach and expert in how organizations grow to their greatest potential. John O’Connor consults to
organizations, both for-profit and for global charities, and the results of his work
sessions are oftentimes cathartic. Like therapy, members of a team have a chance to
look at themselves individually and as a collective group. It is easy to get lost in
numbers and objectives, but so much of a project’s success has to do with the level of
motivation and common values that a team bring to the table.
Before even beginning the sessions, John O’Connor took the time to meet individually
with each of our staff members-to get an idea of who they were as people and what was
important to them in both their professional and personal lives. Then, gathering the
team together as a whole around a roaring fire in Provence, he had us look at how
these individual values related to what our company was becoming. It was amazing to
see that the staff at OP all had similar life values in common. These values revolved
around appreciating time with friends and family, being fair and honest, and sharing
life’s good fortune. We realized that Only Provence has been successful in delivering
these core values through its services because we each hold them as individual values as well.
But the work sessions were not all peaches and cream. John O’Connor forced our
team to identify its weaknesses and possible threats to development. This could be an
uncomfortable conversation, especially when working in a small group environment.
Weaknesses revolve around gaps in skills, a lack of resources and process, and
differing work styles of team members. We had to consider what would happen if John
Dean got hit by a bus! It forced us to look at whether we knew the intricacies of what
each of us does thoroughly enough so that we could take over if an emergency forced
us in such a situation. For a small company, these are risks that you never quite stop to
assess. It helps to have someone navigate these complex discussions from an
objective standpoint. John from Ceres did just that, forcing us to create plans around
the potential threats to our long term growth.
Overtime, the walls of the Dean farmhouse were covered in ideas, aspirations, action
plans for the future success of Only Provence. Strategy that could potentially reside only
with an owner of a company, slowly transformed into a vision created by all who make
Only Provence what it is.
The result of our sessions are quite hard to sum up. We will no doubt see an increase
in efficiency in the areas we identified as weak. More importantly though, was feeling
the strength of our team and our ability to communicate, learning and grow together.
Gilles Combarieu summed it up quite nicely–”John was a great host and facilitator. He
managed to keep us thinking about what is truly essential in our work, forcing us to get
beyond just the small practical problems we encounter every day. I think we could not
have done it alone.”