Paul Dubrule | Co-founder of Accor

They say “curiosity killed the cat”, however, Paul Dubrule, co-founder of Accor, believes that being curious is what helped him to create a hospitality powerhouse worth billions. From starting his career in the basement of a bank to becoming a world-renowned hospitality figure. We’re going to shed light on how Dubrule created his brand, how Accor became a global force, and three of his wisest pieces of advice for hospitality professionals.

1. From the Basement to the Boss

Dubrule was adventurous and business-minded from a young age, he first ventured to New York City to work at a bank in the world’s financial district, Wall Street. Dubrule states that his colleagues would always refer to “upstairs,” by this they meant the 45th floor of the building. For his colleagues, their measurement of success was to go from the basement to the big-time on the top floor. Yet again, Dubrule didn’t want to follow this prefabricated pathway to success, he was curious to see what would happen if he started a business himself.

"If I want to be the boss, I have to start my own company...even if I am the only one"

It’s possible that Accor may have never existed as Dubrule had originally wanted to develop a supermarket chain until he met marketing guru, Bernardo Trujillo. Trujillo convinced him to take a chance and do something disruptive in the hospitality industry.

Consequently, Dubrule switched his attention to hotels and quickly realized how popular motels were across the USA. This was his light-bulb moment, he saw an opportunity to adapt this tried-and-tested concept to suit the European market. Dubrule focused on perfecting the basics of a hotel, providing guests with good quality amenities in their rooms.

2. Accor Accelerates Across the Globe

Even though the concept behind Accor was a pioneering idea, Dubrule says that the real secret to his success was having such a talented and complementary business partner, Accor’s other co-founder, Gérard Pélisson.

You may not have known but it’s likely that you’ve interacted with an Accor brand at some point in your personal or professional life. Since opening their first Novotel hotel in Lile in 1967, the co-founders have gone on to establish partnerships and investments in every corner of the hospitality world.

At present, Accor encompasses +25 hotel brands and has 4,300 properties in 100 countries. The company has expanded at hyperspeed in recent times, especially in the high-end and luxury departments. It has acquired some of the most distinguished brands in hospitality including Raffles Hotels & Resorts, Orient Express, and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.

This rapid expansion mirrors the outstanding growth opportunities that are available at Accor for aspiring hospitality professionals. The incredible Accor family is currently made up of around 280,000 talented people. It’s such a staggering number of employees to take care of and keep happy, so what's the key to achieving it? Dubrule strongly believes that the key to making staff happier is providing them with opportunities to learn and develop.

"I have learned that if you know well how to do it, you feel better"

3. Paul Dubrule’s Ever-Relevant Advice

Nowadays, the word “influencer” usually relates to a 20-year-old Instagram icon that can make an immediate yet brief impact on an audience. Yet again, our hospitality influencers’ series focuses on those that have had an immense and lasting influence on our industry. At 84, Paul Dubrule is rightfully cemented as a hospitality legend and has more solid advice than most. With this in mind, we’ve hand-picked three pieces of advice from our interview to help you throughout your career.

Before stepping foot inside of a hotel, Dubrule can immediately tell if the property’s kitchen is dirty or not.

"If the doormat is dirty, I know that the hotel is not clean"

You’re right to think “what does the doormat have to do with the kitchen?” but there’s one critical connection. If you don’t have the passion to pay attention to every single detail from the very beginning, then you’ll struggle to succeed the rest of the way.

As a youngster, Dubrule wanted to become “a military general, the general-in-chief or...the pope.” He was always destined to become a leading figure. So, it was no surprise when he told us that if he could go back in time and work in a hotel, the position he would choose would be:

"I think I would ask to go in every part of the hotel, and then I would like to be the manager...the manager of the manager...the boss and the CEO"

This is the journey that all hospitality professionals dream of, and not only because of the financial gain! Nevertheless, it highlights that if you want to excel at the highest level, you must be willing to take chances and move to other departments so that you can obtain a more comprehensive understanding. This ties in Dubrule’s last, and perhaps most important piece of advice:

"You have to be curious. You have to be open to everything that’s happening around you. Go travel in the world, now it’s a very easy opportunity. In your town, in your country, in the world, look what’s happening."

Eager for more hospitality influencers inspiration? If you haven’t seen it already, check out the trailer for season 1 or discover our intimate interview with 3-Michelin Star Chef, Anne-Sophie Pic. Stayed tuned for more episodes!