Episode 203 – Anna Danau talks about building confidence, acknowledging cultural norms, and training for new environments

Company Culture, Entrepreneurship, Guest Experience, Podcast, Women of Influence

Anna Danau is the Managing Director of her own business, Hospitality Intelligence.  Anna started her business when she and her husband, Victor, moved to Vietnam in 2015.  Hospitality Intelligence was originally created to oversee the first ice skating rink ever in Vietnam, which Anna planned, opened, and still oversees.  Since then, the scope of the business has expanded to opening other family-focused entertainment offerings in the area as well as supporting other themed entertainment businesses in the area.  This support comes in a variety of forms, with the most common being staff and procedural training and guest experience insight.

Anna talked about the unique opportunity to be a part of the growing themed entertainment industry in Vietnam.  She described the industry as being in its infancy there, but that interest in attractions was growing.  Anna said most current offerings are family entertainment centers (FEC).  In addition to the popularity of FECs, shopping malls are favorite destinations for locals.  That’s why Anna is opening attractions, such as ice skating rinks, in the already-popular mall locations.  In Vietnam, family is very important so opportunities for family members to spend time together are always appreciated.  The importance of family in Vietnam made a wonderful impression on Anna, and she decided to start and raise her family there. 

Opening the first ice rink in Vietnam came with some interesting challenges.  Because this was the first opportunity many locals had to partake in the activity, almost everyone needed to be taught how to ice skate.  This led Anna to pivot her staffing plans slightly, train all of her employees to skate, and have several of them on the ice at all times helping people learn how to skate and how to fall in a way that won’t lead to injury.  Another lesson that Anna learned from training her new staff was the importance of understanding and working with, not against, cultural differences.  For example, in Vietnam elders are respected to the point that you often don’t tell them that they can’t do something.  However, this cannot take priority over ensuring the safety of guests.  Because of this potential conflict, Anna worked with her frontline employees to determine ways to respectfully explain safety requirements in a way that ensured all safety guidelines were followed while also making sure guests didn’t feel disrespected.  

Training has become a large part of Anna’s career, both at Hospitality Intelligence and with International Ride Training (IRT), which provides ride operator training, safety standards, and yearly audits.  Anna has been a large part of extending IRT into Asia and Australia to truly make it international.  One training initiative that Anna is leading is creating training for international students that want to work at theme parks in other parts of the world, such as in the United States.  Many of these students haven’t been to the US or even been to a theme park themselves so they have trouble being immediately effective at their roles.  In order to help with this problem and provide value to both the hiring parks and the incoming students, Anna is creating training to teach students some of the basics before they even arrive at the parks.  The topics range from learning the basics of living in the US to more tailored information about the park they will be working at.  Additionally, the overarching focus is on safety for the students and the guests they will be serving when they arrive.  

Anna also enjoys training her own staff at the ice rink.  She describes herself as an introvert but knows the importance of being confident and engaging with guests.   Anna tries to help her employees find their inner confidence, but she says that process can be different for each individual.  Additionally, Anna trains her supervisors on how to give good feedback to the employees they manage.  She emphasized the importance of both positive feedback and corrective feedback.  When constructive feedback is delivered with the goal of helping an employee be the best they can be and truly succeed in the role, even corrective feedback can lead to a confidence boost.  Additionally, Anna pointed out that confidence takes both mental and physical practice.  She teaches skills she learned in theater, such as breath control, having good posture, and even improv, as a means of improving confidence when interacting with guests.  In addition, Anna wants her employees to feel empowered to be proactive while delivering exceptional guest experiences.

Lastly, Anna shared a few tips.  The first was to find a mentor if you don’t have one.  She says that she wouldn’t be in the position she is in now without the help and guidance of her fantastic mentors.  Also, Anna emphasized the value of enjoying the journey and not just the destination.  She spoke this with regards to career progression.  Many people go to school and think they have a plan for what they will do when they graduate, but Anna suggested that sometimes, opportunities might come along that surprise you and take you somewhere you didn’t quite expect.  Before joining the themed entertainment industry, Anna worked for the US government, gathering intelligence.  So when the opportunity came to work within themed entertainment, a sphere she had always loved, she jumped on the opportunity and is loving the ride.

If you’d like to get in touch with Anna, you can find her on Facebook, LinkedIn, and on Hospitality Intelligence’s website.


This podcast wouldn’t be possible without the incredible work of our amazing team:

  • Audio and video editing by Abigail Giganan
  • Complete episode summary by Paige Reiter
  • Scheduling and correspondence by Kristen Karaliunas
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