Mikhail Arnoult and Grisha Davidoff share a long history together. They met at Glion, where they studied International Hotel Development and Finance. While there, they learnt to work with people from around the world, as well as embracing the Glion spirit. After graduating in 2015, they both secured roles with CBRE Group, the largest real estate firm in the world. All of these factors have led to Mikhail and Grisha setting up their own company, Kaizen Hotel Investment Partners, which turns underperforming hotels into profitable businesses.
Mikhail and Grisha’s interest in working in hotels started at a young age. “I was born and raised in a family of hoteliers, so I just love everything to do with hotels,” said Mikhail. Grisha, meanwhile, started working in the industry at aged 16, undertaking a housekeeping internship. For both of them, a Glion education was key to them progressing in their careers. “Glion was key to my professional and personal development,” said Grisha. “It gave me a strong basis in understanding the hotel business. You learn a little bit of everything, which enables you to think outside the box. I also learnt to live and work alongside people from all over the world.”
For Mikhail, Glion also guided him towards his future career path. “It brought to my attention a side of the industry I had never experienced before – the field of development and finance,” he said. “It also taught me that diligence always pays off, and no effort made in good spirit is ever wasted.” Mikhail and Grisha graduated from Glion in 2015, but their time together was not over – they then both went to work at CBRE. Mikhail secured a position with the hotel investment advisory team, while Grisha worked in brokering and asset management.
Making a real business investment
In January 2017, Mikhail and Grisha decided it was time to set up their own business. Together they co-founded Kaizen, a London-based investment company specializing in the acquisition and asset management of hotels across Europe. “Our business philosophy revolves around identifying underperforming hotels with strong potential,” said Mikhail. “The job enables me to combine my lifelong passion for hotel operations with my interests in real estate and finance. I also enjoy how it allows me to meet a vast array of people, from bankers and other investors to software developers.”
Both Mikhail and Grisha feel soft and hard skills are essential to succeeding in the industry. “Soft skills really make a difference to guest satisfaction, and leadership and good communication are essential,” said Grisha. “On the investment side, it’s all about attention to detail, so analytical and planning skills come to the fore.” Mikhail agrees. “In terms of soft skills, creativity and vision are important. While for hard skills, you need strong financial knowledge to help support and execute your vision.”
Grisha feels the hotel industry remains one of the most exciting sectors in the world. “Every hotel requires bespoke solutions, so I am always learning,” he said. “In order to create value in a hotel investment, one needs to understand all the different components and how to run them as efficiently as possible.”
The Glion network
Mikhail and Grisha share fond memories of their time at Glion. “The guys and girls in my class are the best I could have asked for,” said Mikhail. “I would choose our graduation trip as the pinnacle of the four years we spent together.” For Grisha, securing his first job stands out the most. “The most rewarding moment was when I received my job offer from CBRE. I managed to get a job in my chosen field, in the company that I wanted to work for.”
Being part of an extensive alumni network is also highly beneficial. “We are a very wide and global community, so it’s always great to see friends all over the world,” said Grisha. “It is important for us to stay in touch and help each other, since the success of Glion’s alumni is really what defines the school.” Mikhail also credits the alumni network as having a community spirit. “Glion gives you access to an international contact book,” he said. “The Glion community empowers you to do business with people that you like, and with whom you share a similar background.”
“It is also like having your own personal concierge service, with the community always eager to recommend places to stay, eat and see during your travels!”