About us

About the author of this blog

Rolf Graf (born 20th August 1976) is a blogger, team building facilitator, trainer, coach and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of Mise En Place, a hospitality training company and Making Teams, South-East Asia’s largest and most prestigious team building organizer. He currently is the General Manager of Making Teams Bangkok.

His thinking and management practice is strongly influenced by the works of Steve Farber, Tom Peters, William Moulton Marston, Patrick LencioniEduard de Bono, Charles Duhigg, John C. Maxwell, John Strelecky and Simon Sinek.

He has been living in Thailand for fifteen years. Rolf is a Swiss national and married to Onanong Graf. They have two three-year old twin-boys, Jason and Jacob Graf. Rolf’s hobbies are reading, meditation, Tai-Chi, swimming and playing the guitar. His brother Thomas Graf is a wealthy banker in Switzerland and his parents are retirees.

Childhood and early adult life

Born into a middle-class family in Lenzburg (Switzerland), Rolf attended public school until the age of sixteen. He registered into commercial apprenticeship at J. Langenbach AG and gained a degree in commerce in 1996 (equivalent to a bachelor in business administration).

After graduation, Rolf earned his living as an advertising salesmen at Kromer AG while still living at his parent’s house. He was know for his obsession to play roller hockey and floor ball.

Australia

In 1997, Rolf left Switzerland and travelled to Australia with one of his childhood friend, Christian Dorer. The two backpackers purchased a 1982 Ford Falcon station wagon in Perth and travelled to Broom, Darwin, Alice Springs, Melbourne and Canberra, with a stop-over in Fiji. In Canberra, they split and Rolf continued the journey on his own to Sidney and Brisbane.

In Brisbane, he studied at Queens Street Colleague (Today Queensford College) and gained a Cambridge Degree in English. Highly influenced by Australian culture, he continued his travels to Bali, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, where he remained until now.

Hotel the White House on Koh Samui

It was on Koh Samui in 1998, where he met Tina Kurz, the daughter of a family acquaintance and entrepreneur’s daughter from Hong Kong. Tina studied hospitality management in Switzerland and was doing her training at Hotel The White House on Koh Samui. It was Thomas Andereggen, the General Manager of the hotel who offered Rolf a position as a receptionist at Hotel The White House (today Samui White House).

Studies and Career

School of Management and Tourism

After a year’s service as a receptionist, Rolf decided to study hospitality and tourism management at Swiss School of Tourism in Sierre / Switzerland (today School of Management & Tourism). In order to be accepted in this prestigious bilingual (French / German) college, he brushed up his French at Centre International D’Antibes on the Cote D’azure in Southern France.

As part of the three-year studies, Rolf completed a practical training at Asian Trails in Bangkok. Under the supervision of Luzi Matzig, he gained experience in the travel and tourism industry.  Back in Switzerland, Rolf wrote the thesis Sustainable Tourism on Koh Samui / Thailand. He graduated with a degree in hospitality and tourism management (equivalent to a Masters degree) on 15th June 2001.

Myanmar / Burma

After his graduation Rolf was offered a job by Paul Strachan on the infamous Irrawady Flottilla Company in Burma. Rolf was the cruise manager on Pandaw I, the original 16-stater room colonial style river vessel built in the late 19th century. Responsible for twelve hotel staff and eight sailors, he operated the routes Mandalay to Bagan and Mandalay to Pyay from October 2001 to March 2002.

Kwai Pandaw

From March to May 2002, Rolf inaugurated the Pandaw cruise ship on the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi / Thailand. The luxurious twelve-cabin river cruise was built in Myanmar and shipped to Thailand via the Straight of Malacca. Rolf was in charge of the F&B and rooms division as well as of land excursions.

Rolf Graf posing in front of Pandaw I, the original 16-stater room colonial style river vessel in Bagan / Myanmar.

Rolf Graf is posing in front of Pandaw I, the original 16-stater room colonial style river vessel in Bagan / Myanmar.

Rolf Graf is posing with the Pandaw crew on a remote island in midst of the Irrawaddy River in Northern Burma.

Rolf Graf is posing with the Pandaw crew on a remote island in midst of the Irrawaddy River in Northern Burma.

Seiler Hotel Mt. Cervin

After working for nearly two years abroad, Rolf decided to move back to Switzerland and accepted a job as receptionist at Seiler hotel Mt. Cervin in Zermatt / Switzerland. He gained valuable experience in the luxury hospitality industry. It was the stepping stone to his career as a hotel manager.

Resident Manager

At the start of the great hotel boom, in April 2003, Rolf accepted the job as Resident Manager at Hotel the White house on Koh Samui / Thailand. He served under the owner, Thomas Andereggen, who also was the opening GM at the Buriraya Hotel (now Renaissance).

Having the responsibility to market the resort online and manage employees throughout all hierarchies Rolf was a hands-on manager in close touch with the hotel guests.

It was during his time as a manager, that Rolf became aware that Thai hotel staff were low qualified and lacked communication and English language skills as well as technical know how about the hospitality industry.

In 2003, Rolf made the acquaintance with David Belcher, the owner of International English Co. Ltd.

When the White House Hotel was sold at the end of 2004, Rolf borrowed 3,000 Swiss Francs from his parents and bought 50% shares at International English Co. Ltd, an English language school on Koh Samui.

Entrepreneurship

Mise En Place

Rolf and Dave wrote a curriculum for training hotel staff in the English language. The course outline was in English language and included grammar, vocabulary, role plays, pictures and SOPs for all relevant departments in a hotel:

  • Food and Beverage
  • Front Office
  • Accounting
  • Sales
  • Porters
  • Housekeeping
  • Gardening
  • Engineering
  • Supervisors and Managers

2004

In 2004, International English consisted of Kamonchanok Saohin (administrator and Thai teacher), Dave Belcher (curriculum developer and hotel trainer), Rolf Graf (accountant and hotel trainer) and Austin Heeley (hotel trainer and private English teacher).

2005

It was in the year 2005 when International English developed its first brand, Mise En Place, later referred to as MEP. Will Corbin, one of MEP’s longest serving hotel trainers, joined the same year.

One of the first luxury hotels that signed contracts with Mise En Place were Buriraya and Impiana, and others followed suit. It was in the same year when MEP secured a large contract with Cabana Grand View (presumably closed today), that included English language training and F&B training. Rolf served as interim General Manager and was in charge of the overall operation.

2005 clients:

  • Centara Grand
  • Impiana
  • Santiburi
  • Cabana Grand View

2006

In 2006, MEP secured its first overseas contract with Soneva Fushi. MEP, developed a in-house training program and sent a specialist trainer to the Maldives.

2006 clients:

  • Imperial Boat House
  • Impiana
  • Kamalaya
  • Soneva Fuji
  • Six Senses

2007

In 2007, MEP secured its first contract with Kamalaya and in addition, a Training Manager position. The contract lasted for two years and it was mostly Will Corbin, one of MEP’s star trainer who delivered the customized training. In the same year, Joshua Arnold Brill joined MEP as an English teacher and sales manager.

2007 clients:

  • Centara Grand
  • Imperial Boat House
  • Impiana
  • Kamalaya
  • Santiburi
  • Zazen

2008

In 2008, MEP developed a wine training course and acquired its first contract with Miskawan, one of Koh Samui’s first and most prestigious luxury villas. MEP also developed the TOEIH test, test of English for International Hospitality. Today, there is both an offline and TOEIH online version available. In the same year, Philippe Vercauteren, a hospitality professional with experience in management positions at Accor Hotels joined the team.

2008 clients:

  • Four Seasons
  • Imperial Boat House
  • Imperial
  • Kamalaya
  • Napasai
  • Renaissance
  • Santiburi
  • Six Senses
  • Miskawan

2009

In 2009, MEP developed a supervisory and management training course. The course outline included a section on body language, DISC psychometric testing, Six Thinking Hats and team work training. Rolf Graf and David Belcher delivered the training hands on. MEP secured the first contract with Six Senses Oman and it was Audrey Heeley who delivered the training programme.

2009 clients:

  • Centara Grand on Koh Samui
  • Emeralds in Khao Lak
  • Four Seasons on Koh Samui
  • Four Seasons
  • Imperial
  • Napasai
  • Santiburi
  • Silawadee
  • Six Senses
  • Zazen

2010

In 2010, MEP opened branch office in Phuket. In the same year, the second overseas job was secured (with Olhuveli in the Maldives). In late 2012, MEP acquired an English training contract with Shangri-La in Bangkok.

2010 clients:

  • Bophut Resort on Koh Samui
  • Centara Grand
  • Coconut Villas
  • Hansar
  • Hilton Phuket Arcadia
  • Imperial Boat House
  • Imperial
  • Impiana
  • Kamalaya
  • Napasai
  • Renaissance
  • Shangri-La
  • Silawadee
  • Six Senses
  • Zazen

2011

Mise En Place started to produce professional training videos in 2011 for various clients in the South of Thailand. MEP produced a Front Office, F&B and Housekeeping training VDO for Serenity hotel in Phuket.

2011 Clients:

  • Apsaras Becha Resort & Spa
  • Amatara Pura
  • Four Seasons
  • Gurich (former Le Meridien)
  • Hansar
  • Imperial
  • Impiana
  • Kamalaya
  • KC
  • Napasai
  • Renaissance
  • Sala Samui
  • Santiburi
  • Serenity
  • Six Senses
  • Six Senses Soneva Kiri Koh Kood.

2012

In 2012, MEP developed standards and procedures as well as a training module for multimedia training for Panacea, one of Koh Samui’s most luxury five-star villas. In the same year, MEP did pre-opening training at Conrad Hotel Koh Samui, one of the latest addition of large international chain hotels on Koh Samui. MEP also produced a training VDO for Nora Buri on Koh Samui.

2012 clients:

  • Centara Grand
  • Centara Villas
  • Conrad
  • Elements
  • Four Seasons
  • Hansar
  • IBIS
  • Imperial Boat House
  • Impiana
  • Kamalaya
  • KC
  • Melati
  • Regent
  • New Star Resort
  • Nicky Beach
  • Panacea
  • Poppies
  • Prana
  • Renaissance
  • Santiburi
  • The Saran
  • Zazen

Bangkok

In 2013, Rolf opened at the first MEP office in Bangkok at Lalin Greenville in front of Baan Tab Chang airport rail link station. MEP developed a custom made training program for call center staff at J.W. Marriott in Bangkok. Rolf designed the course outline and conducted the training.

In 2014, MEP Bangkok office moved to Summakorn Housing Estate on Ramkamheng 112 Road. In order to fully focus on the team building side of the business, MEP Bangkok stopped actively promoting hotel training in Bangkok by the end of 2014. However, MEP accepts hotel consultancy and training jobs in Bangkok on a case by case basis. As of 2015, the MEP Phuket and Koh Samui business remains in operation.

 

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