Alessandro Catennaci is a man who inspires awe. As he stands at the helm of a Scandinavian hospitality empire that he’s spent over 30 years tweaking into perfection, he remains irreverent: “I sometimes ask myself, ‘Am I really good at anything, or was it just luck?’” Despite top-tier hotels, world-class restaurants and nightspots in his home city of Stockholm, one hotel in Copenhagen, and more in the making, Catenacci exhibits an ease that makes his success look as if luck were indeed a factor. Actually, his success is the result of a long-term vision, hard work, and great business sense.
If you have 200 hotels, you can’t look at all the details. So it’s something to consider when moving forward: How many hotels can you have, yet still keep the personality of the brand? All the details are important. In sports, it’s the same. If you watch ski competitions, the difference between the guy who wins and number 10 is maybe two-tenths of a second, which is four meters. But this decides if you’re number 1 or 10.
It is not a matter of a number, it’s about always wanting to be better and having that energy every day. I sat for 40 hours just to check the playlist of the restaurant we refurbished in the Nobis Hotel Stockholm. Maybe this isn’t my job, but I want to have it my way and I listened to every song—not just for 10 seconds but 30-40 seconds until I knew whether it’s good or not. I listened to 1,600 tracks. You could buy an ambient playlist but not all of them are good. You can’t standardize feeling.
I have those every day. In one way it’s a weakness. I think I’ve been lucky in my life. I have short moments when I’m sitting in the lounge of Nobis Hotel (Stockholm), which is very beautiful, or at the bar in Copenhagen and think, wow I made this. But then 10 or 20 seconds after that I go back to normal. I can never stop and just feel good about what I’ve done. I always want to make it better. I see 10 things that are not working instead of the 20 that are. I even notice when a painting is not straight.
I see all the small things. In my wardrobe, I only have tailormade clothes and shoes. And it goes even further: I have the white shirts, then the light blue, and then the bright shirts, and if you put the blue shirts in between the white ones, it makes me feel bad. Another thing that is important to me is that if I build a wall, for example, I have to make it good from the beginning. If the groundwork isn’t good, then I will always think I have to take down this wall and remake it. It’s the same with my clothing. I always have to start with nice socks. I could never put on socks with a small hole or something because then no matter how nice my clothes are, I will always feel bad about the hole. You have to feel good the whole way. It’s the same in my hotels.