“I’m not a beach club sort of person…”

With a background in banking, Beltrán Álvarez de Estrada makes an unlikely, but effective CEO of the hip Purobeach brand. He shares his know-how

If you’ve been to the beach at Palma or Marbella, you may have been distracted from your bucket-and-spade work by the faint sounds of house music from a nearby luxury beach club. And if your envious gaze took in immaculate white sunloungers, a stylish dining area and palm trees, it’s likely to have been a Puro beach club. The Puro Group has eight venues, including a hotel, with a turnover of €9m a year and 190 staff, and is expanding into Greece, Morocco and Egypt in 2018. Is a hedonistic holidaymaker in charge? Nope. Meet Beltrán Álvarez de Estrada, CEO of Purobeach and former investment analyst for JP Morgan in New York.

Accept the opinions of others “One of the best decisions I ever made was when I said, ‘I do’ to my wife. We married in 2003 and I’ve always discussed work with her to get her ideas and input. It’s invaluable to me. I’m quite analytical, but she’s creative and gives me a perspective that I just don’t have. She’s also very critical, which can be painful at times, but she’s almost always right.”

I don’t look like a beach club sort of person… “…Because I’m not. Before this, I used to do equity research, which is all about analysis, creating huge reports and making analytically driven recommendations. Now, I have to use the right-hand side of my brain and engage with our customers and understand their experiences and emotions.”

My background gives me an edge “I acquired a majority stake in this business over a weekend without even looking at the site. I’m good with numbers, so I just gathered all the information, looked at the financials and identified where the opportunities lay. I knew there were going to be skeletons in the closet, but I saw the potential.”

If you can, buy land “What changed everything for us as a company was when we purchased the Puro real estate [in Palma] about two years ago. Before that we only had rental contracts. However, buying the land the business is on provides us with a valuable asset that acts as oxygen for the business. It puts us in a very secure position.”

Consider the bigger picture “Last year, we bought a second beach club in Majorca, which was a very long, drawn-out process. It was a complicated situation and there was a lot of uncertainty behind the deal, but I was able to push it through because I’ve taken a step back from the day-to-day running of the business. My focus now is on our expansion, finding new opportunities and formulating strategy, and it’s taken our business to a higher level.”

Take a break “Before, I was so focused on my immediate priorities that I didn’t have time to think about anything else. I worked so many hours. Today, I still think about the business round the clock, but I’m able to take time to go sailing or go for a walk to consider things. This is crucial, as it’s when I get ideas and everything falls into place.”

Some things take longer than others “We’ve done a couple of deals recently with Hilton Hotels and it was a massive step forward for us. However, Hilton is such a huge company that it has a very structured decision-making process and it takes a long time to get anything signed off . Was it frustrating? It was certainly not what we’re used to – we can make decisions here in a few minutes – but it’s just how these things go. It may be difficult to get your foot in the door with a new company, but it’ll be easier when you want to work with them next time.”

Take stock and take action “I worked in New York for six years. Some time in 2001, I remember sitting at my desk at JP Morgan and thinking that I was working so hard and was so stressed, the best I could hope for was to end up in the coroner’s office. I didn’t even think I could dream of retirement, so I quit. It was an easy decision to make. I thought that I’d do my own thing and if it went well, I’d buy myself an island. If it went badly, I’d simply go back to banking. I don’t have my island yet, but I’m closer to it.”

Mix things up “The island idea came from reading Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity [he owns Necker Island]. He inspired me and I can see similarities between how he expanded his business into other areas and my plans for Puro. Around the time I left New York, I took a sabbatical. It was an important time for me – to travel the world, to take stock of who I was and where I was heading. Whereas before, my holidays had been a week grabbed here or there, then I took a month off to go skiing, followed up by climbing Kilimanjaro, studying scuba diving up to Divemaster level – it was a completely different mindset for me.”

I don’t know about everything… “….But I always know another person who does. If there’s anything I don’t understand, I’ll go and ask an expert instead. Getting the right people in a business counts and if you’ve got a great spread of expertise, you can achieve anything together.”

Music brings it all together “We look at things slightly differently to our competitors in that we offer a lifestyle experience – we’re definitely not a party venue. Don’t get me wrong, we love our special events and we have had some amazing evenings, but for us it’s all about quality. From the food to the sunbeds to the service and especially to the music. We don’t play commercial music, we play a very distinctive type of house music that makes you feel integrated, good and part of the atmosphere. Sunbathe, have a drink, have a massage, enjoy a nice lunch… The next thing you know, you’ve been here all day long.”

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: http://www.ink-live.com/emagazines/easyjet-inflight