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Report On Business Magazine Hotelier Christiane Germain on how to avoid family feuds and why she doesn’t sweat Airbnb

KATHLEEN FINLAY/Globe and Mail

I was a quiet little girl. When I became a teenager, I was more rebelle, and I was tough on my parents. But at one point I wanted to be a missionary. It had nothing to do with religion-I was concerned about poverty and the fact that there are people who aren’t so lucky.

If I had to change a few things, I would probably go to school longer than I did. I quit when I was 17 and worked in a bank. After I had been there for 10 months, a young man started, and I asked him, “What is your salary?” He said, “$110 a week.” So I went to see my manager and said, “Why is he making $110 and I’m making $72?” He said: “Well, he completed his college diploma, and he is a man.” Obviously becoming a man wasn’t a solution, so I went back to school.

My brother Jean-Yves and I are a year and a half apart. I’m the big sister. If we were too similar, I don’t think we would have been working together for 30 years. We complement each other very well. Sometimes we don’t need to have deep conversations because I know what’s in the back of his mind.

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In French we have an expression: mettre de l’eau dans son vin—you have to put some water in your wine. Choose your battles. You can’t win them all—and keep in mind you will be spending Christmas together.

I had never worked in a hotel, but I knew how important service was, because we grew up in our parents’ restaurant. If we were sitting at a table and there was a line to get in, we would immediately go into the kitchen to leave a table for people waiting. It was very simple: Do what the guest wants.

It’s too easy to sit on what you’ve got and let things go, so we are constantly trying to do better. If you stay the same all the time, it’s like going backwards.

KATHLEEN FINLAY/Globe and Mail

Our biggest mistake we made was when we were very young. We had two restaurants, and they were the most successful in the Quebec City area. We bought a third, and it didn’t work. We lost of lot of money. We were stuck with it for 10 years because of the lease. Even now, when we go for a new project, I still have that in the back of my mind.

I believe in action. I guess that’s my entrepreneurial side. If I feel I can do something, I will get it done. As women, we tend to second-guess ourselves—too much.

People are travelling more, and I think that will continue. So, to me, Airbnb is a different offer and it’s fine. I don’t have a problem if you want to rent your space while you’re on vacation. Where I do have a problem is the regulations. The rules have to be the same for people who own a few apartments and do the same business I do.

Before my daughter had kids, I never thought about the grandmother thing. But grandchildren make you think more about what you’re leaving behind—your legacy.

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As women, we have gained a lot in the last years, but young women don’t know what it was before and sometimes take things for granted. I would like to communicate to my daughter and granddaughter what it was so we don’t go back there.

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