me&u: Let’s go! Tell us about yourself, how you got started in our great industry, and what you’re up to today.
Dean: My background is in law - I’m a partner of a Melbourne-based law firm, the Chief of Legal and Company Secretary for an agri-tech company based in Albury-Wodonga, and I’ve got a number of start-up companies including Third Place, where I am the CEO and Co-founder.
Third Place was born from a merger between two passions: a love for people and a love for hospitality.
I’ve always loved hospitality and the magical moments they deliver time and time again, and the natural environment they create to foster incredible relationships.
Even prior to the pandemic, I would spend hours in hospitality venues, tapping and working away, crafting new ideas, and of course, ordering coffees, breakfasts, lunches, and sometimes even dinner! I would use these venues as an escape from the office and change up the routine.
Like so many others, when our team was forced to work from home at the beginning of the pandemic, it transformed society overnight. I spent the second day working from home at a cafe in Caulfield South (shout out to Mr Brightside!) where business owners were talking about the impending lockdowns and impact this would have on the industry.
That was the light bulb moment for me - within a 5km radius of this cafe, there were now thousands of people tapping away from their homes. I called my brother and asked “what if we could connect remote workers to hospitality and hotel venues to give this industry the boost it needs while empowering workers to connect with the community and work productively?”
We gave ourselves 30 days to build a MVP and soon after the Third Place marketplace was born…
me&u: Permission for a humble brag, what achievement are you most proud of?
D: It’s not a one off achievement per se but I’m most proud of my attitude and approach to giving things a go, to stepping outside, to always seizing an opportunity and to trying and persevering in the face of potential change, adversity or failure.
- 11 years ago I wasn’t “ready to get married” but I found the most amazing person, we got married, have given it everything and we’re living our best lives.
- 9 years ago I wasn’t “ready to become a partner” of a law firm (at just 29 years old) but I leaned in, learnt a tonne along the way and 4 years later was running the practice group.
- 8 years ago I wasn’t “ready to have kids”, but we had our first child (a beautiful boy) and now we’ve got 2 more (adorable girls).
- 12 months ago I wasn’t “ready to make the move” to a new company having spent my entire career at the one firm.
More recently, I wasn’t “sure if we could build a start-up technology company” but we persevered, and I’m extremely proud of what we’ve created to boost the mental health and wellbeing of the workforce in the future of work.
me&u: On the flipside, the most challenging moment you’ve experienced in your career?
D: Sometimes, some things just don’t go your way. I had always seen myself staying with the same company forever, but it didn’t work out that way. It’s amazing how a big challenge or a huge set back can propel you forward to a place you never knew.
me&u: Dead or alive, who would you like to have dinner with and which venue would it be at?
D: Is it overly simplistic to say Bruce Willis and Nando’s will do just fine? Bruce was my favourite actor when I was a child, and I’ve always loved Nando’s. On a more serious note: I would love to have dinner with my late grandparents (all of whom sadly passed before I was 13) - a big dinner together with my parents and my family, talking about all of our achievements, successes, challenges, and the exciting future ahead for all of us.
me&u: From cassette tapes to bitcoin, our industry has survived through the decades. What are you most excited about for hospitality in 2022?
D: I’m very excited for the opportunity for the hospitality industry to create world class experiences for people. There’s a very bright future following the lifting of restrictions, the pent up demand for social connection, together with the opening up of borders and the rebound in travel.
There is a massive opportunity for the hospitality industry to leverage the remote work economy and the future of flexible, hybrid and remote work - and it has all the right ingredients!
me&u: At me&u, we’re passionate about inspiring extraordinary memories - what’s your favourite moment in hospitality?
D: My wedding day at the Sofitel in Melbourne. Wow, what a night, surrounded by our dear family and friends.
me&u: Tell us in 3 words, what’s your favourite thing about working in hospitality?
D: It’s the three c’s - culture, connection and community
me&u: What’s a song or movie which best describes the greatest challenge faced by the industry at the moment?
“How am I supposed to live without you?” By Michael Bolton. This was just the first thing that came to mind and it’s actually a song that my father used to play in his car when I was young.
me&u: Best piece of advice you’d have for anyone in hospitality?
D: Take the opportunity to create memorable experiences for your customers. Hospitality has the ability to have a profound impact on people: our mindset, our sense of belonging and our overall physical and mental wellbeing.
me&u: Finally, help us solve the two greatest debates of all time: parma or parmi? And pineapple on pizza - cardinal sin or absolute game changer?
D: Definitely Parma! Who says Parmi?
And yes yes yes, pineapple on pizza! It’s a game changer.
Third Place is the no.1 marketplace to find and book the most inspiring spaces on the planet to work remotely as a balance between working from the office (the ‘first place’) and working from home (the ‘second place’).
Third Place offers companies, SMEs, startups, freelancers and digital nomads the best employee experience on the planet and a unique solution to the future of flexible, hybrid and remote work. In doing so, Third Place is enabling the millions of workers to get back into hospitality venues to eat, drink, and reconnect with colleagues, workplace culture, and the community - driving happiness, performance and productivity, while improving the mental health and wellbeing of the workforce in the most inspirational spaces.