Hotel companies continually send some of their most seasoned hoteliers around the world to open new hotels. They gain a reputation for being opening specialists and know how to prepare the team and property to step into the spotlight.
HOTELS talked to five hotel GMs in the U.S. to learn about some of their traditions, techniques and strategies to prepare for a hotel opening. Yesterday, we started with profiles on two GMs. Today, we present two more GMs who explain their methods, their personal touches and what it takes to open successfully.
Teach Mayer, general manager, Dawn Ranch, Guerneville, California
I love listening to the stories and legends about the property. It helps me visualize how people have experienced this place in the past – and use that as a starting point for imagining our future.
I set aside time each day to mindfully walk the property and feel the energy the spaces hold. It’s not unusual for me to spontaneously sit down and meditate in a space to fully immerse myself. What makes this place special? How can that be enhanced? Feeling into the experience of the space as it was, as it is, and the possibilities it holds for the future.
When building a new team for a new property, my goal is to hire good people, empower them to take initiatives and give them permission to make mistakes. Surrounding myself, and our guests, with people who want to create an exceptional guest experience and are ready to improvise when things don’t go quite as planned – that makes all the difference.
I let the team know that as long as they have the guest’s best interests in mind when taking initiatives, the management team will have their backs – that opens the door for the team to have the courage to improvise… for a successful opening, we need to be able to play jazz, not just read sheet music.
COVID was the greatest opening challenge – without a doubt. So much fear. So much uncertainty. It forced us to re-examine every detail of every process in the hotel with everyone’s health and safety in mind. Quite honestly, we just took things one day at a time, stayed as close as possible to the team and followed the ever-changing information from the authorities.
Personally, I collaborated with a group of other GMs from around the world, sharing best practices to adapt and build a new guest and employee experience.
Sergio Maclean, Mac&Lo Hospitality, operators of Shinola Hotel, Detroit, Michigan
We’ve opened about five hotels and a few restaurants, and it’s never the same. The one thing we always try to do is go dark for a day right before opening. It’s a means of turning off before we have to be completely turned on – a self-prescribed calm before the storm if you will.
We try to give the entire team a day off before we open, as well. If possible, we even set up a little pre-opening party. This is always great for us and the team because it gives us a moment to step away from the chaos and look at all the work we’ve done thus far before the craziness of opening.
Everything is a team effort for us. So, there is little I can do personally that will have an effect on the outcome other than being supportive of the team and making sure they have all the resources needed and are in the right frame of mind. The team’s mental space is fundamental to success, and anything can affect it at any time.
I stay away from the cliches that we have all heard about, read about, and talked about. Be upfront and clear. Leadership is not about stating famous quotes or quoting famous people; leadership is about relating directly to your team as a member of the team, confronting the challenges as they are, sharing the risks, the fears, and the successes of the team as a whole and as a group of individuals. Be honest and vulnerable – only then are you truly leading and motivating a team.
Those great leaders that issued those great quotes were talking from their hearts, from their personal experiences. None of them would be remembered or remarkable if they were just quoting someone else.
“Resonance” is best achieved with a true and meaningful message, and it doesn’t have to be poetry or smart or brilliant. It just needs to be honestly connected to you and your team.
The biggest opening challenge for me is my own personality – knowing when the best that can be achieved at that moment is achieved and letting it be. Things are never finished, never perfect. Accepting that is a challenge; not accepting it is a recipe for failure. How do I overcome it? I breathe.