GMs to Watch

For the third year, Hotel Management recognizes a group of outstanding hotel general managers, people we call “GMs to watch.” This group of people, nominated through an online process earlier this year, represents the qualities that make GMs the heart of any hotel: These are people at all stages of their careers who exemplify leadership, caring, commitment and the ability to go above and beyond. This year’s GMs to Watch come from all segments of the hotel industry and they represent well-known brands and independent properties. What unifies them is their ability to inspire their employees, their employers and their guests on a daily basis. 

■ LUIS BARRIOS

Best Western Plus Hacienda Hotel Old Town, San Diego, Calif.

Rob Snee, Ryan Aguinaldo, McKenzy Wright, Luis Barrios and Sidona Malone.

Rob Snee, Ryan Aguinaldo, McKenzy Wright, Luis Barrios and Sidona Malone.

Barrios was born into a family in the industry in Santa Marta, Colombia. After earning a marketing degree from Cornell University, he started at the Waldorf Astoria in New York in 1970, later working for Hilton, Omni Hotels and Evans Hotels before joining Best Western in 2004.

Tell us why the person you’re nominating deserves this award: Nominator Julie Montmaneix, district VI director and past chairman of the Best Western board of directors, said Barrios’ positive attitude and willingness to serve the brand while maintaining a top-rated hotel speaks volumes for his leadership and management skills. His hotel continuously ranks in the top 20 percent or higher of all Best Westerns in North America in quality assurance. Barrios also is very active in promoting his city’s tourism in addition to promoting Best Western as a brand. Also, he was asked to serve as a governor for Best Western, which is a position typically reserved for owners.

What is your management philosophy and how do you inspire staff? According to Montmaneix, Barrios believes that by having an empowered and dedicated group of associates, which are the hotel’s asset, the hotel can deliver friendly and efficient service, which accompanied by a consistent quality and valued product results in the hotel’s financial success.

■ KEVIN BUTLER

Springhill Suites Lake Charles, Lake Charles, La.

Butler

Butler

Kevin began as a front-desk associate while attending the University of South Carolina. Fast-forward 25 years, and today he fulfills the positions of lead GM for Hotel Equities and GM of the SpringHill Suites in Lake Charles. As a lead GM, Kevin is responsible for the successful operation of several other properties, in addition to his own hotel. He also mentors and develops the GMs at the properties he oversees.

What do you love most about being a GM? “What I love most about being a GM is seeing the spark in new associates’ eyes when they are intrigued about the business. I have the ability to help them achieve whatever they want to do and that’s thrilling to me! I also love walking in to work every morning knowing that a new set of guests have just spent the night with us. They are business people, families, sports teams … and we have the chance to be a positive influence in each of their lives.”

What is your management philosophy and how do you inspire staff? “There is more than one answer to everything and I like thinking outside the box to get things accomplished. One of the most rewarding tactics I use is to solicit my team for solutions, thereby growing their ability and confidence.”

■ STEVE CHOE

InterContinental Los Angeles Century City, La.

Choe

Choe

A California native, Choe has always had a passion for the hospitality industry. He started working for Marriott while going to Cal State Long Beach to obtain a degree in operations management. He started as a front-desk agent, then worked his way up to GM. Currently, Choe is the youngest person to hold a GM position in the InterContinental Hotels & Resorts portfolio.

Tell us about some awards you’ve won: Choe currently serves on the board of directors for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board and the Los Angeles Hotel Association. He is also actively involved with the Century City Chamber of Commerce.

Tell us why the person you’re nominating deserves this award: Choe is always positive and even if he is having a difficult day, you would never notice it, according to nominator Jake Megrikian, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing. He is visible throughout the hotel and likes to personally thank colleagues for their hard work. This makes him a great leader and all of us look forward to working with him for many years to come, Megrikian said.

■ AMY CORNELL

Lexington Inn & Suites, Effingham, Ill.

Cornell

Cornell

Cornell started working at a hotel as a front-desk agent while earning a degree in applied science. Her passion for the industry grew as she gained more hands-on experiences and made advancements into the hospitality industry.

What do you love most about being a GM? “I love being a GM because the overall day-to-day operations of the hotel are never the same. Starting my day with guest interactions—learning about their travels, stays and lives—turns into an opportunity to create a connection or friendship, an amazing feeling that most do not experience in their line of work. Also, I enjoy having daily involvement in the department meetings and interacting with the associates.”

What are your goals for next year? “My daily goal is to continue to challenge and empower my staff to gain the confidence that requires them to be empowered to earn higher guest satisfaction. With that said, my objective is to continue to train my staff as professionals in managing their departments where their knowledge is valued and appreciated. Another goal is to remain strong at exceeding year-over-year revenue, while also surpassing the annual budget by improving ADR, occupancy and RevPAR.”

■ JON CRISP

Embassy Suites Tuscaloosa Alabama Downtown, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Crisp’s career has included numerous awards and accolades. He’s taught as an adjunct professor at the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management at the University of Memphis, given lectures at several other colleges, and served as chairman of the Memphis Shelby County Chambers of Commerce Alliance and on the board of Public Television and Memphis National Public Radio stations. Crisp also has served on the county Joint Economic and Community Development Board.

What is the most pressing challenge you’ve faced and resolved in the last year? “The changing demographic of my guests. Learning to adapt to the changing wants and needs of the millennials. While it is challenging, I am very optimistic about how solid the next generation of people are. These are smart and decent people. Our future is bright.”

How do you interact with your guests? “I interact via just about every communication system imaginable. In house the traditional ways with an assist from technologies such as Kipsu and social media. I spend far more time networking during social hours in the restaurant and lounge than in years past, and my hotel is very active in proactively reaching out to [guests] with offers and information. We have tried to become involved with our guests as trusted friends rather than as a service provider. Relationship building is everything to us!”

■ MARY CROWE

La Playa Carmel, Carmel, Calif.

Crowe

Crowe

Crowe’s career in hospitality started with Sheraton in Mexico. After returning to the U.S. and working on several hotel development and expansion projects, she became GM of La Playa Carmel in 2011, where she worked on the renovation, reopening and rebranding of the historical landmark.

What is your management philosophy and how do you inspire staff? “In order to achieve success, she understands that she needs the people who report to her far more than they need her, and she is not shy about acknowledging this with her team,” according to nominator Meredith Strodel, senior account executive with Castillo & Ruig Communications. “They operate as a team that thrives on inspiration. One of Mary’s primary roles is to inspire her team to achieve more through her own example and presence. She strives to create an environment where they inspire each other.”

What are your goals for next year? According to Strodel, Crowe’s No. 1 goal for 2015 at La Playa Carmel is to continue to provide unique guest experiences that guests never forget. “Toward that end, she is working on various different guest offerings that involve every aspect of their stay in Carmel. Additionally, Classic Hotels & Resorts is looking to open new hotels in top markets with distinct and authentic identity and a fresh, inspired guest experience. Mary is heavily involved in these ongoing development projects.”

■ BENNET DAVIS

Americas Best Value Inn, Brandenburg, Ky.

Davis

Davis

Second-generation hotelier Davis not only is the GM of the Americas Best Value Inn, he’s also the owner. His first job was as a bus boy at the age of 16. He went on to earn a degree in business administration with a minor in hospitality and has worked in a number of different positions at several hotels.

What do you love most about being a GM? “Every day I look forward to providing exceptional customer service to my guests by consistently motivating and assisting my team with resources and the necessary tools to deliver exceptional customer service and exceeding our guest’s expectations.”

What is the most pressing challenge you’ve faced and resolved in the last year? “I just completed my first year at the current property. The most pressing challenge was to bridge the gap between market needs and business needs. Also, changing the perception of the property and fine-tuning our product to sync with the market and community.”

■ JASON DELUCA

Homewood Suites By Hilton Birmingham-South/Inverness, Birmingham, Ala.

DeLuca

DeLuca

DeLuca started bussing tables at 17 years old, was an assistant GM by the time he was a junior in college, and was promoted to GM shortly after graduating with a bachelor’s of science degree in management from Auburn University. His current property, the Homewood Suites, is scheduled for a renovation at the end of the year.

What is the most pressing challenge you’ve faced and resolved in the last year? “We went through a full renovation in Montgomery at the end of 2013 that was quite the challenge. It is easy to get wrapped up into how the end result will turn out after renovation—the new furniture and decor. However, the process itself, and challenges that arise as a result, can be a lot of work. The entire team had to sharpen their service skills to do our best to overcome the negative experience that construction can have on guests.”

How do you interact with your guests? “Homewood Suites provides a great mix of both short-term and extended-stay guests. I really fell in love with the brand as it enables the team to get to know the guests. It is great to catch up with them at the evening social. In a sense, they become part of the hotel’s extended family. More often than not, our greatest sales pitches come from word of mouth from our guests. TripAdvisor is a great tool to convey an experience at our hotel through the eyes of someone who already has.”

■ COREY ENLOE

Sky Hotel, Aspen, Colo.

Enloe

Enloe

Enloe attended the University of Utah and found his first hotel job at the Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City as a night auditor working the graveyard shift while attending school. He progressed through the finance office in Salt Lake City while still attending school and then received his first director of finance offer at the Sky Hotel in 2002. He became GM in 2008.

What are your goals for next year? Nominator Courtney Lis, VP at Voca Public Relations, said Enloe is facing one of the most interesting challenges a GM can face in the next few months. “His goal is to successfully navigate running a hotel as the ownership submits a redevelopment application of the hotel. Knowing they have very little capital dollars to spend and trying to keep the employees motivated as we move toward possible demolition of the hotel will be a huge challenge—all while maintaining high levels of customer service and revenue goals.”

Tell us why the person you’re nominating deserves this award: “I have had the distinct pleasure of working with Corey over the last three years and have yet to meet a more inspiring, kind, intelligent or inclusive GM in the business,” Lis said. “He runs his hotel flawlessly while always maintaining an air of calm and collectedness that is necessary in an Aspen resort town. He works hard and always has fun and inspires those around him to be better employees and people. People are drawn to him and are lucky to work with him.”

■ CHRISTI GIBEL

Best Western Innsuites Yuma Mall Hotel & Suites, Yuma, Ariz.

Gibel

Gibel

A native of Yuma, Gibel’s introduction to the hospitality industry was a baptism by fire. She started as a front-desk clerk for a Marriott property in Ohio and five months later was GM. This former aviation worker and interior decorator has also lived in California, Texas, Louisiana and London.

How do you interact with your guests? “Genuine and sincere acknowledgement of guests makes them feel that they matter. Whoever is standing in front of you or on the phone is the most important person. Give them the attention and sincerity that they deserve. They will appreciate you and remember the experience.”

What do you love most about being a GM? “My favorite thing about being a GM is that I am lucky enough to do a little of everything I love. You cannot be successful in this business if you don’t like to interact with people. My decorating background is a big plus for the presentation of the hotel. Impressions, positive or negative, are lasting and I get to work in a job that is never the same day to day and that is inspiring.”

■ ROBERT HOWELL

The Shawnee Inn And Golf Resort, Shawnee On Delaware, Pa.

Howell

Howell

Howell started in the hospitality industry as a cook at a small fast-food restaurant. He was 14. Since then his career has included stints as a server, bartender, cook, assistant restaurant manager, bar manager and various sales and marketing positions. He became GM of the Shawnee Inn in 2007.

How do you interact with your guests? “I spend a lot of time out of my office in every department. I will work behind the counter in the coffee shop, talking to guests; I will clear tables and pour coffee in the dining room; I greet guests in the lobby, giving directions and advice on great things to do; I will read stories at the evening campfire; and speak with a guest whenever they [want]. My interaction with guests is very personal and not very formal.”

Tell us about some awards you’ve won: Outstanding Tourism Employee of the Year award from the Pocono Mountain Vacation Bureau in 2010, General Manager of the Year award from the Pennsylvania Tourism & Lodging Association in 2011, and Outstanding General Manager - Medium Property from the American Hotel & Lodging Association in 2012.

■ BRENT C. JACKSON

Holiday Inn & Suites Front Royal Blue Ridge Shadows, Front Royal, Va.

Jackson

Jackson

Third-generation hotelier Jackson became GM of the Holiday Inn six years ago during the pre-opening stage. Previously, the James Madison University graduate has held supervisory or managerial positions in food-and-beverage, guest service and golf operations.

What is your management philosophy and how do you inspire staff? “The goal, simply put, is to see that 100 percent of guests are 100 percent satisfied, 100 percent of the time. Achieving this requires complete buy-in to this vision by every single team member and department head and requires strong leadership towards this vision at every level. It is imperative to remember that our employees are internal customers. If we are not treating them with the highest of respect and recognizing them for their efforts, how can we expect them to give maximum effort to improving the guest experience?”

What do you love most about being a GM? “It is certainly an industry where we can always do better, provide better service, learn something new or push to be more efficient. Between monitoring the competition, managing rates, evolving with new technology, responding to guest needs, managing a diverse team with a broad spectrum of ideas and goals, I never find that the job is mundane and that is the best part.”

■ RACHEL KOOYMAN

Best Western Plus Victoria Park Suites, Ottawa, Ontario

Kooyman

Kooyman

A college co-op program started Kooyman on the path to a career in hotels. After stints in a front-desk job and a hotel banqueting department, she left the industry, only to return two years later. She started at a Best Western as front-office manager and has been at her current property for nearly five years.

Tell us why the person you’re nominating deserves this award: Kooyman is energetic, forward thinking and challenges herself and her team to be the best, according to nominator Elliott Stepman, regional service manager at Best Western. “Rachel is very genuine and respected by her staff, guests, ownership and the brand alike. Rachel has made her property stand out in a sea of competition—even though her property is not the newest or has all the latest amenities, her property has consistently stood out as the property of choice in the city of Ottawa.”

What are your goals for next year? According to Stepman, Kooyman will be focused on improving the environmental impact of her hotel and obtaining more green certifications in the industry, as well as creating a stronger social program for the staff. The property plans to participate in the Big Bike for Heart & Stroke in May.

■ BRITTANY LAGASSEE

The Inn At Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla.

Lagassee

Lagassee

Lagassee fell in love with the hospitality industry as an activities coordinator at a Starwood property while in college. After graduating with a degree in hospitality management, she began her career at a Courtyard in Atlanta and was promoted to GM of the Inn at Mayo Clinic by the time she was 25.

What is the most pressing challenge you’ve faced and resolved in the last year? “The most pressing challenge that I have faced this year was when we had several associates affected by major personal issues. I talked with my leadership team about how we could keep these amazing associates on, while managing with difficult schedule limitations and limited staffing. We figured out how to make it work, with all leadership team members pitching in and doing jobs outside of the norm. Our team came back thankful and even more engaged.”

What do you love most about being a GM? “I love knowing that I have implemented ideas that have made my hotel a better place for my guests and my team. I love that I can try new ideas that produce incredible results for my hotel, while leading and developing others. I get a great sense of satisfaction when I see my [revenue per available room] index hitting well above 200 percent and increasing sales for my property by more than a quarter million.”

■ JOAN LILLIE

Springhill Suites Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport/Mall Of America, Bloomington, Minn.

Lillie

Lillie

England native Lillie started as a front-desk clerk after graduating with a degree in hotel and catering management. During her 15-year career, she has held a number of positions within the industry, including front desk, reservations, sales and revenue management. She became GM of the SpringHill Suites two years ago.

How do you interact with your guests? “I actively work the front desk and get the face-to-face time with our clients. I actively engage the clients to find out more about them as this is what hospitality is all about. You need to crave that social interaction with others, especially when you are on the front line, because they are the reason that the hotel exists.”

What are your goals for next year? “My biggest goals are to continue to develop the management staff and hotel associates to encourage their personal and professional development. I have a strong desire to see others succeed and I want to show that, if they work hard, they can achieve their own goals. I also want to continue to push guest satisfaction and discover new ways to provide value in an extremely competitive field. Guests have many choices in hotels, but it is the small things that differentiate one hotel from another and that keep guests coming back again and again.”

■ SUZIE MILLS

Trump International Hotel & Tower, New York City

Mills

Mills

Mills has been with Trump International for 18 years, but she started in the business while growing up in Wales. Her parents owned a pub and restaurant, and then took over a 15-room hotel owned by Mills’ grandparents. They added 20 rooms and banqueting space. Her first job was at the Savoy Hotel in London. After moving to New York, Mills worked at The Mayfair Hotel before joining Trump as part of the pre-opening team.

What is your management philosophy and how do you inspire staff? “I am a very hands-on GM, since I come from an operations background. It is very important to understand and not be afraid to roll up your sleeves and do any job in the hotel when needed. Ask your team how their day is going. Meet with team members and get their feedback, make sure they have the tools they need to do their jobs. Empower the team to make decisions on their own.”

What is the most pressing challenge you’ve faced and resolved in the last year? “The most pressing challenge this year has been the number of new hotels that have opened up on our doorstep and renovations to current hotels. We are all going after the same business. I had to sit down with the team and say what sets us aside from these new shiny hotels. What can we do from a service standpoint that our competition is not doing.”

■ RUPS PATEL

Americas Best Value Inn, Paris, Texas

Patel

Patel

Rups Patel began managing in the hotel industry a decade ago. He owns a Best Western in San Antonio while still managing the Americas Best Value Inn in Paris, Texas.

What is the most pressing challenge you’ve faced and resolved in the last year? An ice storm last winter created a number of challenges, according to nominator Nalini Patel, front-desk associate at the Americas Best Value Inn. “Rups was able to make sure all staff were safe and we worked to get all rooms occupied with as many people of our city that we could. We were one of the few places in town that still had power so he knew it was important to work hard and stay focused in a hectic environment. He kept the hotel running smoothly although all guests were frantic, and still somehow managed for everyone to leave happy with their stay.”

Tell us why the person you’re nominating deserves this award: “He works harder than anyone I know, and has a passion for keeping everyone around him happy and working hard while having a great time,” said Nalini Patel. “The hotel would not work the same without his influence and direction. The motivation of our whole team has stemmed from Rups and his family educating us to create a healthy working environment and successful company.”

■ ANISH PATNEY

Hilton Hartford, Hartford, Conn.

Patney

Patney

Anish Patney has held numerous positions across several brands, including Marriott, Starwood and Hilton. He joined Waterford Hotel Group in 2005, and became GM of the 393-room Hilton in Hartford in 2013. Patney holds a diploma from the Institute of Hotel Management and a bachelor of arts degree in general studies from the Osmania University in Hyderabad, India, a master of business administration degree in hospitality administration from Johnson & Wales University and a certificate in restaurant revenue management from Cornell University.

How do you interact with your guests? “Interaction is done through pre-arrival, e-commerce and having a presence in our lobby upon arrival. We continually follow up with guests after check-out and respond to online reviews. However, as GM, my clients are also our outstanding team of associates. It is my job to ensure that they enjoy coming to work every day and this translates into exemplary guest service. In the hospitality industry, our main focus needs to be exceeding guest expectations.”

Tell us about some awards you’ve won: In 2012, under Patney’s leadership, the Sheraton Hartford Hotel at Bradley Airport in Windsor Locks, CTConn., ranked No. 1 of out of 208 Sheraton properties in North America and Canada, according to the brand’s Guest Experience Index. Patney and his team at the Sheraton Hartford Hotel were named Waterford Hotel Group’s Team of the Year for 2012. In September 2014, Anish was honored by the Connecticut Lodging Association and was awarded the Outstanding General Manager of the Year (over 151 rooms) Award.

■ JEAN PHILIPPE

Aloft New York Brooklyn, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Philippe

Philippe

A brief conversation about college Philippe had with the controller of the Somerset (N.J.) Marriott during lunch (which Philippe was serving) led to Philippe entering the Marriott hotel controllership training program. Philippe was the opening controller for the Sheraton Brooklyn Hotel, then quickly was promoted to assistant GM. He became GM of the Aloft in December of 2012.

What do you love most about being a GM? “What I love most about being a GM is creating a ‘Disney-like’ family culture for my staff. I have a confidential open-door policy, which means I’m privy to a lot of personal challenges some of my staff are battling outside of the workplace. This has certainly created a level of trust and confidence with my staff, supervisors, managers and executive committee members.”

What is your management philosophy and how do you inspire staff? “I’ve developed a personal management philosophy I call ‘self-give.’ This means approaching every task with passion, striving for perfection, taking the time to listen, guiding, lending advice, remaining non-judgmental, and becoming a role model for others. By setting the expectations as a leader to be the very best, others have been motivated to elevate their skill-sets. My staff understands I care about them. I want them to succeed. This inspires them to take great pride in their work by delivering hospitality to our guests with uncompromising passion.”

■ JEREMY POON

Sanctuary Hotel, New York City

Poon

Poon

Poon entered the hotel industry not by choice, but by necessity. His mother was diagnosed with cancer and he needed to contribute financially. He started as a private branch exchange operator, then became inspired by the industry. He was promoted to front-desk agent, and after 20 years and several promotions, he serves as GM at the Sanctuary Hotel.

What do you love most about being a GM? “I genuinely love having the opportunity to inspire others and help individuals reach their full potential. Having worked in front office, food and beverage and housekeeping, I can fully understand the challenges and limitations that they face. I also know when a team member is not giving their 100 percent. Finding ways to help them get on track is something I really enjoy doing. I love rooting for the underdogs, especially when they flourish into superstars! When my staff is motivated and engaged with our guests, it is the most positive energy to be around.”

What are your goals for next year? “I want to continue to grow our brand awareness through our sales efforts. I’d also like to exceed budget expectations, regardless of increase supply versus demand in our Times Square area. Lastly, I’d like to see us as a top 20 hotel on TripAdvisor for New York City.”

■ RANDY STUART

Holiday Inn Harrisburg East, Harrisburg, Pa.

Stuart

Stuart

Stuart’s hospitality career spans more than 25 years, wrapped around three years in the Air Force. He started in the banquet department and moved onto assistant banquet manager, sales manager, director of sales, director of sales and marketing and GM. Stuart now serves as GM and VP of sales.

What is the most pressing challenge you’ve faced and resolved in the last year? “Randy feels that his biggest challenge this year is the realization that the amount of capital funding that he had hoped for will not be available,” said Diane Speert, corporate human resources director at Milestone Hospitality Management. “He knows that for some this could be a significant challenge, but he is determined that this situation will not be what defines him, the hotel or those who work there.”

Tell us about some of your goals for next year: “Randy is emphatic about his No. 1 goal for next year, which is retention of the management team,” according to Speert. “As the GM, he believes that without them he would not be where he is today. His other goal for next year is to maintain proper revenue and expense integrity, which is why he works tirelessly to ensure that the financial responsibilities to the company are fulfilled. The third goal is to maintain top ratings on all social media sites and to continue to increase positive guest comments.”

■ PEGGY TROTT

The Inn At Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach, Calif.

Trott

Trott

Trott started in the industry working as a lifeguard at a guest ranch during the summer throughout college. She discovered a passion for working with people on vacation, and after graduating from the University of Arizona she took a full-time position at the ranch overseeing all recreational activities. She moved onto hotel revenue and operations positions at Four Seasons, Kimpton and Ritz-Carlton properties before becoming GM of the Inn at Laguna Beach.

Tell us why the person you’re nominating deserves this award: “Trott is a dedicated and caring GM,” according to nominator Meredith Strodel, senior account executive with Castillo & Ruig Communications. “She inspires her team and mentors younger management staff under her, while encouraging them to be the best they can be every day at work. She has made quite a name for The Inn at Laguna Beach and was instrumental in launching the property following its extensive renovations.”

What is your management philosophy and how do you inspire staff? “Peggy’s philosophy is simple—we win as a team and we lose as a team,” Strodel said. “She encourages her staff to try new things. If it fails, they celebrate and move on. If it is a winner, they celebrate and move on. Peggy believes that in order to be great you have to be willing to try. With greatness comes failure, which means we have times we are picking each other up, dusting ourselves off, and trying again.”

■ JOHN VERITY

Blue Water Riviera Beach Resort, South Yarmouth, Mass.

Verity

Verity

Educated at The University of South Florida, Verity specializes in turnarounds, operations, food and beverage, marketing and sales, with a focus on building great teams. He served as opening GM for Hard Rock properties in 10 cities, and also spent time with Aspen Skiing Co. before joining Red Jacket Resorts.

What is your management philosophy and how do you inspire staff? “Inspiration is driven through proper training, competitive wages, team spirit, an ongoing review process whereby performance is measured and rewarded. Upward mobility is a must and cross training benefits the team, the property and the guest. Maintaining high employee retention is the key to a positive work environment, which in turn creates more satisfied guests and eventually more dollars to the bottom line.”

What is the most pressing challenge you’ve faced and resolved in the last year? “To grow revenue and profits at a seasonal resort that has eight weeks a year of peak rate along with meeting the demands of a very challenging labor force. In 2014 we accomplished both! Sales were up year over year and up versus budget. Numerous labor issues were resolved through growing our J1 visa program and hiring college students interested in the hospitality profession.”

■ DAWN WELLS

Fairfield Inn & Suites Charleston Airport/Convention Center, North Charleston, S.C.

Wells

Wells

Dawn Wells graduated from Johnson and Wales University in 2001 with a degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management and earned a certificate in hospitality leadership development from the College of Charleston in 2003. She began her career in hospitality at an Embassy Suites in Charleston and has filled a number of positions since. She joined Hotel Equities in 2012 as GM and has since been promoted to lead GM, which includes developing GMs through mentoring and training.

What do you love most about being a GM? “The thing that really gives me satisfaction and keeps me motivated is being able to see someone’s career advance. I am thrilled to watch the progression of someone who I have mentored and coached. There isn’t a greater feeling in my professional life than to know that I was able to impact an associate’s development and witness them grow personally and professionally.”

Tell us why the person you’re nominating deserves this award: Nominator Margaret Jones, director of public relations for Hotel Equities, said there are numerous reasons, but one is that Wells is extremely well-rounded. “She knows the operations side of the business very well, but can also lead the sales and revenue effort with the best of them as well. Dawn’s hotel averaged 119.4 percent RevPAR market share over the last 12 months, a 6.3-percent improvement over last year. Her hotel has averaged double-digit growth every month for the past 24 months.”

■ TANNA ZYWINA

Best Western Plus Lodge At River’s Edge, Orofino, Idaho

Zywina

Zywina

Zywina has a degree in fashion merchandising and started her career in retail, including stints with Gap, Victoria’s Secret and Bebe. She moved back home to Orofino, IDIdaho, to help run several family businesses with her father. In 2007, the GM at the Best Western Plus resigned and Zywina’s father asked her to fill in. She’s been the GM ever since.

What is the most pressing challenge you’ve faced and resolved in the last year? “Tanna’s biggest challenge in the past year has been hiring qualified staff that will be as passionate and caring as she and the rest of the team are,” according to nominator Ron Pohl, Best Western’s SVP of brand management and member services. “They have to care and have a heart, or they will not be a good candidate for the position or her property. She has also invested more time into training each new hire, and restructured the training process at the front desk and in housekeeping so that each department is set up for success.”

Tell us about some awards you’ve won: This year, Zywina was selected as GM of the Year by Best Western. Zywina and the team have been awarded the Customer Care Award and the Quality Assurance Award from Best Western each year since 2007. The team also has been honored with the M.K. Guertin Award the past four years. Zywina’s property has also been the recipient of the Champion Award since 2007. The property also has been honored with the Excellence Award with TripAdvisor the last two years.