Ted Fleurimond, general manager of the recently opened Hyatt Place National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md., hasn’t just spent a lifetime in hospitality. His roots in the industry go back one generation, and his family is continuing the legacy for a third generation.
Fleurimond came to the U.S. from Haiti at 10 years old, joining his parents who had arrived several years before. In Connecticut, Fleurimond’s father found work as a dishwasher in a Marriott hotel—even shaking J. Willard Marriott’s hand when the company’s founder came to visit—while his mother became a housekeeper for Hyatt and Westin hotels. The family’s legacy in hospitality took off, and today Fleurimond estimates that 60 percent of the family—from his parents to himself and his siblings to his nieces and nephews—work or have worked in the industry.
Graduating from high school in 1989, Fleurimond went to work as a busboy at a Holiday Inn Select in Stamford, Conn., in order to pay his way through the College of Westchester in White Plains, N.Y. After graduating, he spent time in several hospitality companies including Crowne Plaza and Urgo Hotels, where he helped open a number of Marriott-branded hotels in New York; Washington, D.C.; Maryland; Connecticut; and Mont-Tremblant, Canada. “We would go in and ... help with the hiring process, implement standard operating procedures, create a winning environment and team environment and a productive environment and go to the next property,” he recalled of those days.
Meeting Mr. Marriott
After more than six years at Urgo, Fleurimond became a front-office manager at the Courtyard by Marriott in New York City’s Times Square, managed by Interstate Hotels—and while the experience was a “tremendous learning opportunity,” after two years he was ready to move on from the Big Apple. As assistant GM at a Springhill Suites in Danbury, Conn., he was able to echo his father’s experience when Bill Marriott came to tour the property. “One of the best days of my life was following him around,” Fleurimond recalled. Several GMs and assistant GMs—Fleurimond among them—were invited to follow Marriott around the property and gain insights from the chairman.
“It was like getting your Ph.D. in the industry,” he said of the day. The biggest lesson he took away from the experience was how little time Bill Marriott spent in a hotel’s back office. “He went to the loading dock. He went to the restaurant and the housekeeping department ... He used to say, ‘If the back of the house is together, the front of the house will be perfect.’ And that stuck with me.” Since then, he said, he begins his day in the back of the house, following up on all the different reports from the different teams to make sure everything is in order.
In 2009, Fleurimond and his family moved to Maryland, where he became GM of the Residence Inn by Marriott Gaithersburg, managed by Island Hospitality. He stayed in the role for about two years, but found the environment wasn’t what he needed to grow. “As my father used to say, it has to be a good marriage in terms of philosophy,” he recalled. Looking for another opportunity, he got a call from Robert Oursler, regional director of operations for the mid-Atlantic territory of OTO Development. By November of 2011, Fleurimond had joined the team as an AGM at the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton in Fort Belvoir, Va., taking a 20 percent pay cut to be part of the growing company. Four months later, he was the GM at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott in Columbia, Md., tasked with turning the challenged property around. “The team worked extremely hard,” he recalled. “We won quite a few awards within a short period of time at that property.” He moved on to manage another SpringHill Suites in Baltimore, but the commute kept him away from his family. In a bid to balance the professional and domestic spheres, he took over as GM at the Hampton Inn & Suites By Hilton National Harbor in 2014, remaining there for six years before the OTO team offered him the chance to be the first GM at the new Hyatt Place the company was planning on opening.
The opening team worked throughout the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Northeast, building through February, March and April, navigating around delays in shipments and deliveries and making sure everyone was kept as safe as possible. “In this area, you could hear a pin drop, but we kept building,” he recalled. “We followed all the procedures—state, local, county—but we kept building, and we didn't have any issues at all.” Fleurimond credits both the team on the ground and the team at OTO for the smooth opening.
After two generations of Fleurimonds in hotels, Ted Fleurimond is proud to keep his family’s tradition going. “It’s the story of the American dream,” he said of his family’s success.
“In our business, you may have a good month, then a not-so-good month, so you’re constantly working to prove yourself.”
“My father used to say, ‘You have to set high standards with yourself.’ You have to live up to the standards you set for yourself.”
Advice for GMs
“Don’t chase titles ... Put in the work and you’re going to gain respect and people will recognize you.”
3 Secrets to Success
Be passionate. “You have to love everything about the business. You have to love what you do.”
Be disciplined. “Whether it’s a good day, a bad day, a bad week or a bad month, have the discipline to overcome, to be humble, to be decent, to be kind and to keep working.”
Be confident. “Believe in yourself. Be humble, stay humble, but you have to have some confidence knowing that if you're willing to work hard, good things will come.”
Hyatt Place National Harbor
Rooms: 156 | Operator: OTO Development | Owner: OTO Development | Opening Year: 2020