Business degree, internship put GM Anne Legrand on leadership path

The St. Pancras Renaissance London. Photo credit: Marriott International

Anne Legrand, who has managed the St. Pancras Renaissance hotel in London since June 2016, never had a formal education in hospitality. Instead, she learned by doing, finding different opportunities to grow at hotels in France and England.

While studying for her master’s degree in business administration and management at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion in Paris, Legrand found two possible internships that she could take in the U.S. One was for a law firm, while the other was for the Atlanta Marriott Northwest’s marketing department. She opted for the latter, and never looked back.

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“I just loved it,” she said of her time at the Atlanta Marriott. She spent her internship in several departments at the hotel, finding a good fit on the operations side. “I decided, after finishing my studies, that I wanted to try the hotel industry.” After working as the director of sales for the Hilton Paris, she returned to Marriott, helping to open the Marriott Paris Champs Elysées in 1997 as the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.

By 2002, Legrand was the GM at the Courtyard by Marriott Paris Neuilly, and jumped around to different brands within the company’s French portfolio, leading the Renaissance Paris Vendôme, the Marriott Paris Champs Elysées (this time as GM) and the Renaissance Paris Le Parc Trocadero. In 2016, she crossed the channel to take over the St. Pancras Renaissance hotel in London, and has remained there since.

“The reason I liked the hospitality industry from the beginning is because of its diversity,” Legrand said, noting that “diversity” can apply to the people involved, the kinds of jobs that are available and the many career paths people in the industry can consider. “Even if you don’t have a degree, there are still opportunities, even now, if you work hard and are open to different things,” she said. “You do your [job], whether it’s running a hotel or working in HR or housekeeping or whatever, but you have the opportunity to be exposed to much more than this.”

Working in hospitality encourages not only community involvement, Legrand said, but involvement in education and working with a wide range of associates. “This is still a key component and pillar for our company,” she said. “It’s really nice to see.”

Anne Legrand
Anne Legrand

Legrand has seen plenty of changes in the industry over the past two decades, but the biggest disruptor in hospitality, she believes, is technology. “We’re more attached to our phones and iPads and laptops than we were in 2002,” she said. “We didn’t have all of those things. Technology in our jobs has played quite a change, but it also provides different services to guests, to hotels, to associates.” While technology is an ever-growing part of the business, she said, it’s just one part of the overall trend of innovation, which she said is vital “to maintain loyalty and to motivate associates and make sure we focus on all generations, definitely Gen-X and -Y and -Z is now at the door, whether it’s to work or stay.”  

Another notable change is the growing number of women in the business. “Definitely, more opportunities have been given to women over the years,” Legrand said, noting that this increase is putting more pressure on women to find a balance between career obligations and family responsibilities. “Try to find the balance in having time at home with your family,” she suggested. “Having a family is part of that balance.” Beyond that, she added, exercising and taking personal time off is also important to remain balanced—“even though you have to keep an eye on what’s happening in the business.”

Anne's Advice for GMs

Be passionate. Think ahead, and think outside of the box. Be open to new projects that you can take on. Be close to your people and also close to the community. I don’t just focus on my property, but look at what’s out there to be sure that we’re on top of everything.

Challenge: Probably one of the hardest was to try make sure over the years that I find a life balance.

Solution: It’s important to have quality time. Sometimes the quantity might not be there, but quality time [is], certainly, and time with the family but also time to yourself. For me, this is important.

Secrets to Success

Be passionate. You know the industry well, you have to work hard, and it doesn’t stop. Passion is really very important for me.

Focus on team development. Identify talent that will take on additional responsibilities or different roles, either with me or outside the company. Be goal-driven and strategic and a people person.

Try to be fair. When you have to deal with an issue, listen and make the decision that’s fair for the person, the business and everybody involved. It’s very important to be fair.

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