What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19?
The virus is a faceless global opponent with unlimited weapons and no foreseeable end. Neither governments nor science have a handle on it, and the world is working overtime to try to live with it. There are no precedents as to how long this pandemic will last and it’s just devastating for so many.
This is the most significant health scare in recorded history, and for the travel industry, the impact is far worse than that of 9/11. We are all on hold, and our only controllables are our service delivery to our few guests and our employee culture.
Most of our events that were scheduled in the summer or fall have been pushed to 2021. We do have some that are hanging in there in hopes there will be a way we can make it work for them. The safety of our guests and employees is our number one priority so we are reviewing what will be feasible based on the recommendations of local, state, and national authorities.
For the first time in over 70 years we have reimagined our iconic sign, as we felt that it was important to give a heartfelt thanks to the health heroes who have continually put their lives on the line to protect our community.
What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation?
My focus on the operation has now changed to focusing on how to manage this crisis and lead our team so they feel safe and have peace of mind. I am working with our leadership team to define the crisis, outline how we will survive and ultimately thrive. Every component of this is being adjusted daily as this situation is evolving every minute. Focusing on the guest, the culture and the team allows me to concentrate on things within my control. It would be so easy to get distracted by the current chaos, but what I really care about is right inside this building. I care about the people who stay here and the people who work here. That’s the heart of it all. I especially care about providing a trust-based workplace in which every member of the team can feel safe, survive and thrive.
Although most of our team is working from home, we’ve been in constant communication through weekly letters and phone calls. We’ve ensured we are as transparent as possible in each letter and outline a series of Q&A’s that help answer some of their questions and concerns. This has been vital for our culture and for their peace-of-mind.
In times like these, it’s more important than ever that we take care of each other. We are focused on caring for our team members at The Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, and we also are committed to supporting the community. The Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air have worked together to provide the following:
- Donated thousands of meals to the following organizations or communities:
- First responders and medical personnel in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills.
- Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
- Anyone in the hospitality industry who has been laid off or on reduced wages.
- St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica.
- Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center
- Homeless veterans through the Veteran Affairs in Los Angeles.
- Donated thousands of dollars of non-perishable goods to Hollywood Food Coalition
- We launched a Story Time series on social media to help parents as they are juggling their full-time jobs and homeschooling their children.
- Launched a PenPal program in which our employees send hand written notes to those in need of some Pink Palace cheer.
- For the first time in over 70 years we have reimagined our iconic sign, as we felt that it was important to give a heartfelt thanks to the health heroes who have continually put their lives on the line to protect our community. We hope that by writing these brave individuals into our legendary history, they will understand how deeply grateful we are for their hard work and for the many sacrifices they have made for us.
We will continue our community outreach program as long as we are able to help those in need.
How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?
At this stage it’s too early to know what the future will look like. All we can do is build a detailed strategy to remain organized, systematic and undistracted during this crisis. Charting provides a road map that will allow us to stay focused just on those things that we can control, i.e. key aspects of the business, the team and customer engagement.
We are currently working in partnership with a health and safety agency as well as local, state and national authorities to finalize a detailed plan. The guest experience will look different for some time but you can expect the same great service that we are known around the world for.
What have you learned from other difficult times in the past?
We have had our fair share of difficulties in the past, but every day at a hotel can bring different crises, from a guest who has lost his cell phone (or Oscar statuette) to family arguments over pool chairs or worries about cancelled airline flights. Employee crises can take place as well, from not being able to get to work due to child-care issues to personal illness to a lost client for a sales manager. I care personally about every one of these crises, and I use the same crisis-management steps to deal with all of them without getting distracted or running off the rails. Whatever is going on, I want our employees and guests to feel safe and secure, and their crises necessarily become my crises.
What we did to survive these difficult times was to pour our focus into the culture, the employees and the guest experience. We basically had to close our ears to externally instigated disruptions, so it became all about staying on track and delivering decency and dignity throughout the building.
Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime
I start the day by working out as it’s more important than ever to focus on my personal health and wellbeing. I then head into the office as the hotels are still operating and it gives me a bit of normalcy. My day-to-day is very different as our meetings are now virtual, and I don’t have the opportunity to interact with the team as much. But we are staying in touch with weekly Zoom meetings, letters, and I personally call every team member to check in and see how they are doing. I also call all the hotel guests to check in with them and see how they are doing.
I’ve been watching The Kominsky Method, Blacklist, and Curb your Enthusiasm. All the classics playing on ESPN.
One Last Strike by Tony La Russa; The Yankee Years by Joe Torre; and The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett Graff.
What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?
I work out as often as possible and focus my time on personal growth through various leadership activities. I also speak to my family as often as possible, since I am not able to be with them right now, and that brings me comfort.
Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
I look forward to being able to visit my family in Canada. I will make that trip as soon as I am able to. And after that, I look forward to traveling to the other Dorchester Collection properties and seeing my colleagues and friends. Looking forward to seeing the first pitch and listening to the National Anthem at Yankee Stadium.