Welcome to our GM Spotlight Series! This is an opportunity for you to meet the rockstars playing the hits at our various hotels throughout the western United States. Here’s a few insightful questions aimed at revealing just how we pull off our Mission: ‘Crafting inspired workplaces that deliver kick-ass guest experiences, maximizing investor returns’.

Introducing: Kelly Dickson at our Courtyard Boise-West Meridian

By Alison Sansone, VP of Marketing and Communications

The Courtyard Boise West Meridian is our ‘second-born’ hotel – both of our Boise properties were developed almost simultaneously as our founding principals launched Twenty Four Seven Hotels over ten years ago.

GM Kelly Dickson happens to be our longest serving General Manager that is active in the system. His dedication and loyalty is clearly contagious, as retention rates at his hotel fortify the sense of family you would expect to find at a capital city known for being ‘home to small town people’.

Before taking up the helm as GM, he started out in catering, and that makes him one of nearly half dozen or so associates that have moved up through the ranks within that hotel.

Here’s a bit more insight into this ‘dish-dog’ turned GM:

How did you get bit by the hospitality bug – tell us the brief story about your first hospitality/hotel job?

As hospitality goes, mine is F&B – I was the only one in high school that knew I wanted to be a chef. First job was a little Italian restaurant as a dish dog; I thought the managers and servers were the coolest and I wanted to do what they did.

Golf club venue was next, then on to similar clubs; I worked at a country club in Denver during culinary school.

Fast forward to Boise, I was Sous Chef for 6 years at the Hillcrest Country Club then Executive Chef at the College of Idaho for 2 years before ending up here at the Courtyard. I came in to this hotel as Exec Chef for Café Indigo at the time, which included catering.

How are you getting your culinary fix as a GM?

Helping with banquets and putting my two cents in… My staff is quite used to it.

What’s the best comment you ever received from a guest (as GM or associate)?

I had a guest tell me one time that they stayed at many Courtyard’s all over the west, and the warmth of employees was superior – very courteous, all smiles, I remember them saying. They especially pointed out the comparison to all the California Courtyard’s.

“As one of our senior GMs, Kelly carries himself and his team with high esteem in the community and drives epic guest service expectations.  He brings a very calculating form of decision-making to the table with his F&B background – just as excellent chef’s do with both recipes and budgets.” ~Joe Kuhn, Reg. Dir. of Operations

Tell us one particular thing you’re doing right now to improve your guest service [score]s:

Constantly/each week we go over the ups and downs scheduled for the week. This year, instead of telling our expectations we’re showing our expectations. Being present and in view of the staff as we interact, lead by example.

So what’s your secret/tricks/tips for ‘minding the middle’ when it comes to the juggling act of keeping both guests and associates happy?
(Here at Twenty Four Seven Hotels, we have an old saying in our hotel operations department to ‘Mind the Middle’ which means – the middle of the P&L page, to control expenses and improve GOP…)

First always telling mangers to only plan for 80% of expenditures. Second, not everything budgeted is spent, so if we need more in one area I carefully ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ within each department, if needed. It’s always important to remember though, that if you don’t use it you can lose it, so if it improves the well being of the hotel then ‘use it’.

Tell us a highlight about your market.

The amount of growth that we’ve seen is still happening – many CA transplants, also Seattle and Portland; inexpensive cost of living being the driver. Corporate growth also increasing – our top accounts, Micron, HP are expanding.

What is the best technology platform in your stack that you can’t live without?

Medallia – capability of instant response to guest issues, whether good or bad. It’s a daily touchpoint – some would characterize me as obsessive compulsive on this.

Choose your management style: 1. Iron Man/Tony Stark, 2. Mother Theresa, or 3. Bill Murray
Bill Murray.

“Kelly is such a unique individual. He makes me laugh, he is kind and conscientious. We are very fortunate to have him on the team.”
~Janet Fioriti, VP of Operations.

Tell us about your daily stand-up routine? Group huddles? Dance party? Start with a joke?

Having everyone there is always best, we try to make that happen… I lighten the mood with self-deprecating humor. Marriott has guidelines we often need to review; upcoming events, which sports teams are coming in; and GSS status.

What’s the most valuable impact/purpose of the stand-up, from your perspective?

No one wants to be barked at, it’s more of an open table, it enables input. Sharing key details/info about the week ahead ensures nothing slips through the cracks.

If you were moving up the ranks and training your replacement, what are some words of wisdom you’d bestow for being a successful hotel GM?

Stop and listen more, a lesson from one of my leaders/mentors – who was always firm but fair.

What qualities do you look for when hiring for your team – what’s the secret to all this people focus?

With high retention I haven’t had to hire lately!

I’m looking for how well they empathize – how empathetic they are… I think that’s important in the hotel industry, it’s putting yourself in their shoes; instead of saying ‘I know how you feel’ you are attempting to truly understand. Back to the notion of stopping and listening.

RAPID FIRE ROUND:

Beatles or Stones? Beatles

Nickname growing up? Vic.

Is your Netflix account Streaming or DVDs? Streaming.

Favorite sandwich? Philly Cheesesteak

One part of your morning routine you can’t start your day without… Giving my kids a kiss.

Words of wisdom you’d give to your 16 year old self? Be careful who you trust.

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