Celebrating Stellar Hospitality Professionals on International Women's Day

Two hospitality professionals and Kipsu Champions, Heather Strauss and April Storey, discuss their careers in hospitality and what drew them to the industry.

August 3, 2018
Hotel Guest Service
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Hospitality Highlight

Here at Kipsu, we have the great pleasure to work with stellar hospitality professionals each and every day! We love having the opportunity to get to know some of them personally to see what motivates them to be their best and how they empower their team to meet the high expectations the hospitality world holds. With International Women’s Day on March 8th, we decided to interview two of our long-time Kipsu pros and outstanding hospitality professionals on how they lead teams at their respective properties.

Heather Strauss General Manager at Westin For Lauderdale

Our first interviewee is Heather Strauss, the General Manager at The Westin Fort Lauderdale. Heather joined The Westin Fort Lauderdale team a few months ago, but has been part of the Kipsu community for years, as she has used the tool at several of the properties she has managed.

Heather discusses what drew her to hospitality, how she empowers her team members everyday, and why she loves the hotels she works at!

What inspired you to go into hospitality?

I feel very fortunate because I’ve known since 7th grade what I wanted to do. I grew up overseas in Hong Kong and have lived there three times, since my father worked for Exxon and I was an expat. The first time we went to travel around Asia is when I was exposed to the hotel industry and realized you can build a strong career in hospitality.

How do you empower all of the members on your team?

I have a great team here at The Westin Fort Lauderdale. Typically what I do is meet with the team and give them the goals/objectives, then let them run with it. I meet with my executive committee once a week to do a pulse check to see if they need any direction, support, or have any questions, and make sure they are headed in the right direction. I also try to involve them in the decision making because then they have more buy-in.

Can you highlight some stories you are proud of that you or the team you manage went above and beyond when delivering guest service?

This week was a great example! We hosted the Asian American Hotel Owners Association board this week. I didn’t even know they were coming until last week and found out during the staff meeting when we were going through our resumes. We really wanted to wow this group of hotel owners, and we ended up going above and beyond! The Food & Beverage team went above and beyond as far as the menus and delivery, the sales team went above and beyond detailing everything, the front office team went above and beyond as far as check-in and reservations. It went seamlessly! I was excited because we got emails from owners after their stay saying how well everything went and how we exceeded their expectations. That meant a lot because they were hotel owners and hospitality professionals themselves.

At the end it was great because we had all of the hotel associates come down as they [hotel owners] were breaking for lunch on the last day to thank them for staying with us. I enjoyed seeing everyone on my team engage and thank them, while smiling and lighting up! It was a good week!

What personal strength of yours are you most proud of and how does it relate to your job?

Working Hard. Even though you move up, you don’t work less hours. I’m usually one of the first ones in and the last to leave. I’m also very positive. Even if the building is on fire, I am positive! We want to keep everyone motivated and as managers, we should always be positive. We don’t need to stress out the team, we are here to support them! Lastly, I truly care about the team and our guests. I feel very lucky to be in this business, and I love what I do!

Who is your female role model and why?

I would say my last Area Vice President, Leslie Pchola. I worked for Leslie for about eight years. She has since then been promoted to Senior Vice President of Operations at Hilton. Leslie has been very successful with Hilton Corporate, which is a very male-dominated environment at the top, and was the only female AVP. Leslie is always very empowering and supportive. She let me run the hotel as my business, let me do what I did best, and told me what my goals were clearly. I always knew if I needed something, I could openly call her.

Some final words of advice is to make sure you align yourself well with brand and culture to be successful. Sometimes, earlier in my career I’d pick the job with the really pretty building or resort, but it wasn’t necessarily the right partnership as far as an owner or company. Take the time to align yourself with the right culture.

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Fairmont Kea Lani Maui

Our second interviewee is April Storey, the Director of Guest Experience at the Fairmont Kea Lani. April is a stellar team leader at this prestigious property on the island of Maui, and discusses some of the highlights of her hospitality career, as well as how she uses her personal strengths to motivate those around her.

What inspired you to go into hospitality?

Growing up on Maui, I was surrounded by family and friends who made careers in hospitality. While in college, I took my first hospitality job in Food & Beverage. I enjoyed meeting visitors from around the world and helping them create lifelong memories. Hospitality of course, has its challenges, and I also enjoy working through these to accomplish our goals.

How do you empower all of the members on your team?

I find one of the best ways to empower my team is by believing in them and giving them the support as a leader to do what feels right for the guest and themselves.

Can you highlight some stories you are proud of that you or the team you manage went above and beyond when delivering guest service?

I truly we believe we have the ability to turn moments into memories every day for our guests. We have the great privilege and honor to be a part of some of our guests most intimate celebrations and, at times, losses. Creating meaningful experiences no matter what your position, is what a job in hospitality is all about.

What personal strength of yours are you most proud of and how does it relate to your job?

My competitive nature combined with my love of being a leader allows me to support a high performing team. I find that being open and encouraging of my colleagues creates an environment where everyone feels committed and valued. My team has confidence that they can come to me with anything, be it work or personal, and we will figure out a solution together. We celebrate our successes together and similarly learn from our mistakes together as a team.

Who is your female role model and why?

My grandmothers. They were the foundation of our family. As I’ve grown and had children of my own, I have realized and seen what an amazing job they did keeping everything (and everyone) together with such grace. They made life look easy so the rest of us could enjoy the moments.

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