I attended a celebration of life yesterday afternoon of a man who I worked with over six years ago. We kept in touch over the years, he would call me to touch base and I the same. I thought of him often and he coached me with a few projects over the years, just that slight nudge of encouragement was always welcomed.
Alex was not only my boss he was a friend, a genuine man who cared about the hotel business and his friendships. I met Alex in Tofino, BC, when I was working at a Pharmacy as one of the assistant managers. I had taken a step back from the hospitality world, I need a break from the politics of the whole hotel life, I needed to recharge and focus on my writing; a main theme of my life.
When Alex came into the Pharmacy for his prescriptions we would chat briefly, about the weather, how busy the hotel was that he was managing. I had a feeling he was out of his element being from Seattle and living in major cities throughout his life, but I also felt that he needed to be grounded, and Tofino is the place to be grounded.
One afternoon Alex came into the pharmacy and seemed a bit upset about the hotel. I asked him what was new and he expressed he was feeling a big overwhelmed and needed an Administrative Assistant. For some reason I spoke up and expressed interest and he looked at me with question. I proceeded to fill him in about my hotel experience, he’s eyes widened with joy and there was this twinkle in his eye and a kind smirk in his smile. I wanted to follow that look to see where it would lead. Alex proceeded to ask me if I was really interested if I would meet with him the next day. I said I was and I would enjoy meeting with him about the position.
I wasn’t overly happy with my current position at the Pharmacy, and that’s a whole different story. As I mentioned I had been away from the hotel world for almost two years and I didn’t think I’d go back. I was jaded about how I let myself be treated by a former employer at a hotel – I started not to care about the guests or my co-workers, I knew I was done with the whole hospitality world and needed a change. I thought maybe if I was an Administrative Assistant I could be the behind-the-scenes and support the General Manager in the hotel world, that appealed to me.
Well the short of a long story, I met with Alex and he basically hired me on the spot and I was excited to follow his visions of how he was going to help the hotel grow to its true potential. He was excited and that made me excited. Alex and I worked together for two and a half years and he helped me love the hotel world again. Yes the politics were still there but he didn’t seem to let them affect the way he thought about the basic idea of hospitality – it was all and is all about the guests experience. That helps me with putting the hotel politics aside as well. It’s a simple but strong message.
Alex believed in me and let me run with my ideas for guest and employee events – I thought he was crazy at times for just saying ‘okay, go with it’. I became the Operations Managers of the hotel which I took very seriously, I wanted to show Alex I was capable of helping him with the operations of the hotel, it turned out that I was good at people management as well which peaked my interest in human resources. He let me work with George, the HR manager to learn more and I grew so much in that two and a half years.
I was reborn at that hotel, I was filled with a new sense of joy for the hotel life, I realized it was not just a job, it was a way of life. I remember when I told George that I was leaving the hotel to help another hotel open, he said something that I never forget “Don’t forget where you came from”. He was so right, I might have had over 15 years of experience from one hotel chain but this hotel was different, I got more than a hotel education, I received a life education – I learned how to trust the people I worked with – as an only child I have a hard time trusting people, but Alex and George and everyone else that I worked with at the hotel really showed me that trusting each other was an important part of the business. The hotel I work for now very much breaths this philosophy.
Don’t forget where you came from…As one of the speakers at Alex’s celebration of life was sharing a story with us, George’s words rang true, I was reminded that I feel back in love with the hotel life and embraced the fact that it wasn’t just a job, I couldn’t go home and turn it off – I thought about how I could always improve myself, how I could assist to improve guest service, what package were we going to offer next, could we do live music in the dining room on the week-ends, what event would the employees enjoying doing together as a team…the list of possibilities is on going – that’s just part of me now.
Alex was more than my boss, he invited us (my partner and I) to his house for dinners, Super Bowl Sunday’s, golfing events, he was so generous. I use to babysit his beloved beagle, Sadie – they were an extended family to us – he would talk about his family in Victoria and I felt like I knew them and I’m so honored to have met them at Alex’s celebration of life – I hope to stay connected to them.
I wanted to share about Alex’s influence on me and my career – he saw something in me that I didn’t see anymore and I’m so grateful for such a great opportunity for the both of us. Alex my friend you will never be forgotten.
Until next time my friends…keep on typing.