Spotlight on: The Hospitality Industry

Are you interested in transitioning your career to the hospitality industry? Paul Ruby (’85) talks about trends, what you need to do if you don’t have any hospitality experience, and what his typical day involves. Paul is the vice president of operations for Shodeen Hospitality and general manager of The Herrington Inn & Spa in Geneva, Ill.

If there is a specific industry you would like to learn more about in a future ISUAA Career Link newsletter or if you are willing to be interviewed about your career field, email Katie Lickteig at kbruxvoo@iastate.edu.

Can you give a brief overview of your responsibilities and day-to-day duties?
PR: I’m currently a vice president of the hospitality division of a real estate development company. Most of my time is spent as the General Manager of a full service luxury boutique hotel.  The hotel offers meetings, weddings, a restaurant and a day spa. Also under my umbrella is an additional banquet facility, golf course, and swim club all in separate locations that require hands-on management each week. I’m also involved in the evaluation and development of future projects. The most important part of my day includes interacting with staff to insure we are providing great service and engaging with guests to confirm they are receiving great service. Our mission statement is “exceeding out guest’s expectations with enthusiasm and anticipation.”

What is your advice for a working professional who is interested in making a career change to the hospitality industry with no prior experience in the field?
PR: Depending on the size and/or business model of a hospitality company, many offer entry-level positions where work experience from a different industry actually translates very well. Examples are facilities management, customer service, and possibly sales. In a hotel, the front office is typically the communications hub, and therefore an ideal place to develop their skills and determine if hospitality is a good fit. The sales and catering department of a hotel often has a coordinator or conference services position that will allow someone to learn the ropes if they believe they would be a good event planner or operations manager. Just as it would be unrealistic to attempt a career as an executive chef without first being a line cook/sous chef, it would also be difficult to manage a restaurant without any prior food/beverage service experience. In my experience, learning from the ground up makes a quality leader and performer in our industry.

What trends do you see in the near future for the hospitality industry?

PR: The forecast for hospitality industry job growth looks very positive. Although new construction remains slow to rebound, current occupancies and demands are ascending providing employment stability. The nation’s top hospitality forecasting groups are telling us that corporate and leisure spending is on an uptick affecting all facets of the hospitality sector. The short term future will be focused on yield management (hotel rooms, restaurant table turns, wine inventory, etc.) to properly leverage supply vs. demand, continuing to keep costs as low as possible, building client loyalty, and keeping with mainstream technology. Quality service never goes out of style.

What things do you, as someone in the hospitality industry, do to help stay engaged and up-to-date with the profession?
PR: Typically, I read regional and national business and trade publications and newsletters to stay informed of current trends and business activities.  Staying in touch on a personal level with both clients and peer professionals through various associations as well as one-on-one meetings is also crucial to keep my network of contacts continually growing regardless of how our operations are performing.

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