Reflecting on more than 40 years in the hospitality industry around the world, we interviewed Brian Gullbrants, former Executive Vice President and General Manager of luxury hotels Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, on some of the most important leadership and management lessons he’s learned throughout his career. Gullbrants is one of more than 35 global luxury hoteliers profiled in A Wealth of Insight: The World’s Best Luxury Hoteliers on Leadership, Management, and the Future of 5-Star Hospitality (Black Truffle Press). An exclusive excerpt of his profile is below.
“The experience economy is booming and we need to provide conversational currency to our guests. In other words, access to unique and exclusive experiences found nowhere else.”
A FOUNDATIONAL EXPERIENCE
My first job in the luxury hotel industry was as a server at The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix. It was the first time I internalized the notion that we were all ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. I was taught the basics of how to anticipate the needs of guests, how to provide genuine care and how to focus on every aspect of the guest experience. I also learned how important all five senses were to delivering that experience. I find myself today relying on many of those concepts, standards and values that I learned long ago.
GOOD INTENTIONS ONLY GO SO FAR
My first leadership role was as a room service supervisor. It was a humbling experience that I thought I was ready for. However, one morning, more than half of my team called off their shifts, and even after calling a couple of people directly, I couldn’t get anyone to come in. I decided that we would all work harder and faster to get the job done, and that was a very poor choice. When orders were endlessly backing up, I learned that no matter how good you think you and your team may be, you cannot win a war without soldiers. Good intentions only go so far. You need a solid team, and from that point on I was never understaffed.
THE DAILY MESSAGE
My daily message is one of the most successful efforts I’ve instituted to establish clear and candid communication with all staff. It started when I was general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Orlando Grande Lakes, during the construction phrase and pre-opening to keep everyone updated and aligned. It was so well-received that I’ve been doing it ever since.
For nine years here at Wynn and Encore in Las Vegas, seven nights a week, I wrote a brief daily message to the whole team to communicate our values, culture, mission and how to bring these concepts to life. Leadership teams are required to begin each shift by discussing the daily message with their colleagues. The message itself can be directive, informative, motivational or inspirational. Sometimes it might just be a quick shout out, thank you and a job well done. I believe this is an essential part of creating an open dialogue and shaping a culture to drive excellence.
SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED
Most luxury hotel brands track preferences, but what’s more important than just delivering that preference again and again is ensuring that those preferences are accurate and genuine. Just because I order a martini doesn’t necessarily mean I love them or that it’s a preference of mine. It may be the first time I’ve ever tried one. If I ask for a dirty Grey Goose martini straight up, slightly chilled with three olives, that sounds more like a preference. And if I order that again tomorrow night, it is definitely a preference. But don’t get caught up in only focusing on preferences. It is equally important to balance preferences with exposing guests to new products, services, and experiences.
THE EXPERIENCE ECONOMY
The luxury travel experience is no longer just about gourmet food, fine wine and thread counts. We now live in the experience economy, in which we need to provide conversational currency to our guests. We need to be able to provide access to unique and exclusive experiences. It’s about creating moments that are post-worthy for Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. We want our guests to be blown away, elated, and so excited that they want to share what they experienced with others.
JETS AND LIMOS
Unlike any other hotel in the world, we own private Gulfstream aircraft that have the ability to fly direct international flights, along with the largest fleet of stretch Rolls Royce Phantom limousines in the world. From beginning to end, we focus on the entire journey. Our 24/7 butler teams have catered to the most demanding, well-travelled guests on the planet. We do it right, and our guests expect it.