I got my first Director of Sales and Marketing position about a month after the September 11 attacks. My predecessor had been fired, and I was promoted from a sister hotel. (Which happened to be six blocks down the street. And have the same flag and almost exactly the same name. That was fun to explain to people.)
I was 26 and had been gunning for this job for at least six months, probably longer. All I could think about was being the boss and getting to do things my way. When they asked me if I wanted the job, I said yes without a second thought.
I didn’t really think about the fact that I would be inheriting a team of older ladies who were famously difficult. I guess just assumed that I would boss them around enough that they would behave (ha!).
One of the sales people had been hired based on her supposed expertise with a particular type of business, something I had never even heard of until a few months before. This woman had been riding her relationships from hotel to hotel for a really long time, and I was of course terrified of her (and all my staff!). I was so afraid that they would figure out that I had no idea what I was doing and was far too young for the job (like that wasn’t obvious) that I worked 12, 14, sometimes 16 hour days to make sure I could answer any and every question that anyone could ever ask. I memorized the P&L and learned all kinds of useless, esoteric information just so I wouldn’t look stupid in front of these people.
One day, she asked me if she could oversell the hotel by “a few rooms” for a group she had been “working really hard” to close. She mentioned in an off-hand way that there was another piece of business on the books but said that she expected it to wash. I couldn’t appear to be unaware of what was going on, so I quickly agreed with her assessment of the situation and said yes.
Time passed, and then the rooming lists started coming in. We realized we had a problem when this sales lady said that she had another list of reservations that had “gotten lost” on her desk. We ended up about 35 rooms deep (oversold), which was the exact number of rooms needed by one of the groups. Coincidence, or intentional over-booking by the sales manager to pad her bonus? Guess.
That particular group of 35 rooms was special. All of these people were converging on our hotel to meet with their guru (whose name escapes me) for a retreat. A yoga retreat. Actually, a silent yoga and meditation retreat.
Now, I may have been young and inexperienced, but I wasn’t stupid. We had to relocate 35 guests to a neighboring hotel, and, since I knew that they weren’t allowed to talk, we chose the yogis. We stood in the lobby as the silent meditators arrived and sent them one by one down the street to another hotel.
The lesson? You are never too young to know when yoga fanatics are your best friends.
Wait. Maybe that’s not it.