Terry Haney runs the Lodge at the Presidio (San Francisco’s #1-rated hotel on TripAdvisor) and the Inn at the Presidio (a 5-time Conde Nast Reader’s Choice award winner) as Managing Director at Presidio Lodging. I had the chance to speak with him recently and will be sharing excerpts of our conversation in the days ahead.
There are currently no open roles at your properties. How did you get to that place when everyone else seems to struggle with staffing?
We get a lot of word-of-mouth employees. I’ve always been successful at hiring people that my staff recommended. It’s been a key to our success.
My employees hear about an opening or they know if there’s a position that needs to be filled because all of a sudden they’ve got a cover more shifts. If somebody left, then we need to find a replacement. Our team often tells me “I know a guy. I’ve got a cousin, my sister’s brother’s kid.” That’s how we’ve got the majority of our back-of-the-house staff.
If I love this hotel and I like you as my boss, and I recommend someone for you to bring on, I’m going to make sure they perform and don’t make me look bad by being lazy or not doing their job.
Why do you work in hospitality?
I had no intention of it! You know when you’re 18 and they say, “What do you want to do for the rest of your life? Go to college and get a degree.” I had no idea what to get a degree in.
I wanted to go into horticulture and open a nursery at first. I thought the only people I would see are the ones who want to buy my plants. But I didn’t get through that.
So I got a job as a waiter and found that I’m a people pleaser. I like to serve. I like to make people happy.
I think that’s just innate in some people’s personalities. Like actors on stage that want the applause. They enjoy knowing they made somebody happy. That’s hospitality.
If you don’t enjoy people, if you don’t enjoy creating an experience for people and seeing their joy, you probably don’t belong in the hospitality industry. You’ll never be happy in it.
I don’t really want you working at my hotel if you don’t enjoy being with my guests. That’s the characteristic that I look for when I’m hiring. Are you a people person?
I can train you on anything: How to run the washing machine or how to make a bed or how to find reservations and check people in or answer the phone. All of those skills are trainable. I can’t train you to care. But if you are a person who’s naturally caring, I’ll hire you.
How do you identify which people will provide exceptional hospitality in the hiring process?
It’s easier than you think. I’ve been around long enough that I can read people.
There are probing questions that provide a feel for how people would handle a situation. “Give me an example of a time when you_____.” It’s not just, “what would you do in this situation?” because of course you’re going to tell me the ideal situation. Rather, “tell me about a time in your life when you’ve been in this situation and you’ve had to do this. What did you do?”
That’s very different because if I know what I’m supposed to do, but I’ve never actually done it, that’s different than telling you what I learned in school I should tell people.
I’m looking for people that don’t just call their manager if a guest is unhappy. I need people who want to solve problems for our guests. “How can I make you feel better? Whatever is going on with you right now, what can I do to improve that?”
Stay tuned for part 2 of our conversation tomorrow….