Until my mother eulogized her days at The Drake in Chicago, I’d never considered serving as a staff painter with a hotel. Though I’d helped to complete numerous hotel and hospitality projects, while working for major contractors in Florida, and the Midwest.
In January of 2007, motivated in part by my mother’s true tales of “Life as a hotel family,” I redesigned my résumé. And, I applied for “hotel painter” opportunities available in Central and South Florida.
One of those positions – “painter and engineering tech” – was with a historic, 614-room family hotel in Kissimmee, Florida. At the interview, the director of engineering said, “I’m only interested in what you can do for me . . . not what you’ve done.” Referring to the skills and experience listed in my résumé. (Louis Adler writes regularly about “performance-based hiring.”)
Fortunately, the “hiring manager” saw something in me. And, he gave me a chance to prove myself. Perhaps, he recognized how a journeyman painter, who was able to work on commercial, industrial and residential surfaces and areas, could benefit the hotel. Perhaps, he felt confident that I would fit in with the engineering team already on board. Perhaps, he envisioned the major projects that he could see completed in-house, versus by outside contractors.
Perhaps, he calculated the workload that his department would be able to handle more promptly, efficiently, and cost-effectively. Perhaps, he recognized the possible improvements and enhancements that he and his department could be credited with making to the hotel property. Working with a tight budget, fewer supplies, and reduced staff.
Initially, we worked together for five years. During that time, the man saw some of his plans and goals become reality. He saw the hotel property take on a fresh, new appearance. He saw the condition of its surfaces improve remarkably. He heard and read the many positive comments by the guests, staff members, visitors, property managers, and even the new owners.
The hands-on director of engineering left. A year later, he returned when the replacement decided to move on. Within two months, he left again.
The director of engineering is the engine (no pun intended) that keeps the hotel operable. The mastermind behind facilities services. He or she is the entrepreneurial spirit, in the organization’s uniform, that understands the following essentials:
A hotel’s engineering department is configured of a vast, complex network of systems – electrical, mechanical, plumbing, carpentry, tiling, etc. Each system must work well, in sync with the others, and independently. And, each system must be maintained properly, constantly, and efficiently to ensure that every other department area on the property can function. Most important, so the hotel can conduct business! Manned by team members that pull together, to keep things together!
The director of engineering is responsible, also, for the effective completion of all people-related tasks within the department’s operations. The treatment and service of guests. The support of each staff member, both departmentally and interdepartmentally. The provision of services specific to each worker’s training, employment and abilities. The teaming up with the entire hotel team to promote, maintain and represent their hotel’s mission, values, image, and policies.
The director of engineering, that led our department, tended to follow two closely linked rules: (1) Get it working. (2) Get it done at minimum cost. He worked as a hands-on manager. He asked none of his people to do anything that he would not have done himself. (One of my sister’s firm policies, as well!) He protected his department, his men’s jobs, and the way he needed the men to do them. He put the hotel’s engineering operations and management and guests’ services first!
To cut costs and down-times, he made every effort to recycle parts, supplies and equipment. He was prepared to solve problems with little or no budget, low inventory, minimal manpower, and very tight deadlines.
He ran the department with an iron hand, and a strong will. He kept complaints close to the cuff. Hotel management business was kept confidential. Company policies and basic safety and health standards were followed.
He represented the engineering field as a seasoned professional. Also, he recognized that I represented the painting and decorating trade just as professionally.
Yes, our personalities clashed occasionally. Still, our respective skills, experience and abilities complemented those of the other. And, those of every other member on the team, as he anticipated when he added me to that team.
In fact, that entire engineering team worked well together. Like a finely tuned engine. We knew how each other thought and operated. We knew that we could count on each other. We knew what and how much to expect from each other. We knew how hard we could push each other’s buttons. We knew that everyone on the engineering team, working together, was committed to doing their best!
At some point, more cutbacks became necessary. Like with countless other engineering/facilities management departments around the globe, our challenges increased. Some beyond our engineering director’s power to resolve. Our department’s modes operandi squeaked more, and hummed less. Its systems began to freeze up. Like gears, locked up in an engine lacking essential lubricants and oils.