Gregg Forde oversees a portfolio of 172 hotels as chief operating officer of West Palm Beach-based Island Hospitality Management.
For his first job in the hotel industry, Gregg Forde’s worked as a front-desk clerk in Central Illinois. Two decades later, he oversees a portfolio of 172 hotels as chief operating officer of Island Hospitality Management.
Island Hospitality Management announced Forde’s latest promotion in January.
Hometown: I grew up in a suburb of Perth, Western Australia. Now I live here in Palm Beach County. If you were to take a globe and go exactly on the opposite side of the world, that’s where I’ve ended up.
About your company: Island Hospitality Management is a third-party manager for hotels. We’re based in West Palm Beach, operating 172 hotels across 32 states and the District of Columbia. Our hotels are primarily branded operations – Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt. I invest the bulk of my time on the people side of the business. We have 6,500 people. The core of our business is people taking care of people.
Biggest challenge: Filling open positions. We’ve got incredibly low unemployment across the U.S. In the hospitality sector, we’ve got four times as many positions available today as 10 years ago. We have to put a lot of focus on retaining associates. In order to be competitive in this market, you have to offer a competitive wage, but it goes beyond that. It really comes down to what kind of benefits package you offer. Do you offer opportunity? If our associates want to grow with us, they can do that through our development program. If they want to move, we manage a hotel in almost every market.
First job: My very first job was at a Burger King franchise back in Australia, when I was in high school. I worked there all the way through college. I learned about how management should treat people. If you’re fair to people, that goes a long way. When I was 22, I started in the hotel industry at a Marriott-branded in Central Illinois as a front-desk clerk.
Best business advice you’ve received: It’s as much life advice as business advice – live and learn. My dad gave me that advice early on.
Best business book you’ve read: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s a great book to go back and do a refresher on.
Big break: I was a 27-year-old GM in Chicago, and [Island Hospitality Managment majority owner Jeffrey Fisher] was growing his business. I was flattered to be recruited at that age. Fast forward 17 years, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What you see ahead for Palm Beach County: I’ve lived here now for nine years. A lot has changed – new construction, housing, new hotels downtown. It’s a great place to live. It’s hard to imagine we won’t see that growth continue.
Most important trait you look for when hiring: The hospitality business is taking care of others – not just guests but people you work with. Having service in your heart goes a long way. It’s transferable. If you worked in retail, or you worked in hospitals, that customer service trait carries over. You can learn the technical side of the job.
What you’re doing when you’re not at work: I have two 6-year-old twins, so if it’s not work, it’s family.