Laguna Beach, CA
As General Manager of The Ranch LB, Kurt Bjorkman oversees all aspects of the resort, from the property’s rooms and suites to its 9-hole Ben Brown’s Golf Course. Previously, he was the founder and managing partner of over5 Hospitality, a company that caters to real estate developers and independent hotel operators who seek to push the boundaries of the status quo, including brands such as Norwegian Cruise Lines, The Mirage Corporation, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Joie de Vivre Hospitality and Montage Hotels & Resorts. Bjorkman is a graduate of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona.
THE BJORKMAN STORY —
I never thought I would do anything other than work in hospitality – even at a very young age. When I was about 10-years-old I sat at my father’s drafting table and drew a hotel, boat dock and helicopter landing pad. I told my parents that this was where I was going to work someday and never really looked back.
You wake up in the morning — what’s your driving passion?
Waking up early and working out, getting my mind in the right place to make every day incredible.
We are home to the only 9-hole golf course in Laguna Beach, as well as two Surfrider Ocean Friendly restaurants, and a treasured location steeped in Laguna heritage.
Attention to customer service is routinely touted by those in the lodging and resort categories. Define the term and the approach followed at The Ranch?
Customer Service is not a phrase we use here at The Ranch at Laguna Beach. Customer Service is a cold technical term applies to a business transaction, regardless of the type of industry. We strive to make each of our guests feel Welcomed by being genuine, thoughtful and anticipatory in a warm and non-pretentious manner.
How much daily interaction do you have with your guests?
Most of my day is spent outside the office connecting with guests and team members.
What differences exist between Baby Boomers and Millennials in terms of how they see their needs being met when coming to The Ranch?
Baby Boomers have more of a pre-determined notion of what it is to experience luxury, while Millennials are more open to unique experiences within the luxury travel sector. This is not a hard-fast rule, but an observation.
In terms of visitations to the property — what’s the rough percentage of those coming from California and those from elsewhere? Do you get a noticeable amount of international visitors?
About 50% of our guests visit from California, and a significant percentage also originating from proximate states such as Nevada, Arizona, Oregon and Washington. Less than 5% of our guests are international, however that number is growing.
How difficult is it in finding qualified personnel to hire given today’s increasingly high labor shortage?
Very. This is the most important challenge the hospitality industry is addressing.
When you visit a facility either professionally or for personal enjoyment — what’s the first things you notice?
How welcome I am made to feel within the first 30 seconds of arriving.
What are the biggest challenges facing The Ranch — short and long term?
The rising cost of operating a business.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
From my first GM and mentor: “Don’t ever take yourself too seriously, and always put kindness first.”
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