Chief Executive Offer of Wincome Hospitality
Paul Sanford is responsible for the group’s West Coast operations, including Southern California where he oversees all operations. With over 35 years of experience, Mr. Sanford’s talents have encompassed both the hospitality and real estate industries where he has experience in both asset management and development. Mr. Sanford serves on multiple boards and has held executive level positions with a variety of upscale, luxury, boutique and independent hotels, including branded IHG, Wyndham, Hyatt, Westin, Starwood, Marriott and Holiday Inn hotel groups as well as multiple restaurant venues.
THE SANFORD STORY —
My career in the lodging industry began in the Hawaiian Islands. I had gone there, after a couple of years of college, to surf, take a break and evaluate my career options. Originally, my adolescent passion was in landscape architecture and city planning. However, my deep family roots in the Los Angeles business community resulted in my grandfather and father recommending a business or accounting degree. As such, my time in Hawaii was to evaluate my choices, desires and life goals. It was an incredible time of self-reflection that became life changing.
While in Hawaii I had incredible opportunities to work at world class hotels in various positions.The first being a busboy at the Makani Coffee Shop at the Hotel Intercontinental Maui — now, it is the Wailea Marriott. While in Hawaii I had exquisite training in luxury hotel and restaurant operations. I was trained by many industry pros who all helped enhance my understanding of not only the practical delivery of hospitality but the essence to the spirit of providing exquisite hospitality.
You wake up in the morning what’s the driving passion?
I strive to be the best person I can be. That includes inspiring our team to “make a difference” in our guests experience and send them home with great comfort and memories.
To do the job you have now at the highest of levels, what are the three requisite skills most essential?
First, care and compassion for our customers, staff and owners. Second, properties striving to be the best they can be every day and, finally, associates with a “heart”
Let’s say a person comes to your facility and wishes to golf in the immediate area. What steps do you take in assisting their needs?
I’d find out the qualities in a course they are looking for. I’d ask them their favorite course and I would then recommend one of our world-class golf courses in Orange County that match their desires. And then offer to book their tee time or secure any other arrangements needed such as transportation to the course, etc.
Finding the right staff is a never-ending process. What traits do you look for in people joining your team?
An innate care for human beings. A passions for success and excellence. A vision for their career and a humble heart. An understanding they have the power to make someone’s day exceptional and ahealthy intuition
Who is the customer who comes to the Avenue of the Arts Hotel in Costa Mesa?
Leisure and business travelers who not only enjoy luxury service in artful, uniquely styled hotels but also want to stay in the best locations, close to attractions and business centers. They are generally well educated and culturally astute guests. They appreciate the attention to detail and value subtle elegance with a flair for style.
Throughout the lodging industry the term “customer service” is touted constantly. Define the term and the approach taken for your guests.
Customer service is about putting the customer first. Taking the time to understand their reality and how to satisfy their request with satisfaction. At all our properties, our approach starts with hiring the right people. We look for people who not only take pride in doing a job well but also are happier for it. After all, customer service starts with a warm greeting and that warmth needs to come naturally. You can then train for the rest—knowledge of the property offerings and surroundings, nearby attractions and entertainment—all the stuff most customers ask about when at a hotel. More importantly, customer service training is done on all levels since guests don’t just turn to the concierge or the front desk for information, they’ll ask our housekeepers or restaurant servers too for advice. We strive to create an environment where our guests feel welcome throughout their stay.
When you opt to stay at a hotel what are the elements you notice right away?
The arrival experience—how does it make me feel? The cleanliness and maintenance and is there a sparkle in the staff’s eyes? Also, is there proper staffing so the team can be successful.
Your biggest work-related pet peeve is what?
Having the opportunity to be an exceptional example and not embracing it.
What is the biggest short- and long-term challenge facing your facility and the broader lodging industry as a whole?
How to employ technology and automation and still provide heartwarming exceptional service. There’s also chemical abuse in the work environment.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
Bill Boyd, the dining room manager / maître d’ at the Lanai Terrace restaurant in Wailea Maui, told me to “Be exceptional. Make the guest happy now, and evaluate options later. Always spread Aloha!”
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