A Reflection from Jason Nicholson, Vice President of Innisfree Hotels
The Best Western Premier Tides Hotel was slated to open in the middle of May 2016. Through a series of problems at the beginning of the project and scheduling challenges with subcontractors, the hotel project ran long – and The Tides finally opened on July 8, 2016.
The week following the Fourth of July holiday, it became evident that we needed to help the subcontractors along. Director of Development Rich Chism communicated with me that he needed support. He pulled in his entire development team, and we pulled together an executive crew. Even Innisfree’s founder and CEO Julian MacQueen and former president Harlan Butler came on board.
We worked the week preceding the holiday and were very effective at preparing the guest rooms and as much of the public areas as we had access to, so that once we obtained the Certificate of Occupancy we would not have to wait for those spaces to be prepped in order to rent the rooms.
The week following the holiday, Julian became very impatient with the performance of key and critical subcontractors. It was looking like we would again be delayed in opening the hotel.
We were already almost two months late, and now the work was potentially holding up our C.O. Upon learning of this, Julian had conversations with key subcontractor owners, explaining they were potentially in the way of us opening the hotel and asking what we could do. He obtained commitments to push through to the finish.
Julian spent most of that final week on site, meeting with inspectors, building officials and key subcontractors. He also pitched in to do hard physical work, setting the example for others.
At one point a few days away from opening, Julian announced:
“This is no longer a construction site … this is a hotel!”
He began asking all subcontractors to move their tools and materials out of the building and onto their trucks. He asked that all equipment not in use be moved to the laydown area as soon as possible. As contractors saw the operations group moving in, they were motivated to finish and move out.
But on Wednesday night, Julian noticed the work was still not moving at a pace that would allow us to finish by Friday in time to open the hotel.
So on Thursday, July 7, Julian came armed with another crew to support the activities of the first. That Thursday was impressive.
Julian showed up early in the morning and began working one-on-one with the contractors. He worked with them hand-in-hand, explaining what needed to be finished in order to get our C.O.
Whenever it appeared as though the crew was wandering off, Julian would pull them back. He even ate lunch on the swing stage attached to the building, so the crew could not leave the property.
The heat index was 107 at the peak of Thursday afternoon, and he never came inside.
At 7:30, when he left for dinner, Julian said:
“I want to go eat, but I haven’t had enough yet … I’m coming back.”
What impressed me the most is that Julian stayed outside working from early in the morning until way past dinner in oppressive heat – sweating bullets, picking up garbage, sweeping, moving tools and redirecting contractors.
Julian motivated the construction team such that they did finish on time. He built relationships with inspectors and made personal commitments to them. Had Julian not been there, we would likely not have been ready to open.
Our CEO and founder, the owner of our company was out there … in the heat, doing the grunt work, the dirty, bloody-handed grunt work to get that hotel open.
It was totally motivating to me.
This is a textbook case of leading by example, not asking someone to do something you are not willing to do yourself. And standing behind it. He put in more hours and sweat and energy than any other person on the job site.
For many of us, we saw Julian in a different way that week. It created a whole new level of respect.
We’re folks who don’t mind getting our hands dirty, but Julian worked harder than anyone. He could have been flying, sailing, sitting at his Hilton … getting a massage at one of his spas.
But instead, he was outside working.
The Tides would not have opened when it did if Julian MacQueen had not been there.
That is true leadership at its finest.
– As told to Ashley Kahn Salley
Lead Storyteller, Innisfree Hotels