As a business owner, people often ask me, “How does someone go from working in hospitality to starting a social-media agency?” Well, these professional paths aren’t as unrelated as you might think. In fact, most of the skills I learned while working in hospitality have not only translated perfectly to what I do now; they have been instrumental in helping me find success in running my own business.
My first exposure to the hospitality industry came as a college student. While studying at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, I worked at The Statler Hotel, which had a restaurant.
Working both with customers and behind the scenes, I was able to learn the intricacies of what it took to effectively run these complex operations. Early on, I identified a few basic skills that I now realize are essential for a successful career in any industry.
1. Communication is key
This will allow you to obtain the guidance you need from coworkers and management to be successful in your role—and it will help you build stronger relationships and network more efficiently.
The time I spent observing the front desk at the hotel exemplified why strong communication was so important: When the manner in which the staff communicated made guests feel warmly welcomed and genuinely appreciated, it also helped set the expectations for their stay.
A great way to develop and fine-tune your communication skills is to make sure you speak to clients, teammates and management in the same manner you would want them to speak to you, in both tone and content. Try to anticipate their questions and needs, and proactively offer information and suggestions that will eliminate (or at least minimize) the need for follow-up or further clarification.
2. Always help your colleagues
While every business may not have as many complex layers as a restaurant or hotel, finding a way to get different departments and professionals to work together to achieve a common goal is still just as important and will ultimately dictate how successful a business can be.
Nowhere was the importance of teamwork more evident to me than when I worked in a restaurant kitchen. So many people had to do their individual job well to keep customers happy. On numerous occasions, I observed a team member get tied up with an issue, and without fail, another employee with a different responsibility would step in to ensure things continued to run smoothly. When this effort was not made, it ultimately caused a negative chain reaction—and a disastrous customer experience.
When joining a team, take the time to learn about everyone’s job. This will allow you to appreciate the challenges they face and how you can help when needed. Be vocal, as knowing when and how to effectively communicate a change of direction or an alteration to an original plan is a big part of being a good teammate.
3. Go the extra mile
When I worked at the hotel, guests were sometimes difficult and demanding, with expectations that could be unrealistic. However, I noticed that when the staff found a way to “wow” a customer, they won their loyalty and ensured continued success of the operation. To do this, employees always made an effort to demonstrate a willingness to go above and beyond to satisfy our guests.
A great way to embrace the principle of going above and beyond is to learn and model the behavior of employees of companies known for their exemplary customer service. Ritz-Carlton, Disney and Apple are all known for delighting customers by going the extra mile to please them. Observe how the staff interacts with customers and with one other.
Note the attention to detail that goes into every product, service and/or interaction. Once you are able to recognize these behaviors, do your best to replicate them in your own professional interactions.
Stephanie Cartin is CEO of the social-media agency Socialfly.