What’s different about living the day in a life of a GM vs. a CEO? I asked successful hotel professionals about their morning rituals. Then I encountered Paul Sistare, CEO and Founder of Atlantica Hotels International, previously a hotel general manager for Walt Disney World Resorts. Paul Sistare shared more than a morning ritual… he shared his daily strategy to improve the company, employee morale, celebrate wins, and why he avoids appointments before 10 AM.
Q: As a general manager, how did you typically start your day?
When I was a GM (in the dark ages prior to technology), I started every morning with my staff at 8 am with a program I called "Coffee with the Boss." Everyone wanted a coffee in the morning and since it was a common time to gather, it seemed like a good idea. My rules were simple. The meeting could not last more than half an hour and to make sure, we did it standing up. We talked about the night before, VIPs coming in, the forecast for the coming day and any common issues to the group. Then we dispersed and went to work. This way, everyone was on the same page 24/7. We have adopted that in our company today and we call it the DBR or the Daily Business Review meeting. Same rules apply.
Q: “Coffee with the Boss” sounds like something people would look forward to every morning. How does your day begin as CEO of Atlantica Hotels International?
Today as President, CEO and Founder of the largest privately held company in Latin America, my daily morning routine has changed a bit as you can imagine. I have 85 hotels open in a country the size of the US and another 48 under construction. Of course, there is the advance in technology where everyone wants to know or expects an answer immediately. So, my day starts around 6 am where I roll over and grab my iPad. Read my emails that came in over the night, answer them and then proceed to read the national and international news. Our company depends on the international traveler so it is important for me to have a grasp of what is going on around the world rather just in São Paulo.
I then enjoy a breakfast with the General Manager of the hotel where I own an apartment and we discuss the activities of the hotel last night and what she expects for the coming few days. That part of my routine has not changed. However, we also go over the corporate programs in the hotel so I can get a real life example and opinion of things that work and things that don’t. Too often corporate offices become Ivory Palaces and believe that they know best for a General Manager. This way I am in touch with reality.
Q: What’s different about your morning routine as CEO?
I do not take appointments or phone calls before 10 am. Reason why is that sitting on my desk is last night's results for the 85 hotels we operate showing me how they compared in KPIs (Key Performance Indexes) to last night, prior year, operating plan, and the month to date consolidated also compared to operating plan and prior year. I like to call the top 5 or 10 hotel sales performers and congratulate them on their successes. I don’t call the bottom performers because I don’t believe in telling them something they already know which is that they are at the bottom of the list.
I prefer to reinforce positive behavior and that gets around much faster. It also leads me into conversation with the GMs as to what is going on regionally and of course, if the corporate programs are working and if they need any help or support from our core teams. If the latter is the case, I spend the last part of my quiet time (before 10 am) calling the corporate VPs and directing them to various hot spots to assist.
—Thank you Mr. Sistare!
Can you differentiate the day in the life of a general manager from a CEO? While they be in “Ivory Palaces,” CEOs are essentially the general managers for their respective business. They’re operating at a higher level approach (no pun intended). The day in the life of a CEO isn’t too far of a reach for a general manager. General managers can strive for a sedulous morning routine similar to this, but flexibility is important to put out unforeseen “fires.” After knowing Mr. Sistare’s morning routine, I know he is more successful as a hotel professional because he recognizes that time is the most valuable asset.
Written by Sarah Vining.