Conversations with a CEO: Alan Fuerstman of Ultra Luxury Hotel Chain Montage
On March 28th, 2018, the students of NAU were given the privilege to ask CEO Alan Fuerstman of Montage and Pendry questions about his success in the hotel business. Mr. Fuerstman founded the luxury hotel chain Montage, which he refers to as “ultra luxury”, while the Pendry is also a luxury hotel chain, the hotel is designed to be a more affordable option for customers.
Mr. Fuerstman started off in the hotel business as a doorman at Marriott in his last year in high school and then continued to work the summers between college. He admitted that he wasn’t looking for a career in Hotel Management when he started. Mr. Fuerstman was going to college to study law but when he took a gap year before attending Graduate school, he was given an incredible opportunity. His mentor, gave him the chance to help open a Marriott in California as a department manager and fell in love with the business.
Though 15 years ago, Mr. Fuerstman struck ground with the first Montage in Laguna Beach with a vision to change the style of luxury. The motto the he went by as he made that change to the business was, “Each hotel should have a sense of place.” Meaning every hotel shouldn’t be the same every hotel should be designed with the area around it in mind.
Mr. Fuerstman shared that, “We know we’ve connected when a customer asks where can I get the bed or headboard.” Montage’s overall scores shows guest satisfaction at 94.3% which is higher than the competing luxury hotels.
The important aspects to Mr. Fuerstman are the development of his associates and making connections by continuing to do well.
The characteristics that Mr. Fuerstman looks for in an associate are communication skills and, “What makes people stand apart is the heart..” He said that the ability to motivate people around you is magic.
Integrity is also important to him. If there is a mistake, it is easier to fix the problem if management knows. It is important for management to view mistakes, as long as they are not repetitive, as learning experiences. The customer will have a better experience and a deeper relationship with the hotel if they see how hard the associates work to fix the problem.
The culture that Mr. Fuerstman has worked hard for is a culture of learning. He believes that it is a good investment to give your associates great training and even has a yearly test for his employees to make sure they are up to date on product knowledge.
Mr. Fuerstman said that as a leader, “It’s not a sign of weakness to not know something and asking for help.” Creative problem solving and a tremendous sense of urgency is important to have in your tool box for a CEO and in any job.
Mr. Fuerstman ended the talk with reminding the students to, “Have fun, if work isn’t fun then it’s harder. “
Anna Rycroft, a HRM student, who attended the talk said that the pathways have given her insight on new companies and ways for her to be successful.
Another HRM student, Cody Johnston, who just signed on with Montage said that he found going to the talks important because as a future leader, you can learn from the CEO’s and apply their knowledge and skills to your work to become a better leader.
These conversations provide NAU students to come into contact with great leaders and possibly great employers.