These interviews are part of a series that highlights new hires within the industry. Have you recently started a new role or do you know someone who has? Submit your ideas to email@example.com.
Thom Geshay was recently appointed president and COO of Davidson Hotels & Resorts.
1. What are you looking forward to the most in your new role?
I’m fortunate that I do what I love. I’ve spent the better part of my life preparing for this role. I may have a new title, but for me, I’m most looking forward to working alongside some of the best and most talented hospitality professionals in the industry. The talented people that we have and continue to add at Davidson are extraordinary. I’m a very curious person and ask the question “why?” a lot. I do that to make sure we are always challenging ourselves to be better for our clients and guests. We have a culture where it's okay to try and test new ideas (in fact, it’s in our core values to do so). I’m looking forward to building upon our great foundation and pursuing even greater results by finding new and exciting ways to deliver better service to our clients and guests. There are many disrupters in our industry challenging the status quo, and we need to be innovative to stay relevant and be the best.
2. How do you think past experiences have prepared you for this role?
I’ve literally grown up in the hospitality industry and with Davidson. In my 31 years with the company (yes, 31…hard to believe as I feel like I’m just getting started), I’ve had the incredible experience of being able to work in virtually every department at both the property and the corporate level. I started with Davidson as a bellman and methodically worked my way through rooms, to F&B, and then on to general manager. Then over the past 23 years, I’ve held corporate level operating and real estate positions, including SVP of real estate & business development and COO. My past experience gives me a unique lens as I can understand how service happens and guest experiences are created at every level and from every department’s perspective. This publication focuses on meetings and events. One of my early jobs was that of a banquet set up lead. I was meticulous in how I would set up a room so that the meeting planner would be pleased from the moment they entered their event. I used to use string to create perfect rows for chairs and would shop estate sales for cool props to create unique breaks. Our business has evolved, but attention to detail with an eye toward pleasing the guest has never been more critical and will never go out of style. Meeting planners want hotel operators to sweat every detail for them, so they can have confidence the event will be a success. That is what we do every day at Davidson Hotels & Resorts around the country.
3. How did you get into the industry?
The way many people in hospitality do: by accident. At 17 years old, after high school I needed a summer job before I started working on my engineering degree in college. My parents had relocated to a new city, and there was a hotel that had just opened near the exit to get to my parents’ new home. It was a Holiday Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. The hotel was brand new, the location was convenient, and I was hired to be a bellman. I worked as many hours as I could that summer and asked for any hours I could get while in college as well. I worked virtually every line level position at that hotel over my four years in college. After graduating with an industrial engineering degree, I took a job at IBM to work in manufacturing. It was there that I realized I had hospitality in my blood and had a love for the industry. After six months at IBM, I was offered a management job at the same hotel in Asheville I had worked during college. I followed my heart, took the job, and I eventually became the general manager of that very hotel.
4. What are you hoping to achieve in your new role?
I’m really excited about where Davidson is positioned today. We are better positioned for performance and growth than ever in my 31-year career. We are not just a management company, but rather a “value creation company.” With our focus on three primary segments: 1) full-service branded hotels, 2) independent lifestyle hotels (through Pivot), 3) and resorts, we plan to continue to focus on delivering strong results for our clients and partners. I plan to continue to improve upon the service delivery and execution at our hotels so that our clients and guests recognize Davidson as a company that delivers the best experience. We just launched Davidson Restaurant Group to provide a higher level of focus on delivering remarkable experiences in our restaurants and banquet & catering facilities, and we will continue to add resources in other disciplines as well. In addition, I plan to reinforce our core values so that we can create a best in class culture where people want to work. Davidson has won the Best Place to Work in Atlanta the past two years, and Pivot just won Forbes Best Place to Work in Chicago (coming in at #9). Culture is very important to me and a hallmark of our company. The team members of Davidson and Pivot are my family. If we continue to focus on our team members, they in turn will deliver great service to our guests.
5. What do you enjoy most about the industry?
I believe we are in the greatest industry. It is going to sound like a cliché, but what I enjoy most about our industry is the interaction with our clients, owners, team members and guests. There are few industries where you get to have such a profound impact on another person’s day or life. A well executed meeting or event, a perfectly mixed cocktail, a well told story, a terrifically designed hotel…all of these things evoke an emotion for the user. If we do our job right, we are putting smiles on people’s faces and making their days a little bit brighter, one service moment at a time. Our product is “people,” serviced by our greatest asset, which is also “people.” Very few industries can make that claim. We are in the business of creating enjoyable experiences, and that is why hospitality is the greatest industry.