Vice President, HVS Executive Search
Lacey Hagen, Vice President, HVS Executive Search, will provide insight into her experiences as ...
Young Professional Profile: Mark Williams, Coakley & Williams
This week’s Young Professional Profile highlights a young professional that is contributing to the “family business." Mark Williams, the director of development with Coakley & Williams, grew up around hotels and had variety of roles with the properties in the Coakley & Williams portfolio from a very young age. What’s interesting about his story is that, even though his family is in the business, Mark has a degree in hospitality management and spent four years in a variety of positions with Disney. Mark also weighs in on his experience with a question that almost every young professional in this generation asks themselves: Should I go back to school for my Master’s?
Education: University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management and Grand Canyon University’s Ken Blanchard School of Business
Degree: BS Degree in Hospitality Management, MBA in Business w/ emphasis in Marketing
Job Title: Director of Development, Coakley & Williams
Lacey Hagen: Describe your current role with Coakley & Williams as the director of development?
Mark Williams: I’m responsible for the acquisition of additional management contracts for our company. I’m in many ways, the director of relationship building. Things happen in this industry a lot of times because of the people you know. This is why I spend a good amount of time attending industry conferences and making continual phone calls to various individuals and prospective clients. Though, I must say that our entire corporate team works very well collectively to help make projects and opportunities come together. It’s the same in the hotel business as it is in sports. You can’t make it alone. It takes everyone on your team to be successful. I’m really proud of the one we have.
LH: What was it like balancing a director level position, a family, and completing an MBA?
MW: It was definitely challenging. In fact, there were a few points where I was ready to throw in the towel on the degree and simply walk away because of the difficulty of having enough time for everything. I remember one of those instances was when I found out a class I was taking started a week before I thought it was. In the beginning before I got started on any of it, one of the school’s academic counselors told me to make sure to have someone that wouldn’t let me quit. I have my wife to thank for helping me cross the finish line.
LH: Coakley & Williams was founded by your Grandfather and your father has been the president since the 90’s. How do you balance the family and work dynamic?
MW: It’s funny, whenever my father and I are at non-work functions/gatherings our challenge is to always hold back from talking about work. Those that are in family businesses know that this is just part of the deal. I am thankful to both my father and grandfather for everything they have done to make our company what it is today.
LH: Before joining the Coakley & Williams team, you had a variety of roles during your four years with Disney, how did that experience impact you professionally?
MW: Through Disney I got a great sense of how refined processes and procedures work. I got to see how the culture of a company has a tremendous impact on the people who work for it. I was able to see how solid training, recognition, and team building programs look when they are done right. Not to mention I had fun and was able to do things you can’t do anywhere else. All of it added together gave me a good foundation for hospitality.
LH: You are an active member of CHART and AH&LA, what is the value for young professionals to be involved in such organizations?
MW: Both are different but each one provides great resources for individuals at any point their career. I joined CHART (Council of hotel and restaurant trainers) about four years ago and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Not only will you grow professionally but you will grow personally as well. They provide great information and material for training of course but there’s so much more. There is a lot of information you gain on culture building, leadership, and team building as well. The AH&LA Under 30 Gateway specifically was started several years ago. Our new tag line pretty much sum up what were all about, “Connecting and developing the future leaders of tomorrow.” Currently, we have well over 500 members all across the nation in all kinds of positions. Being a part of this group is super if you are looking to network and connect with individuals that may be in a similar period of life as you are. Plus, you never know how those connections will benefit you in the future. Being a part of the group also taps you into discounts on certifications and attendance at different industry events.
LH: Your staff has such long tenures, can you give insight on why you have been able to retain talent?
MW: It really is amazing and such a blessing to have had so many wonderful people share their lives with us. Just in our corporate office the average tenure is about 15 to 17 years. Beverly at our Holiday Inn in Greenbelt for example started with us in housekeeping at our first property in 1971. On the back of all our business cards it says, “A caring and compassionate approach to success.” I think people have stayed with us so long because we really mean those words. We really do care about people. Caring, of course, is one of the four key values of our company. Then a lot it has to do with Gary’s (my father) leadership and dedication to each and every one of us.
LH: What advice would you give young professionals who are interested in training and development as a career path?
MW: 1.Get involved as much as you can within the industry. Doing this by joining a committee or an organization.
2. No matter what you do step up and be a solution finder. Be the person that says, “I’ve got this.”
3. Develop a love for reading
4. Learn how to and be comfortable with speaking in front of people
5. Have a positive attitude and be willing to learn from others
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