Running the show: From hotel bellman to San Diego GM
Running the show: From hotel bellman to San Diego GM
22 APRIL 2016 7:23 AM

Michael Murphy started his career in the hotel industry as a bellman at a hotel. He’s now working in his first GM gig at the new SpringHill Suites & Residence Inn San Diego Downtown/Bayfront hotel.

SAN DIEGO—As a first-generation Irishman, Michael Murphy was born with a travel bug, which played a role in his cross-country career in the hotel industry.

He began his career as a bellman, and has now begun his first general manager position at the dual-branded SpringHill Suites & Residence Inn San Diego Downtown/Bayfront, which opened its doors on 22 February.

Murphy’s parents came to the U.S. from Ireland and raised Murphy and his sisters in Boston. He was the first in his family to graduate from college. After growing up in Boston, he moved from hotel to hotel across the country and eventually landed in San Diego 11 years ago.

Murphy said his travel experiences and hotel background prepared him for his GM position.

“I feel like it’s in my blood to travel,” he said. “My parents came all the way across the ocean, I came all the way across the country. So I’ve always had this travel bug.

“I’ve traveled all over the world and experienced all of these different cultures … and I think it’s important to understand different cultures so that you can understand different people, especially in this industry.”

Learning the business
While Murphy has only been a GM for two months, he’s already found a leadership style that works for him and his team.

“I think the style that works best in the hotel industry is one that is very inclusive (and) works hand in hand with the receptionists,” he said.

Since the hotel was a new property, Murphy said he was able to handpick his team. He said a lot of associates he had worked with in the past joined him in downtown San Diego. Murphy and his associates also had to learn the ins and the outs of running a dual brand before jumping in.

“This hotel is very unique, because you have two very powerful brands coming together, so you need to spend a lot of time teaching your associates of the two brands (and the) two different expectations of market segments,” he said. “So first I had to do a lot of learning myself about the two brands and put together a great training program, and then really be involved in the operation a lot as we (moved) forward.”

As a bellman, Murphy said he remembers how good he felt when the GM remembered his name—that’s why he aimed to learn his employees’ names as quickly as possible.

“Something that I do immediately is I learn the associates’ names within the first two weeks,” he said. “I learn about their families, and it’s very important to make that connectivity … It goes back to Marriott’s philosophy of ‘If you take care of the associates, the associates will take care of the guests and the guests will come back.’ You make an effort, and when you see somebody every day, I think it’s insulting if (I) don’t know their name, because they know mine.”

Learning to wear multiple hats
In the ever-changing hospitality industry, Murphy said it’s important to be well-versed in many different subjects.

“As a GM, you need to be a foodie, you need to understand food and wine, you need to understand finance and you also need to understand sales and how to get heads in the beds,” he said. “You also need to understand how to deal with people and build relationships—whether it’s with associates or guests—so there are so many different (pieces) you have to learn and know as you go up.”

In the two months the property has been open, Murphy said his job so far has been exciting and fast-paced.

“It’s different every day,” he said. “I make a list of things that I want to accomplish the next day, and I don’t think there’s ever been a day where I’ve made it through that list (because of good business).”

Editor’s note: SpringHill Suites by Marriott* provided three complimentary roomnights at the hotel, where the interview for this story was conducted. Complete editorial control was at the discretion of the Hotel News Now editorial team; SpringHill Suites by Marriott had no influence on the coverage provided.

*Correction, 22 April 2016: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that The Zimmerman Agency paid for a three-night stay at the hotel.

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