LONDON—Anthony Worrall knew from an early age that hospitality was his calling, but the path he took to become GM of London’s Crowne Plaza-The City was a meandering one that encompassed a smattering of jobs on land and on sea.
Having an end goal is essential when it comes to making a career in the hotel industry, Worrall said during a wide-ranging interview conducted in the lobby of his Central London hotel. But so is the willingness to take a few sidestep positions.
“Really understand what it is you want to make your specialist area, but don’t be afraid to try other positions so when you do become a GM, you can relate,” the 20-year hotel veteran said. “Don’t rush. It’s a fast-paced career any way, and getting there too quickly can create inexperience in areas where experience is a big help.”
Worrall said knowing what inspires employees is another key to success.
“There’s nothing harder than giving your guests consistency if you’re team members feel undervalued,” he said.
In addition, gone are the days where a GM spends his or her time simply glad-handing in the lobby. Now it’s about digging in and being well-versed in all aspects of the industry.
“You generally have to know a lot of everything—technology, PR, marketing,” he said. “There are some huge demands. Social media is a massive one. Understand how quickly your business can be talked about across three or four forums and be impacted by that across the globe is huge. Understand where technology is going and how it can affect your business.”
Understanding the departmental budgeting process is also essential for success.
“Manage it and own it,” he said. “So many people get to a quite significant level and don’t truly understand how to manage the business unit.”
And finally, be yourself and be visible.
“You need a big personality,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to use your personality in this business. That can be measured in different ways … Know how to apply it and find a way where yours fits and exploit that as much as you can. People buy from people, and a personality makes that happen.”
By sea, then by land
Worrall studied hotel management at Bradford College in the U.K. and upon graduating in 1990 went to work in the food-and-beverage department for P&O Cruises. Serving aboard the legendary and since-retired Canberra and later the Queen Elizabeth II, Worrall said he “traveled the world for three years seeing everything I could possible see.”
Along the way he met his wife, Stephanie, who also worked aboard the cruise vessel. And his next move was imminent.
“We decided we needed to be on firm ground to move our relationship forward,” he said with a smile.
That led the couple to Florida, where Anthony joined Howard Johnson Hotels in the F&B department.
The lovebirds moved back to the U.K. in 1993 to prepare for their wedding—that’s where Worrall began a 19-year run with Hilton, then known in the U.K. as Hilton International. After starting his Hilton career as the conference and banqueting operating manager for the Hilton Milton Keynes, Worrall discovered his destiny.
“I decided then I definitely wanted to be a GM, but I wanted to say I experienced many sidesteps to get there,” he said.
That path led him to the F&B, human resources, sales and revenue departments at various hotels before earning a deputy GM title and eventually landing the hotel manager’s position at the Hilton Nottingham. Worrall eventually moved to the 1,054-room Hilton London Metropole in 2008, which provided him with valuable city-center experience in a key global market.
“We could handle 4,000 delegates a day at a conference, and I had 17 direct reports,” he said. “It was a fascinating experience to deal with such large groups on a routine basis.”
One such group included 700 international GMs from the Hilton family.
“That genuinely was one of those make-or-break times,” Worrall said. “Nobody ever breaks a career at an event such as that, but you can definitely make your career.”
A month later, in April 2010, Worrall was named GM of The Trafalgar, a boutique Hilton property in central London.
Time to move on
In April 2012, the veteran leader decided to leave Hilton for what he called an exciting opportunity at InterContinental Hotels Group’s 203-room Crowne Plaza London-The City.
“It was a huge decision both personally and professionally,” Worrall recalled. “I knew everyone. I was trusted. I could take calculated risks knowing that if they didn’t always go according to plan, people would respect the fact that it was tried.
“Every huge personal achievement in our personal life was around Hilton as well,” he said. “It was a huge chapter in our personal life, one we always look back on with huge joy.”
Facing his 40th birthday, Worrall decided to take the plunge and move on.
“The timing was right—this hotel has huge opportunities,” he said.
Great people are always the answer
While the industry has dramatically changed during the past two decades, attracting great people is always at the top of Worrall’s wish list.
“Turnover has leveled off in the industry—it’s much lower than it used to be,” he said. “We all want to attract people for the right reasons and make sure you give them a great experience.
Worrall’s advice to property managers is to make new employees an integral part of the team from the start.
“Do not underestimate what a team member will take away from the first few days or weeks,” he said. “That experience can determine if they stay in the industry for a long time or if they want to leave right away.”
Worrall said he has made the employee onboarding process a priority because the faster a new employee is equipped to deliver quality service to a guest, the better it is for the hotel in general. An important part of that is allowing employees to be themselves while meeting the needs of the hotel.
“Being a brand advocate doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to have a personality,” he said. “In a people business, that should be one of the first things you focus on.”
Striking the right balance
Part of that process is ensuring an appropriate balance between work and personal lives, including his own.
“I work incredibly hard, and I play hard,” Worrall said. “I enjoy cooking—I have a great passion for Italian cuisine. I like to travel and have family holidays.”
The Worralls have two children: Lewis, 14, and Alexander, 12.
“A young family takes a lot of your time,” he added. “They’ve enjoyed it along the way with me.”
Worrall and his family live in the New Forest region in southern England, which he said helps keep him grounded.
“It provides a contrast to having a fast and dynamic career in London,” he said. “It adds to my success. I encourage work/life balance in my management team then equally down to the front-line employees.”