Leadership lessons learned from a legend
Leadership lessons learned from a legend
24 AUGUST 2017 7:13 AM

Hotel Equities founder Fred Cerrone just celebrated 50 years in the hotel industry. He was one of the first people I interviewed in this business, and his leadership lessons have stayed with me. 

When I first started covering the hotel industry about ten years ago, I remember being struck immediately by the stories everyone in this industry has about their careers—how they started in the business, lessons learned along the way and so on.

I often tell new Hotel News Now hires that they never need to be nervous talking to hotel executives about their business, even if they don’t understand mezzanine financing or structuring a debt stack yet.

“Just ask people about their start in the hotel business and you’ll get amazing stories, and that helps you make a connection,” I tell them. It always works.

That was how I remember approaching my first interview with Fred Cerrone, the founder and chairman of Atlanta-based Hotel Equities, who was at that time president and CEO of the company. I hadn’t been covering the industry for very long, and I was nervous about interviewing a CEO—he was one of the first people with that title I interviewed, and that was intimidating.

Of course I didn’t need to be nervous. If you know Fred, you know what a kind, warm, engaging person he is right from the start. That first interview led to many more through the years, and Fred became a real inspiration to me when it comes to leadership style.

The way he talks about the role company culture plays at Hotel Equities is fascinating. From the start, Fred made it a priority and he nurtures it, coaching new hires and veterans alike, and really demonstrating that your job and your life should work hand in hand, because that way you’ll enjoy what you do and your life will be enriched all around.

Fred just celebrated 50 years in the hotel industry. He passed the president and CEO reins to Brad Rahinsky a few years ago, but his involvement hasn’t slowed down at all, it seems.

When Hotel Equities’ director of PR Margaret Jones let me know the company was planning a surprise party to celebrate Fred’s tenure in the industry earlier this month, I knew it would be a great chance to share my own congratulations through a blog post.

Margaret shared a couple of those pretty typical “Fred-isms” in her email to me. She said, “one of his favorite sayings is this: Find a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

That, to me, epitomizes Fred’s commitment to corporate culture and creating an environment for his company’s employees to flourish both professionally and personally.

It reminds me of a favorite Fred quote that I wrote down after I interviewed him for a cover profile story in 2014. He said, “The best thing I know how to do is try to connect the dots for people personally.”

That resonated with me. It reminded me that as a manager, I’m in charge of people for a good chunk of their day, even their life. If I want to be a good manager and a good leader, I need to recognize that if people aren’t happy in this big chunk of their life where I’m in charge, then nobody wins, personally or professionally.

So much of how I shape my own leadership and management style comes from inspiration I see around me in the hotel industry. Fred has been one of those people who model the approach that what matters most is kindness, mutual respect, working hard together to reach goals and helping each other. If you can practice those qualities at work, you’ll nail them in life. It doesn’t matter if you work as a hotel company CEO, a journalist or a garbage collector.

Congratulations, Fred, on 50 years in the hotel industry. And congratulations next month on 50 years of marriage. Here’s to many more!

Want to share a story about a great leader who inspires you? Leave a comment below. Or you can email me at sricca@hotelnewsnow.com or find me on Twitter @HNN_Steph.

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