A Lifelong Love

Leigh Taylor, Co-founder and President, The Pensacola Beach Resort

What initially inspired you to get into the hospitality business?

When I was young I always had travel posters on my walls instead of celebrity portraits. I’ve always loved a hotel. They can provide luxury or safe haven, sometimes both. It’s one of the only businesses that combines all aspects of the human experience and engages all the senses. It’s an intimate, tangible and very old industry with lots of amazing history with which to feel connected. From a financial perspective, they are very challenging, but I liked the complexity of having an operating business in addition to a piece of real estate. I was blessed to grow up in a family business that exposed me to the hospitality industry from the owner/operator perspective. There is constant work on the stage, set, props and players where the value or necessity of the underlying product you’re selling really isn’t in question. To a young girl, it seemed like ‘The Greatest Show on Earth.

Who were some of your mentors or role models, male or female, and what were their most valuable lessons?

My grandfather and my mother, both hoteliers, are my biggest influencers. They always said never to “build monuments that become tombstones,” meaning don’t design and build something based on your own ego. That lesson can apply to more than just building a hotel. My mother’s guiding light is that she wants to run “happy hotels.” That principle ends up making lots of decisions easier if you’re trying to put associates first. When I was with Highgate Hotels, my boss Steve Barick taught me that our business is hard but not complicated and pushed me to simplify issues, in order to make quicker and better decisions.


What’s your outlook for the future with regards to diversity and inclusion within hospitality?

It’s bright. There are still opportunities within certain silos, but the hotel industry as a whole is already global and naturally diverse and has been for a long time. Every kind of job exists in the hospitality industry and every kind of person works within it somewhere. That’s a good baseline from which to keep evolving.

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