When Island Hospitality Management announced its promotions of Kate Bleakley to vice president of operations of its WaterWalk Division in December and then of Susanne LoFaso to regional director of operations in January, it was not at all unusual, says Gregg Forde, president and COO of this third-party management company for select-service and upscale, extended-stay hotels in the United States. He described for LODGING how company culture and targeted training at Island Hospitality stress the importance of diversity and an awareness of bias, and how a development program called Pathways bolsters the ability of all team members to reach their career goals.
Of these most recent promotions, Forde says, “Both Kate and Susanne earned these positions by showing consistent, outstanding performance. Kate has shown an ability to grow teams, be a relationship builder, and regularly deliver results. That, plus her deep understanding of our culture, experience in extended-stay lodging, and her growth in those key roles made her the best candidate for this position with WaterWalk.” He says LoFaso, who joined the company in 2018 and has managed multi-branded portfolios, was a clear choice for her new position in which she will oversee the company’s Hilton- and Marriott-branded hotels throughout the New York and Illinois regions, as well as providing acquisition support. “Susanne was another internal candidate who showed outstanding results and leadership qualities,” he comments.
Pointing out other women in key positions at Island Hospitality, Forde says the company’s growing pipeline prompted the promotion of Homewood Suites General Manager Kate Nicoli to regional vice president in which capacity she will be handling openings and transitions for new portfolio properties as the company continues to grow. He also mentions that longtime team member Krishelle Cruz serves as vice president of sales – West.
Then, too, are two of the women behind the initiatives—including the Pathways development program— that prepare employees throughout the company to take on ever-greater responsibilities within the company. They include Tracy Brown, senior director of talent management, in the department of human resources helmed by Tonya Moore, senior vice president of human resources. Of Moore, Forde says, “Tonya brings an immense amount of background qualifications to this amazing platform for success, which helps motivated members thrive.”
Forde, who estimates that it’s been about six years since Island Hospitality hired from outside their own company for key operational positions, says all these valued team members are beneficiaries of the company’s conscious efforts to nurture the growth of existing team members in general and women in particular. “It’s part of our culture to focus on internal growth and development, especially for those in upper management roles. Our corporate office supports accountability to the individual’s growth and ensures we’re meeting employees where they are in their career cycle,” he explains.