Jim Treadway: GM of Bardessono Hotel

My NativeAdVice:


Jim Treadway is a third generation hotelier, whose lodging roots began with Treadway Inns in New England. He attended Dartmouth College, served in the Marine Corps, and later graduated from Cornell University in Hotel Administration.  Treadway worked with Westin Hotels & Resorts for 23 years, the last five of which as President of the North American Division.  Following Westin, he founded and chaired the former MTM Luxury Lodging, which Benchmark Hospitality purchased in 2011. He then served as Vice Chairman of Benchmark Hospitality, Inc., as well as in his current role as the General Manager at Bardessono.

Treadway is a former board/executive committee member of AH&LA and the Seattle CVB, as well as past President of Washington State's Hotel and Lodging Association. He is a founding member of Seattle's Lodging Roundtable and the Yountville Business Roundtable and a past Chairman of the Board of Inde Corp, now known as the Preferred Hotel Group. He has served on the board of Merrill Gardens, L.L.C., which owns and operates 50 retirement and assisted living communities across the U.S. 

How did you get into the hospitality industry?

Born and raised into it.  Third generation hotelier.  Our family, beginning with my grandfather owned and operated one of the first branded hotel management companies in the world – Treadway Inns in the Northeast.  Founded in 1908.  My first paid job was at age 6, when I worked one hour per day for a dime picking up litter and cigarette butts in one of our Inn’s parking lots.  Had a job every year thereafter, and between ages 7-21 have been a pantry boy making salads, dishwasher, potwasher, busboy, apprentice cook, food server, house attendant in housekeeping, a painter, line cook, and bartender.  At 22 after getting out of the Marine Corps and before going to Cornell, helped the owners of the Hampshire House in Boston convert their basement into and English Pub – the Bull & Finch, which later was memorialized as Cheers on TV.  I was their GM, Director of Food  & Beverage, and Bartender (on Friday and Saturday nights), as well as the bookkeeper.

Tell us about Bardessono. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the hotel?

The hotel’s developer, Phil Sherburne, gets the credit for bardessono’s vision and lofty ambitions, but we, as the operator (MTM Luxury Lodging at the time, now in recent years Benchmark Hospitality, the company to which we sold MTM), bought in entirely and convinced the equity partners to do so.  The vision was to be unlike any other luxury hotel in the world, to be the greenest luxury hotel in the world (and we are – the only true luxury hotel that is LEED platinum certified by the U.S. Green Building Counsel), to be the busiest hotel in the world (our owners loved that), and the most ambitious of all – to be the best luxury hotel, not only in Napa Valley, California, and the U.S., but in the world.  (TripAdvisor has us at #1 out of 57 in Napa Valley, #3 out of all hotels, luxury or otherwise, in the U.S., and #25 in the world, so we have a ways to go on this one.)  But we are one of the busiest luxury hotels on the West Coast, at 80+% occupancy.

What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Bardessono's success?

Lexus came to us in 2010 and asked to be a Lexus Hotel Partner.  Had no idea what that was at the time, but it turned out to be a proverbial “no-brainer”.  Lexus gives us as many hybrid vehicles as we want for both guest use and shuttle purposes.  Very simply, they wanted our affluent and accomplished guests in their vehicles, because of our quality, price points, and “greenness”.  Our two brands are very closely aligned in many ways, particularly our mutual “relentless pursuit of perfection”.

Our initial marketing strategy was all about how green we are and “aren’t we wonderful” for being LEED platinum certified.  Not a great strategy when all of our guests are focused on luxury and comfort first.  After a year or so, we shifted our imaging, messaging, and selling strategies to how good a hotel we are and what a great Napa Valley experience we can deliver in the epicenter of the Valley – Yountville; and our LEED story became an “Oh, by the way, we are the greenest luxury hotel in the world… and the carbon footprint you leave behind will be less than half the size it would have been at one of our competitors.

What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?

Highly personalized service and one-to-one marketing.  “Being the difference” in people’s lives – a Benchmark Hospitality hallmark.  We don’t tailor our service to segments, like business travelers, leisure travelers, and conference attendees, we tailor them to people like the Johnsons, the Schwartzes, the Smiths, etc.  Before  guests get here, we’ve googled them, been on their Facebook page and Linked in, have a photo of them, and know their likes, dislikes, passions, hobbies, etc.  Then at a daily morning meeting, we brainstorm ways to make every arriving guest’s experience here memorable and like no other.  (Please read their testimonials on TripAdvisor – the last 800 or so reviews.) 

Life Motto?

“Our best today, better tomorrow.”  It was my elementary school motto.  It captures the essence of continuous improvement (or in Japan – Kaizen) perfectly.

Bardessono's Motto?

BB&G  (stands for Best, Busiest, & Greenest hotel in the world.  It’s a very easy way to remember our vision.)

Your greatest success as GM of Bardessono?

Adding value to this asset - taking this hotel from the depth of the recession, when we opened in 2009 with horrible results… to one of the most successful and highly-regarded hotels in the state.  

Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?

Our pre- and post-opening marketing was flawed.  (See above.)  We appealed to and attracted environmentalists, but didn’t initially reach the luxury traveler.  We fixed that.

Your advice to an aspiring hotelier/entrepreneur?

Try to identify your passion and then pursue it mightily.  There are lots of facets to this business, from real estate to operations and management.  As you progress in your career, aspire to be better than all the other people at your level, and the promotions and advancements will come quickly,  Always do more than what was asked.  Exceed expectations.

Describe the ideal experience at Bardessono.

You don’t have to ask for anything, because we can read your minds and provide what you want before you ask for it.  Really.

How important are architecture/design to the success of Bardessono?

Quite. We were designed to blend into (as opposed to overshadow) our surroundings, which are spectacular unto themselves.  Our style is understated, contemporary luxury, with lots of natural elements and materials.

How do you motivate your employees?

By treating them as individuals, each with their own buttons that we need to find and push to inspire over-the-top performance and service to our guests and each other.  We are family here, and there is this very strong sense of everybody doing their part for the benefit of the family.  Good behavior and performance are celebrated loudly, improvement opportunities are dealt with quietly.  It makes for a very uplifting work environment.

One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?

Bourbon old fashion and linguine Bolognese with a good glass of chianti.  You heard it here first.

What literature is on your bed stand?

A book on meditation.

Role model - business and personal?

Too many to list; but my heroes are combat veterans, because of their sacrifices, courage, teamwork, commitment, and selflessness.   

Current passion?

Family and all sports, particularly golf.

Favorite travel destination?

Kauai, where we have a home.

What's next for Bardessono?

New ownership.  We are currently for sale, and we expect to have new owners on board by the middle of the year, at which time, we will build our Suites Villa – a 4,000 square foot Villa, that can be rented as one and two bedroom suites, or a super luxury, celebrity-style three-bedroom home.