Tom Guay: GM of The Sagamore Resort

My NativeAdVice:

How did you get into the hospitality industry?

Like most hospitality professionals I started at a young age working in a restaurant. I was drawn to the fast pace, exciting atmosphere. I appreciated that each day was new and exciting, and it felt as if we had a new performance each day. I was also drawn to the idea of service, and quickly realized that meeting the needs of a guest or patron was something that I would want to do for a career. My career path to GM of a grand resort however; was slightly different. For the first 25 years I was exclusively in the kitchens of resorts and hotels. I held positions of Cook, Sous Chef and ultimately Executive Chef before becoming the Director of Food and Beverage. Following that I transitioned into the Rooms Division, becoming the Resident Manager and finally General Manager.

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

The Sagamore is a member of the Historic Hotels of America. In 2008, we celebrated our 125th Anniversary of welcoming guests to The Sagamore. We are a full service resort hotel with 380 plus rooms, suites, condominiums and a castle. A full service Spa and Salon, Donald Ross Championship Golf Course, multiple restaurants and recreation activities all make The Sagamore what it is today. My vision is to be a great steward to this amazing property. Work hard so each day is better than the one before. Continue to listen to our guests, and always look to improve.

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

The Sagamore is a member of the Ocean Properties Family of resorts and hotels. It boasts over 100 unique properties each with its own distinct location, facility and offerings that set it apart from one another. Within the portfolio there are 14 properties that are part of the OPAL Collection. Just as the Opal is a rare and exciting Gem, this portfolio is that as well. Each OPAL property is marketed internally to each other, and we are developing loyalty programs where our guests will be recognized within the portfolio and have added value to each stay.

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

The booking window is shorter and shorter. Guests are holding out looking for that last minute deal. No longer are we seeing that they are planning out months in advance. Of course this is true because we are a drive destination with only being 3 ½ hours from the New York market. However; Revenue Management recognizes this and through analytics we recognize patterns, and will manipulate availability to ensure that occupancies continue to grow month over month and year over year.

Life Motto?

Don’t be afraid of hard work and effort, it always pays off…

The Sagamore Hotel's Motto?

Naturally, “it’s our pleasure” and “we are here to serve”! 

Your greatest success as GM of The Sagamore Hotel? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?

I am proud that I was able to work through an ownership change at a very difficult time (2008/2009) where the hospitality industry was dealt a serious blow. During that time we also went through a significant reconstruction and renovation project, which took several years, and we were able to navigate through peaks and valleys in business levels all the while showing significant growth in key metrics along the way. This was not easy on our associates, and our guests also recognized that we were going through quite a bit of change. We were successful because our team relied on each other and we all knew that the changes happening were right for The Sagamore. This could not have happened without constant communication and a desire from all that we were positioning this hotel in such a way that the future would be bright.

Your advice to an aspiring hotelier?

Learn that every decision and action you make, be it large or small will impact the Guest in some way. Wherever you are, know your property, know your job and know your team. Each is unique in its own way.  

Describe the ideal experience at The Sagamore Hotel.

The Sagamore is situated on a 72 acre island in the Adirondacks and on one of the cleanest and pristine waters in North America. The ideal experience is to get near the lake, on the lake and in the lake. Take in the natural beauty and slow the pace as much as possible so as to enjoy the amazing setting.

How important are architecture/design to the success of The Sagamore Hotel?

The way The Sagamore is situated on Green Island on Lake George lends its Indian name for “the great one” just right. We have four wings of the hotel which afford great views of the Adirondack Mountains and Lake George. As a Historic Hotel we believe in stewardship all while ensuring that our guests get to experience this great lake. Or cascading Veranda Terraces, beach front access and sitting areas are designed so our guests truly capture the beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains.

How do you motivate your employees?

I try to keep them on their toes. They all know that I “inspect what I expect”. In fact, they have a cheat sheet of 20 or so items that I look for whenever I am around the property. From an associate smile to pillows being straight they know that I am always looking. I try to instill in them to see it from a guest’s perspective. In addition to that we work hard on communication and setting the expectation.

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

Pure clean water and a crisp mcintosh apple. Nothing better than the taste and texture of an apple picked right off the tree! The same holds true for a glass of cold water when you are parched. The simple things!

What literature is on your bed stand?

Aside from various trade magazines, a few John Grisham novels and I am currently reading Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit by Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon.

Role model - business and personal?

My role model was my last General Manager before being promoted. I talk about having a “presence” and he certainly had that. He was able to motivate, lead and direct us and always let it be known that success was within us. Also, he believed as I do that humor absolutely has a part in our daily lives. My personal role model is my wife. She has enabled me to pursue my career while always supporting me, and I have never felt the pressure of not being able to be there on a holiday or special occasion. Her understanding is amazing, and we look to the time spent together and not the occasion.

Current passion?

Motivation, teamwork and excellence, although they have been for quite some time! Oh yea, organization too!

Favorite travel destination?

Anywhere where I am with my family relaxing.

What's next for The Sagamore Hotel?

Continued success for the next 125 years. In addition to that we will always look to improving the facility, it’s offerings for our guests and a workplace that fosters growth, satisfaction and pride in a job well done.