Joseph Kirtley: Career Profile

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Morgans hotel group

Joseph Kirtley, general manager at Belgraves, A Thompson hotel worked his way up through hotels to become general manager
Joseph Kirtley, general manager at Belgraves, A Thompson hotel worked his way up through hotels to become general manager
American-born Joseph Kirtley started out as a bellboy at Miami Beach's Delano Hotel before climbing the ladder at Morgans Hotel Group to eventually become hotel manager. He opened Belgraves, A Thompson Hotel in London last year where he remains as general manager. 

How I got to where I am now: 

I started in hospitality in 1994 when I was hired at the Delano Hotel at Miami Beach, Ian Schrager's first Miami hotel. I made my way to Miami from Michigan to take up the role of bellboy after I'd seen the job advertised. I was only 19 and it was an exciting time.

Shortly after that I moved to the front desk and then worked my way up through operations to hotel manager at Morgans Hotel Group. In 2004 I was transferred to The Royalton Hotel in New York and took up the role of general manager before transferring to the Mondrian in LA. I was there for three years, two and a half of them as general manager. I'd never been to LA before and it was very different environment from Manhattan, but the skills you need are the same. 

I then went to the Clift Hotel in San Francisco for a year before going going back to the Royalton in 2007 which was just celebrating its 20th anniversary and was about to be revamped, but I had the challenge of actually closing it within a short space of time to then re-open after the refurbishment. 

In 2009 I transferred to the Sanderson Hotel in London and spent two years running that hotel and having my first experience of life in the UK before I was approached to open the first Thompson hotel in London. Having been American and having UK experience was a draw for them because I could understand both sides of the business and they needed someone they could trust as it was their first property in the UK. 

I took up the challenge - I love openings and I wanted to say I'd opened a hotel in London so it was perfect. I have been here for two years now and the hotel has been so well-received, both in what our guests say about us and in our high occupancy rates. 

My greatest achievement and biggest challenge: 

These were the same thing. I had gone back to the Royalton in 2007 with the intention of running it while it was being renovated, but a week before I went I was told it was going to have to be closed completely for the work to take place, so I had just seven days to close the hotel and let the staff go. It was tough, but it was the right decision.

My greatest achievement was that 22 weeks later we re-opened after a £20m renovation and I was able to bring most of the senior staff back. It was a very successful launch and we had a great team back. 

My tips for success in hotels:

A hotelier is responsible for asking questions of their guests - without asking questions you don't know what their needs are. So, ask as many questions as you can, that's my number one tip. My number two tip would be providing consistency and an efficient and thorough experience. if everything goes smoothly then it will give you time to build a good relationship with your guests.

You also have to put the right people in the right job. Someone might think they are right for a position, but they might be better elsewhere. It's up to the GM to talk to their staff and have interaction with the team to ensure they are in the right position and have the right guidance. You should have an open dialogue with staff to do that. 

What the future holds: 

I'm happy for the moment. Thompson Hotels' owner (Commune Hotels & Resorts) has just developed a new brand (Tommie) which it is looking to develop and I'd love to be in one of the opening teams. I'd love to open one of their hotels in London, that would be exciting. 

Related topics: People, Hotels, Career Profile, Venues, Business

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