Feb 5, 2020 | Ask & Talk | Reading Time: 7 minutes
Would you have the courage to leave a six-figure-salary in the largest travel company in the galaxy to jump at the chance to serve the world?
This is exactly what Christine Trippi, an award-winning General Manager, has done. After over 30 years of working inside of a hotel, she decided that it was time to launch her energy and passion to serve any organization.
Christine is now the CEO of The Wise Pineapple, Author of Yes Is the Answer, and helps leaders and organizations create Sweet Hospitality, Sweet Cultures, and Sweet Results through training, consulting, and speaking.
Happy and excited about this new chapter, Christine is already causing some buzz with her book, where she tells the secret of delivering legendary service and gives insights about mindset and “the right attitude” hoteliers should have.
In fact, Christine states that writing a book and putting herself out there in an open platform was very scary. And let me tell you: this is the same woman who jumped out of a plane! Christine Trippi is all about courage over fear. Always.
Jump at this chance of learning what it takes to make it in the hotel industry with Christine Trippi in this new episode of Ask & Talk.
You have a long and impressive career in the hotel industry. But you didn’t start in a hotel. Why hotels over another restaurant?
C: Actually, I started when I was 13 years old in the restaurant business. I was a bus girl. And then when I was 17, I started working at the Hampton Inn. I applied Pizza Hut and three hotels. Pizza Hut called me immediately. And I knew that it would be very easy and comfortable, I could fit right in.
But I just wanted to work for a hotel. I thought it just seemed so romantic and cool. But I had never done that, so it was very scary.
Then Hampton Inn called me and they offered me a job to be the van driver/laundry girl. I’ve just got my driver’s license, so driving an 18 passenger van was very scary. I had never even driven on the highway yet!
However, I wanted to do it so bad so I chose courage over comfort and I took the hotel job.
I always think about: “where would I be today if I had taken the comfortable Pizza Hut job?” I’ve made my entire life out of hospitality and serving others. I just don’t even know where I would be today if I didn’t make that courageous decision.
And I am going through that right now again. I’ve just left my 6-figure-salary with Marriott International to create this company and go out all on my own and serve the world, rather than just one hotel or company.
This is a very scary and courageous decision, but it might just be the best decision I ever made in my life. We’ll find out! (laugh)
At your website The Wise Pineapple, we can read that you like this adrenaline-rush: jumping out of planes, taking a selfie on top of a mountain, or talking to strangers. These are things that scare you, but you do it anyway. What is the craziest experience you have ever done?
C: One: jumping out of a plane. I was terrified! I thought I was going to pass out (LOL). But I’ve always wanted to do it, and I did it. And it was AWESOME!
Two: Leaving the security of a company that I love where I got paid very well to go out on my own. This is very scary, but it is so exciting.
But going back a little bit in your career, you said once that you didn’t have a degree in the hotel business when you started. Do degrees still matter?
C: I never want to be that person who says: “You don’t need a college degree”. Education in any way is important, and there are multiple ways to earn an education — travel, reading books, school, listening to podcasts, working, life experiences.
I’m a life-long learner. Just because I didn’t go away to 4-years-school, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t been learning every day my entire life. So I don’t want to say that education is not important or that you don’t need a degree.
However, I like to share this with everybody when I do a keynote or training: in our industry, you don’t have to have that 4-year degree to make it. If you show up every day with the right attitude and given the right efforts, you can take this career as far as you want to. There’s no ceiling.
Never in my wildest dream when I was 17 years old, did I think that I would be a published author, running my own company, and leaving the largest hotel company in the world as one of their senior leaders…
I honestly thought that there was a limit to my success because I didn’t have a college degree. But in our industry, if you got the passion, attitude, and effort, you can have it all.
I’ve met CEOs that did not have college degrees and they’ve done it through continuous learning, having the best attitude, and always giving 110 percent.
You know what you are talking about. You won multiple awards: Gold Circle Hotel Award 2014- 2013, Marriott Diamond General Manager of the Year and General Manager of the Year 2013 Award. But what exactly is “the right attitude”?
C: My new book Yes is the Answer is about that. It’s having the “yes mindset”. Not just for your customers, your guests, but also your associates, your vendors, your owners. It’s having that serving attitude: “what can I do?”.
It’s also about ownership attitude. I hear people sometimes saying: “ that is not my job”, or “when I get to this position, then I will do that”. I remember being 18 years old at the front desk, saying: “I’ll do it. Because every time you use me, I learn something, and that gets me to the next position.” It’s having that ownership attitude.
The three most dangerous words in the English language: I know that. Especially when you get to a certain level. When we get to a certain level, we feel like we are supposed to know it all.
Be brave enough to be wrong. Knowing that is alright to try something and if it doesn’t work, you learn something and move forward.
In the book, you talk about “delivering a legendary service”. What is a legendary service and do you have any examples of it being a guest or as a hotelier?
C: I love this book because it’s just a little snack of the book! Even the person who isn’t a reader can get through it quickly while getting so much information. Being a Wise Pineapple is about Standing tall – Be Confident, Wearing a Crown – Be Empowered, and Being Sweet on the Inside – Lead from the heart.
If I could give one gift to all service leaders it would be the gift of how to say yes every time. Because when you have to say: ”no”, “I’m sorry” or “unfortunately”, you shrink in your confidence. When you say no, you shut down the creative process and you just leave it at no.
The first step is to Make Friends First. That is to build a relationship with that person. You start by saying: “Thank you so much for letting me know your request.” As you are putting yourself in their shoes, and building that relationship, all the possibilities of what you can do comes to you.
It takes creativity to create a “yes” from a “no” and be empowered!
C: It might seem hard, sometimes impossible; however, when you know the process, it becomes easy to be confident!
As a leader, I empower my people to do what they need to do to take care of the guests and each other. I provide them with guidelines and training to help them to make the right decisions. However, I know that many associates may not feel as empowered —I wrote this book mostly to help these associates to stand tall — you do not have to choose between policy and customer.
By knowing the “yes is the answer” process, you are able to stick to policy and still have a great service to say yes. Here is an example:
You can know all the steps, but if you don’t practice it, it’s not going to come out naturally.
You said in an interview that after +30 years experience, the romance has not ended and you still love what you do. How do you keep the flame burning without burning out?
C: For me, you can not stay in the same building for too long. If you are, you have to switch it up or move positions. The moment you stop learning and your job is so easy that you can do it in your sleep, you need to change things up.
For example: When I was a General Manager, every year, I would do a big team rally to re-energize and inspire the team — and myself! This made everything seem fresh, new, and recharged!
I typically change positions every 2,5 – 4 years, depending on the level of the job. I need to keep learning and growing. I’m not saying that is for everybody, however, whether you change positions or add new energy to the one you’re in, keep things fresh and continues to challenge yourself to keep that learning flame going!
Also, to help prevent burnout it’s important to discover new disciplines. Example: You might get burnout in operations because it can be a gating job. Maybe it’s time to try Sales for a little bit. Then you can appreciate another side of the business.
I’ve interviewed some men leaders in the industry, like Rupesh Patel (Hotel Owner & CEO) and David Arraya (Hotel Manager of the Fours Seasons, Austin). And they are truly great! But let me read this to you:
“For example, women are about half of director-level employees in hotel companies, but females make up only one in 22 CEOs and one in nine presidents. There clearly is a disconnect where highly competitive women are not being considered for promotion.” – Lodging Magazine
Why do you think it’s still like this?
C: I see many women General Managers. I think hospitality is one of the most open industries for women. However, I will still say that recently I was talking on the phone with a woman that was inquiring about having me present as keynote for their GM conference. When she told me she was the CEO of the company, I audibly had a reaction of “Wow!”. It strikes me, even now, that we shouldn’t be surprised by that — so we still have a ways to go.
Here is something that is in the book “Lean in” by Sheryl Sandberg:
“Women will only apply for a position if they know 100% of the job qualification. Men will apply for a job if they know half of the qualifications “.
Men are just more confident in that way, and women want to be perfect first. So that was a big learning moment for me. I don’t want a job where I know everything, then I won’t have a learning curve. Thit is something I think women are starting to be more aware of and push themselves to stretch and I’m honored that hospitality is one of the most welcoming industries for women.
To all of my woman colleagues, let’s continue to support, encourage and build each other up — there is room enough for all of us.