Peter Strebel, the new President of Omni Hotels, likes to ask during interviews, “Do you like to entertain in your home?” This question translates to his approach to hospitality. “This is the business we’re in. We’re welcoming people into our homes. And if you don’t like to entertain in your own home, then you probably won’t want to do what we do in our business.” Talk about setting the bar for your employees. For Strebel, who began in hospitality as a desk clerk at a resort hotel in West Hampton Beach, taking a personal approach to every guest is at the core of Omni’s success. Strebel even keeps in touch with at least 10 customers via phone, email and social media. But going forward? The hotel group has its hands in trendy and exciting projects similar to the recently built Omni Hotel at The Battery Atlanta and Omni Frisco Hotel outside of Dallas. Connect caught up with Strebel to discuss his career, what to expect from Omni in the coming years and how he would entertain in his home.
Did you ever have a moment in life where you thought about trying something else?
No, I think through my career I had a couple of those ‘scratch my head’ days where I wondered what else I could be doing, but those lasted for about three seconds. I truly love being in this business, and even as a child I said I wanted to work in a hotel so I’ve never looked back.
Is there a mentor you had in life that you can attribute some of your success to?
I’ve had many mentors in my life, which I think is probably the reason why I’m successful. But my first mentor was actually my first general manager at that hotel I worked at when I was 17 years old. Her name was Genie Gibson and she was one of the most dynamic, energetic people I’ve ever known. She was challenging and demanding, but she really cared about people and her customers. She’s retired now and I’m still friends with her today.
Do you relate of any her leadership style to yours?
I think so. I really like to get to know people and Genie was a people person. She created and thrived off energy from other people and I think I have that too. She was always positive, had a can-do attitude and worked really hard. This was in the late 70’s and I can bet you that there were extremely few female general managers in the hospitality industry.
Can you name a turning point or an ‘A-ha!’ moment?
I can say that every job I’ve had has been a new experience. I’ve been fortunate to hold a lot of different positions in the business from my front desk job to becoming office manager, then going into sales, marketing and operations. I’ve really seen a lot of the hotel business in a 360-degree view. Hospitality is a fun business and we get to welcome and celebrate people at every event in their life. We get to see life happen and it’s a very rewarding business. Recently, I got an email from a customer whose son is being treated for leukemia and one of his wishes was to see a race in Indianapolis. So, we put him up in a hotel room there, decorated it, and we got to connect with him and impact his life in a positive way. I think that’s a unique ‘A-ha!’ moment where I really feel that I love what I do.
How do you stay close to your employees?
Growing up my father used to always say to me, “Never lose sight of the cash register.” In Dallas, none of our “cash registers” are here at our corporate office. They’re out in the field. So, I need to stay in touch with our associates and find out how they’re doing because nine times out of 10, they know what needs to be done. A lot of times in the corporate office we think we know better, but the answers are usually found on the property.