Tom Vincent on Why Success Begins With an Attitude

Ignite Expert

Tom Vincent’s life is rich with hospitality experiences, from being a mess officer with the US Navy to working with top hospitality brands. However, Tom’s expertise goes beyond day-to-day interactions. Hospitality drew him in as a child, and decades of immersion in the industry, kept him riveted.

As a Boy Scout and Explorer Scout, Tom helped with the set-up, fire-building, and cooking while other kids tackled other campsite jobs. By college, he was the chief cook and bottle washer for off-campus housing. Soon Tom transitioned into a role as a Navy mess officer for the Officer’s Wardroom dining area, where he navigated food service responsibilities for the 50-plus officers onboard the ship. Even after Tom moved up in rank, he maintained the mess officer position for another year to his fellow officers’ delight. 

After traveling as a US Navy Officer to the Mediterranean and Western Pacific Oceans, he relocated to the Caribbean Island of St. Maarten. He started his Caribbean career running a water sports business with a resort concession facility in town. Then Tom joined Island Gem Enterprises as assistant vice president, working directly for its president. Over the next few decades, he navigated various roles while realizing the importance of the six P’s: Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.

Overseeing Island Gem condominium and resort development 

At the time, Island Gem was developing the first condominium facility operating as a resort where the owners shared in the daily revenues regardless of their rental unit’s lease status. 

As assistant vice president, Tom “got integrally involved, along with Island Gem’s President, in developing a prospectus and passing 48 of 50 states’ regulations, allowing them to continue their sales efforts throughout the US except in Alaska and Hawaii.” Tom’s responsibilities also included recreation, transportation, security, shipping, and receiving departments.

The project progressed, and Tom moved into the vice president of the construction role to oversee the last development phase. His previous work at his father’s engineering and construction company and mechanical engineering college coursework prepared him to take on the position. 

With development complete, Tom advanced to senior vice president and general manager of the resort, a full-service 622-room facility with plenty of amenities, including a casino. While refining his management skills and improving employee satisfaction, he received the ultimate confirmation of his hard work. Tom’s management team received 78% of the votes and won the union organizing election. 

Tom credits “dedication, motivation, and a willingness to learn” for excellent results. His management skills focused on guest satisfaction, quality recruitment, and associates’ training while maintaining a vision of the future.

High-level work with Marriott Hotels and Resorts 

Upon returning to the United States, Tom joined Marriott Hotels and Resorts. He began in the Individual Development (ID) program under the hotel general manager’s careful eye. Tom refers to this experience as one that “enhanced my abilities over the years many times over. Not only did I learn the Marriott systems and procedures, I truly gained a significant understanding of what are the staff’s issues and what it takes to maintain high levels of motivation and quality performance.”

Upon program completion, he transferred to the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington, Virginia as resident manager. Tom coordinated an extensive forecasting and labor management program, saving thousands of dollars for the hotel and ultimately for all the Marriott hotels during that time.

Next, Tom took over as general manager of the Springfield, Massachusetts Marriott Hotel. The goal was to take the property from a three-star to a four-star facility with little or no significant physical improvements. He turned to high-quality hospitality service levels and great staff to accomplish this objective. 

This role set him up perfectly for his next opportunity: Opening general manager of the newest hotel in nearly 25 years in San Antonio, Texas. The San Antonio Marriott on the Riverwalk featured 500 rooms. Tom says, “It took strict organizational skills, a very efficient and well-planned opening, and hiring the best qualified and guest-oriented staff to see results.” 

And they saw tremendous results. The hotel achieved its first year of profitability with an 88% occupancy rate. After completing a successful opening, Tom took over Marriott’s largest hotel, the New Orleans Marriott Hotel, as general manager. This hotel featured 1,331 rooms, with a staff of 81 managers and 1,100 associates. Yet, it faced significant challenges, including substantial flooding in the French Quarter. 

Tom’s oversight and preparation coordinated a $10 million renovation and generated revenues around $1 million per week. Yet, Tom longed for resort-oriented operations and wanted to be closer to his ailing father-in-law in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. So, he took over the general management of the Marriott Ft. Lauderdale property. Shortly after that, Tom had an opportunity that he simply couldn’t pass up: GM of the upcoming San Diego Princess Resort. 

Repositioning the San Diego Princess Resort

After heading across the country, Tom led the effort to reposition the resort. It needed operational changes and a market repositioning. And the results were incredible. In the first year, he increased: 

  • Occupancy by 10%
  • Revenues by 22%
  • Net profit by 34%

Tom also tackled tough negotiations to secure a new lease for 50 years from the city at a favorable rate. In 1996 Tom was made senior VP and chief operating officer at Princess Cruises Resorts & Hotels. Two years later, P&O Ltd. of London, the parent company of Princess Cruises, wanted to expand to Alaska and sell or leaseback four California properties. Tom took the lead on negotiations. 

While two were “no brainers,” the smallest of the three was the most difficult. After many creative moves, the original owner accepted the property back. Tom says, “the best transaction was the San Diego Princess, where London had set a minimum acceptable sale price of $60 million. I managed to showcase the property and its great staff, negotiate from a position of strength and creativity to obtain a $72 million sale price. Obviously, I was happy, and the London-based P&O was ecstatic.”

After joining the buyer’s new management company, Noble House Hotels, Resorts, and Hideaways, Tom stayed in California. He quickly moved from GM to the regional manager of four other West Coast properties. Over the next two years, he oversaw major renovations and upgrades while updating operating procedures for efficiency. 

From executive to hotel ownership

In January 2000, Tom heard about a potential opportunity to own a 100-room hotel in Livingston, Montana. After many years of relocating, Tom was thrilled with the idea of entrepreneurship and settling down in a desirable area. 

However, he was facing tremendous obstacles to get the hotel back into prime shape. It was about to be foreclosed on and auctioned by the US Small Business Administration (SBA). The hotel, the Yellowstone Inn and Conference Center, was condemned by the City of Livingston due to roof leaks affecting 20 to 30 rooms on the top floor and had lost its Best Western affiliation. Not only did it need renovation, but it required repositioning in the marketplace. 

Tom relied on due diligence and negotiation skills to give him the advantage at the auction. He hired consultants to complete the property’s physical inspection and received valuable information about property flaws and conditions. Although no other bidders showed up, negotiations took a bit of time. 

During negotiations, Tom asked about the building’s asbestos and lead-based paint, which forced the trustee to acknowledge both issues. After getting no bids at the auction, the SBA representative called Tom to offer him the property at their desired price. Tom, who had already carefully calculated the costs of renovations and upgrades, declined the offer. 

Less than six months later, Tom purchased the shuttered hotel business for roughly half of the initial price. After six months of interior and exterior renovations, Best Western accepted the property back into its membership program. Tom spent the next 14-years running the hotel, with each one being more successful than the previous year. 

In 2012, Tom received an offer from two people who wanted to get into the hotel business. Tom structured a successful lease and purchase agreement. Tom says it was “financially better than if I was running the property myself. After three years, they found a buyer, and I sold my interest in January 2014 at a price initially established in the contract.”

After a full and diverse hearty career, Tom sold the Best Western Yellowstone Inn and moved into hospitality consulting while dedicating time to various board of director positions for non-profit organizations and the local city and county economic development agency. 

A life immersed in hospitality 

Many in the industry live and breathe hospitality. Tom Vincent is no different. He believes “success begins with an attitude.” And his business and consulting style follows the six P’s, “Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.” 

Improve your operations with a phone call 

From creative solutions to operational improvements, Tom can help you take charge of your hospitality business. Talk through your next steps by scheduling a call with Tom.

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