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Insight; New York Hospitality Professionals - This Week: Patrick Colomer

“Insight; New York Hospitality Professionals”, a weekly interview series with professionals from the MICE industry in New York.

These are uncertain times for our industry – yet we believe that now is the moment to bring our industry closer together by strengthening our ties and relationships on a more human level. It is for this reason that Shackman Associates is undertaking a series of interviews with other New York hospitality professionals to learn how they are managing during this time.

In today’s episode; New York Hospitality Professionals Karen Shackman, President and CEO of Shackman Associates interviews Patrick Colomer, the President of MPI Greater New York Chapter.

Karen: Hello Patrick, thank you for agreeing to participate in this interview. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Patrick: Thank you Karen, I appreciate the invitation. I'm a native Floridian who grew up in the town of Winter Park, FL. I graduated college from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. Growing up in the Sunshine State, I played golf and baseball year-round. I would still consider myself an avid golfer as I never miss an opportunity to hit the links. I have a passion for traveling and also enjoy spending time with friends and family. I moved to Manhattan nine years ago and currently reside in Murray Hill.

Karen: Of course, Manhattan boasts Chelsea Piers as a good location to hit a ball although there are a number of courses in the other boroughs. How and where have you spent the last three months, and did you have an opportunity to play golf?

Patrick: I went back home to Ponte Vedra Beach to ride out the start of the pandemic with my family. I spent 10 weeks down there and just got back to the city last week. While I was in Florida, I got to spend a bunch of time with my 7-year-old nephew, Mikey. We rode bikes, went to the beach, swam in the pool, watched movies, ate lots of candy, and just had an awesome experience. In the last few years, I haven't had the chance to get home as much as I'd like, so it was truly a blessing to do so. I also played a lot of golf, too!

Karen: What is/were some of the items on your agenda as President of the MPI Greater New York Chapter and how have you supported the hospitality community during this crisis?

Patrick: Well, first and foremost, I have to say that it's an honor and privilege to serve as President of MPI Greater New York. Our Chapter has an extensive history dating back to 1977 so I feel fortunate to be a small part of that. I began my term as President last July with four main objectives - enhance the educational offerings to our members, drive planner membership & engagement, focus on our corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and build the leadership bench.

Karen: These are all great goals and I have been a proud member of MPI for many years. I would love to hear a little more about your goals in education and how you are trying to attain them.

Patrick: In terms of Education, we are going to finish our calendar year by executing 9 events when the goal set forth by MPI Global Headquarters was 6. We hosted events on meeting design, mindfulness, pivoting from a live event to virtual and many others. We've also been fortunate to have outstanding guest speakers including former CIA undercover officer Michele Rigby Assad as well as industry icon Cindy Novotny. And, this week, we're finishing the year off in grand fashion with a collaborative event with several other MPI chapters featuring Michael Dominguez as our keynote speaker.

Karen: Pivoting from live events to virtual is one of the hottest topics these days and I look forward to listening in on the upcoming webinar with Michael Dominguez as well. How do you plan to engage with your members through this format?

Patrick: Regarding our planner membership & engagement, MPI Greater New York has seen a 40% year over year increase in planner attendance. In New York, everyone is always busy and has numerous opportunities to get involved so content is always king. We conducted two focus groups with senior-level planners/department heads that have been crucial in formulating a strategy on how we can make the strongest impact. I'm proud of all the hard work we've done in the area of Education. But, I would be remiss if I didn't mention our Vice President of Education, Elaine Morena. She has done just a tremendous job for us this year. Elaine is the Regional Vice President for Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI) and, she, along with her Education Committee, deserves most of the credit for our success in Education this year.

Karen: Certainly, something to be proud of Patrick! You are doing a great job for our industry. We were lucky to work with ALHI in the past and actually supported them in creating their most recent Halloween party. It is so important in our industry to connect and engage each other.

Can you elaborate on your CSR programs?

Patrick: CSR is also a passion of mine. I strongly believe in giving back to the community. In addition to my volunteer role with MPI, I'm also a Big Brother for a young man in Manhattan. Tyliq is now a freshman in college and it's truly been a privilege to be involved in his life these last four years. I'm also finishing my third year in the iMentor program where I've had the opportunity to mentor another young person. Jordan is graduating high school later this month and he, too, will be heading to college in the fall. For me, it's important to give back. While those are personal initiatives I've taken on, MPIGNY has also made a strong impact in our community as well. Our members have dedicated a lot of time and resources to God's Love We Deliver, New York Cares, and 9/11 Service Week. We also created an MPI Greater New York Cycle For Survival team that raised over $13,000 for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. While our team didn't get to ride due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are committed to organizing another team beginning in the fall.

Karen: Giving back to the community and helping young people shaping their future is truly great! Is there an opportunity for young professionals to join the leadership team of MPI? And how are you reshaping the future of MPI?

Patrick: In terms of creating future leaders for MPIGNY, I'm pleased to report that we have an incoming Board of Directors that will include five new members. This is the first time in quite a while that our chapter has seen that many new members join the Board. I'm fortunate to have another year to lead this team as I'm staying on as President of the chapter through June 2021. The job of building the leadership pipeline never ends so we are already strategizing ways we can keep that momentum moving forward in the years ahead.

Karen: You mentioned that you are staying president of the chapter through June 2021. You have many years of experience in the hospitality industry so where do you see yourself in five years?

Patrick: That's a great question! My passions for this industry have always focused on leadership and building strong relationships. As a hospitality sales professional, you can never rest on your laurels. For me, the journey has always been the reward. While I do think it's vitally important to celebrate successes, I keep my eye on the future as there is always more work to be done. So, five years from now, as long as I am in a position to make a positive impact on people, I will be happy with that result.

Karen: This is an impressive stance and perspective for future endeavors! However, looking back for a moment... Is there a fun or interesting anecdote you wish to share from your time in the hotel industry, with a client, or during a time you traveled for business?

Patrick: I can remember my first year at the FICP Annual Conference in San Antonio back in 2011. I was nervous and felt intimidated about being in the presence of all these highly seasoned hospitality professionals. I was working at The Greenbrier at the time and didn't know all that many people in our industry. On the first night, Michael Burke, from The Hanover Insurance Group, came up to me and just started up a conversation. Still, to this day, I can remember thinking "why is he being so genuine and speaking to me in a room full of hundreds of other people? I'm just this kid from West Virginia" So, fast forward to the 2019 FICP Education Forum in Birmingham, Alabama, and, in between breakout sessions, I saw Mike do the exact same thing with another first-time attendee. What resonates with me about that is his sincerity. He treats every person he encounters with ultimate respect. You don't always see that in our industry and it's something that I have focused on myself because of the impact his kindness had on me. You can say I'm trying to pay it forward as I truly feel like it's the duty and responsibility of every seasoned hospitality professional to help bring up the next generation.

Karen: What a great shout-out to Michael Burke. He truly sets a great example for the industry. It is not so often that people are so generous with their time – especially for newcomers to an industry.

I am sure you have joined many webinars in the last couple of months, in addition to those hosted by MPI. Are there any key take-aways you wish to share that may be valuable to the hospitality community at the present time?

Patrick: Always have a qualified technology person running the event in the background. We've all had to pivot to virtual events and we're all a bit Zoomed out but if you can execute a flawless program with the transition to various speakers and breakouts, coupled with a timely PowerPoint, you're much more likely to keep your attendees engaged.

Karen: Absolutely correct. We are definitely all a bit “zoomed out” and as we, as an industry, are learning to pivot effectively, seamless technology is key.

What three essentials have aided you in working through this situation in the past few months?

Patrick: Playing golf, Netflix and FaceTime

Karen: Aside from golf, how do you keep yourself fit and mentally healthy?

Patrick: I've used these last few months to hit the reset button. I've been reading books by Marcus Buckingham and going on runs to help clear my mind. I think it's important to keep a positive outlook during times of uncertainty. If you embrace the uncertainty, you won't let it control you. Brighter days are ahead for us all so I've kept that thought top of mind. Perspective is a powerful thing. As much as we all wish COVID-19 never came to fruition, I also look at this as a golden opportunity for us to improve in so many different ways that will, in turn, create a more purpose-driven life.

Karen: Wise words indeed. Brighter days are definitely ahead, and it is important to keep our spirits up as we transition through this period. What is the first place you are going to visit (e.g. Restaurant in NYC) or a place you wish to travel to once restrictions are fully lifted?

Patrick: I'm holding out hope that U.S. Open at Winged Foot will be able to have fans in September. It's a golf club up in Mamaroneck and is one of my favorite places on earth. So, needless to say, I'm hoping that will happen.

Karen: Fingers crossed. I guess we are all hoping that September will bring some sort of normalcy back.

What, in your opinion, makes a great leader?

Patrick: Authenticity and adaptability are a couple of traits that are vital for any leader to possess. Whether you're leading a Board of Directors or a Fortune 500 company, your team must believe in you, not just as a leader but, more importantly, as a human being. Treating people with respect and following through on your commitments are of paramount importance as well. Adaptability is important as well as we can't manage everyone in the same fashion. We are all motivated in different ways and we each possess unique personality traits, so a customized approach to each individual is something that I focus on.

Karen: Well said! You mentioned, you are back in the city now. What are you seeing concerning the reopening – now in Phase 1?

Patrick: We're starting to see positive signs all across the city. It's great to see people heading back to work and things slowly begin to reopen. It will, undoubtedly, take us some time to get back to where we were but I am encouraged with the progress we've made.

Karen: As we are always looking for a “silver lining” during this time, do you have a positive experience you wish to share?

Patrick: I think it's important to mention how great of an experience I had flying Delta last week. The entire process was pretty seamless and I felt safe throughout the whole experience. I felt comfortable going through security and sitting down at the gate. They boarded the flight back to front which, I think, might be something the airlines consider doing so moving forward. Granted, there were only about 60 people on my flight but the boarding process move quickly. The flight attendants passed out Purell wipes and plastic bags filled with water and snacks. Everyone was wearing face coverings and respected one another's space. I have to commend Delta for their professionalism and execution as I would happily get back on an airplane at any time.

Karen: Thanks for sharing this. It is important for us all to feel more trust and confidence in the whole air travel process as our industry depends so much on this. With respect to trust - how do you think New York can regain trust with travelers so that they feel safe enough to visit our great city again?

Patrick: We need to stay committed to transparency. Continue to be honest with our clients about what we can do as well as what we can't do. Communication is key.

Karen: Communication is key, and I feel this is clearly a strength of yours. What are your other strengths and how do they play into what you are currently doing?

Patrick: Authenticity and Resiliency. I mentioned authenticity earlier, and I think it's an important characteristic to possess. People are drawn to those who exude honesty and they want to work with, and for, people that they trust. I'm also a very resilient person who doesn't let too many things bother my outlook. You can't control the actions of others but you can control how you react to them and what you think moving forward. Every day provides each of us with an opportunity to make a positive impact on our lives and the lives of others.

Karen: Thank you Patrick, that was a very refreshing and uplifting conversation and I appreciate you taking the time to share all of this with me and the rest of the hospitality community.

Patrick: It was my pleasure Karen!