Brian Waltrip is the General Manager for Westgate Park City Resort & Spa, one of the most popular resorts under the Westgate umbrella. In the past year alone Westgate Park City Resort & Spa won several accolades under Waltrip’s management. Some of these accolades included three prestigious honors at the Perspective Magazine Awards Ceremony for: Best Timeshare Resort in North America, Best Interior Design, and Best Resort Development in the World. Additionally, Westgate Park City Resort & Spa accepted an impressive total of 13 awards from the prestigious 2014 and 2013 Best of State® Awards. These reputable awards recognize outstanding businesses, organizations and individuals throughout the state who “excel in their endeavors, use innovative approaches or methods, and contribute to a better quality of life in Utah.” Over the past few years, the property’s TripAdvisor scores have increased from 77% in 2011 to 95.2% in 2014 and earning it the TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence Award for: Westgate Park City, Edge Steakhouse, Drafts Sports Bar and Grill, and Serenity Spa. Waltrip believes these awards and achievements are a direct reflection of his leadership teams’ passion and dedication for providing the best guest and team member experience possible.
Perspective spoke with Waltrip about his career with Westgate and his recent initiatives with Westgate Park City Resort & Spa.
1. When did you start working at Westgate and what route did you take to become the GM of Westgate Park City?
I started with Westgate Resorts as an activities attendant in June of 2000 for Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa and quickly transitioned to become a bellman. At that point, my intentions were to work seasonally as I completed school, but I very soon realized that I loved to service people, and my job became a career. I worked throughout the front office as a trainer, supervisor, and Manager on Duty, giving me the opportunity to experience leading a team.
After graduating college, I joined the Whole Ownership Sales & Marketing team, exploring my creative and innovative ideas in support of our sales objective, traveling frequently and even spending a short period living in Las Vegas. After our efforts in Las Vegas were successfully completed and the Whole Ownership Sales program was concluded, I returned to Orlando working in the Experience Measurement department. I began as a coordinator and later became responsible for training, recruiting, and developing resort concierge departments.
I loved what I did and felt I was extremely confident in my career path, but the unexpected occurred, and we were faced with the recession. We were forced to eliminate the department, and I was transferred to become a Guest Services Manager, once again at Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa.
Although I never had the desire to return to resort operations after my prior position, I realized that the opportunity I had to develop and lead teams of people were much greater at the resorts. Our teams’ success was amazing, and we managed to provide impeccable service in the worst of times. Due to decreased management staffing, I worked throughout the entire front office: Front Desk, Guests Services, and PBX.
I was subsequently promoted to Director of Guest Services where I oversaw all Guest Services departments, as well as management of our experience measurement programs. I also had the opportunity to develop a General Management Training program by spending three months in every position throughout housekeeping, engineering, security, grounds, and laundry. Shortly after, I was sent to Las Vegas to assist with the opening of Planet Hollywood Towers by Westgate.
Upon my return, my departments were running even better than when I left. I recall telling my boss that I was no longer needed in this role as my leadership team had evolved to operate and improve the Working with Waltrip Brian Waltrip – General Manager for Westgate Park City Resort & Spa, Discusses the Success of One of Westgate’s Most Popular Resorts. Perspective Magazine May/June 2015 29 departments without the need for me any longer (similar to sending your kids off to college and then one day they tell you they no longer need the rent check).
Fortunately, I was able to promote my leadership team, and I was given the opportunity to become General Manager of Westgate Towers. A boutique 267 unit property with only one other manager, I really had the opportunity to lead all areas of a resort operation, and learn a considerable amount as to how to turn a profitable resort.
After 14 months in the position, I once again returned to Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa as Director of Operations. Transitioning from 30-40 team members to over 500 was a vast undertaking, but I was once again excited for the challenge. This is where I developed the understanding of the effect of processes and procedures on a large scale operation with nearly 2000 units.
When the General Manager of Westgate Palace retired, I was asked to oversee the property as interim GM until we could hire someone. Within four weeks, I was once again asked to go to Park City for one month or oversee the property until a GM could be hired. The property faced several challenges at that time, and I was eager to become part of the resolution. Within two months of arrival, I was offered and accepted the position of General Manager of Westgate Park City. Over three and a half years later, I am still here and absolutely loving it.
2. What has been your most gratifying moment as the GM of Westgate Park City?
In this industry, you have the opportunity to serve people daily, and the satisfaction from that is endless. But if I were to pick a single moment, it would be the moment my team walked on stage to claim six Best of State awards in front of over 2,000 industry leaders. It was not about the awards as much as it was the joy and satisfaction on each of their faces. I remember standing below the stage as my team received their medals on stage and seeing them smile from ear to ear. These individuals dedicated their lives to becoming the best, sacrificed so much, and truly embraced the vision we had for success. Many times during the course of the hard work, I could only assume that each one of them questioned the results of their work. But at that single moment, they knew… They knew that everything they sacrificed led to this amazing achievement. As I stood below the stage, snapping photos like a proud parent, I knew that we were not just a group of individuals who worked together, we were family and would sacrifice so much for the success of each other.
3. What changes have you implemented, since your start with Westgate Park City, that have contributed to the resort’s recognition as Best Resort Development in the World at the Perspective Magazine Awards?
The culture was the first major change. You can have all the employees, money, and expertise the resort can offer, but if the team does not love what they do, the result of that will become apparent in their work. So we launched team member awards and recognition programs, which recognize top performers; leadership building events/ outings; and a culture of understanding that our responsibility as leaders is not to dictate, but to support. With time, our culture was developed and embraced by everyone. With the team focused on the same vision, we could then begin to redevelop our service and product. From a service perspective, we implemented several new training programs, which coach for improvement and reward for success. Such programs as Leadership-30, which train the team within 30 minutes on various leadership and service principles.
From a product standpoint, we attacked several areas at a time. Three new Food and Beverage concepts were designed and built within seven months: Edge Steakhouse, The Marketplace, and Drafts Sports Bar & Grill. We renovated Serenity Spa and redeveloped the entire experience. The Lobby, Business Center, Fitness Center, and the Kids Club were completely redesigned and enhanced. Next came major exterior projects, including landscaping, enhancing the décor of the pools, repairing and painting several exterior components, and redeveloping the curb appeal. Then the amenities and services were improved by adding new Mercedes Vans, Kids Summer Camp, and multiple contemporary quality products throughout the resort.
The most significant renovation we experienced was completely redesigning and gutting our resort villas. Everything from appliances, flooring, window treatments, electronics, lighting, artwork, bathrooms, and much more was completely changed to deliver one of the most impeccable modern mountain designed suites. This massive undertaking was truly a team effort, pushing to meet extreme deadlines. We had one week left to open Edge Steakhouse before Christmas week, so I put on an Engineering uniform and started painting and assisting with setup. Having set that example, my entire leadership team started working to open our food and beverage (F&B) outlets, which included my Safety and Security manager applying metal columns, my executive assistant laying grout, and my assistant general manager and her entire team setting up the room.
However, we do not rest on our laurels and have begun additional improvements with over 2.5 million in redevelopment this year alone.
4. What steps is Westgate Park City taking to maintain such high standards?
Leadership is about creating a foundation to support your team (the inverted pyramid method). In order to deliver such high standards, my goal is to strengthen my leaders through training, mentoring, and inspiration and reinforcing that methodology with rewards, motivating our leaders to continue the same process with their teams. We also inspect what we expect. Classroom training can be educational and setting expectations is important; however, my leaders are in the “field” working alongside their team daily to ensure a 5-star experience is delivered to all of our guests and owners.
5. Do you have any interesting statistics that you can share with us such as number of employees, revenue percentage increase over last year etc.?
2014 vs 2013
• 400 Total Team Members
• 22% Increase in Rental Revenue F&B and Spa
• 8.6% Increase in Revenue
• 190% Increase in Net Profit Service Success
• Internal Email Survey increased from 2013 – 8.89 to 2014 – 9.12
• Six Best of State Awards – Best Ski Resort, Best Fine Dining Steakhouse, Best American Pub, Best Gourmet Burger, Best Destination Spa, and Best Destination Spa
• 21 Park City Top three Awards and winner of two categories – Best Spa and Best Chef
• Wine Spectator Award of Excellence
• USA Today 10 Best Award – Top Five Resorts in Park City and Top 10 Restaurants in Park City
• 13 OpenTable Awards – Best Food Utah, Service Utah, Notable Wine List Utah, Romantic Utah, Steak Utah, Best Overall Park City, Best Ambiance Park City, Best Food Park City, Best Service Park City, Fit for Foodies Park City, Notable Wine List Park
City, Romantic Park City, and Special Occasions Park City
• Four TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Award – Resort, Edge, Drafts, and Spa
6. Westgate Park City was recently recognized for having the best interior design, can you explain the renovations that make this resort’s interior so spectacular?
We strive to deliver a uniquely rustic, yet contemporary design. Located in the mountains, it is important to develop a décor that creates an experience indigenous to the region; however, the contemporary component has separated our design from so many competitors. The three areas that really separate us are Edge Steakhouse, Drafts Sports Bar & Grill, and our newly designed suites. Edge Steakhouse, where Las Vegas meets the mountains, is a chic, elegant design bringing backlit onyx and Moz metals into a rustic wood and stone setting. Drafts delivers a gastro pub vibe with a bright ambiance, including an outdoor glass roof and wall structure that retracts, providing mountain scenic views regardless of the weather patterns. Finally, our newly designed suites are comprised of elegant wood flooring, luxurious window treatments, clean lines, and custom designed lighting.
7. How has earning numerous accolades for Westgate Park City impacted company culture?
Though our organization delivers impeccable service and unique designs nationwide, subconsciously, we all set limits to the success in which we can achieve. However, the numerous awards and accolades we have earned, amidst incredible competition, have removed any barrier that we may have subconsciously thought existed. We have created a culture where we are not satisfied with being inside the standard box. Even thinking outside the box is not enough. We live outside the box. We strive to reach the level of failure each day not only to understand our limitations, but to train and work more diligently to surpass those limitations tomorrow. At Westgate Park City, our team has embraced a culture where the ‘impossible’ only applies to those who do not want success bad enough. We will always strive to be the best, knowing nothing is impossible.