Position: General Manager
Firm: The Cotton Sail Hotel
Years in hotel business: 22
My uncle ran a hotel in Turkey. Starting at about age 12, I helped him – serving breakfast, setting up for events, going grocery shopping for the hotel. There were a lot of things to do.
Also, I was an intern at a five-star hotel in high school, and I went to high school for hospitality management. Then I went to college at Mediterranean College in southern Turkey for the hospitality business.
After graduation in 2005, I saw a notice on campus about management training in the U.S. I applied and the Marriott general manager (from Savannah) called me. I didn’t know about Savannah. It was the other side of the world.
I came over here, and I was the overnight valet. That was part of the internship. I was not happy working as a valet. But these were baby steps. Then I was working as front desk, night audit, night manager, assistant manager for the front desk.
What he learned:
I learned a lot. I learned how to deal with unhappy guests and turn them into satisfied guests. I learned very quickly what it takes — little amenities, coupons for the breakfast room, discounts for the room rate. And, this is simple: Do not hesitate to apologize.
I spent three years at the Marriott. Then I moved to the Hampton Inn. I started as front office manager/guest service manager. I became assistant general manager. Then I accepted the general manager position at Comfort Inn Suites on Bay Street.
That opened another door — to here — as general manager. This was the dream of my life, to run a luxury boutique hotel. I opened this hotel in May 2014.
What he does:
I look at it like the crew member in a sailboat. I wear a lot of different hats … I sometimes park cars. I sometimes check the rooms. If I need to, I sometimes clean the rooms. I monitor all rates. The revenue management has to be compatible to other hotels in the area.
I also do the payroll, making sure my team members are getting what they deserve.
Happy employees means happy hotel, happy guests.
Also, I pay all the invoices, making sure all vendors get paid. And I place the ads in the newspapers, magazines.
Running the hotel with 90 per cent occupancy in 2015.
I want to travel the world on a motorcycle. And this year, I purchased the motorcycle. I want to travel America and South America.Future plans:
We want to make this hotel the best in Savannah. (HOS Management, the company that owns The Cotton Sail, recently bought the building next door.) With the addition, we want a restaurant. We don’t know what kind of restaurant, but it will be unique in Savannah ... Hopefully, we’ll do this within two years.
Advice for other businesses:
Don’t push the rates too high.
As general manager, I want to avoid any negative remarks. I want to make sure each guest is satisfied.
And when I started this, this was my way of thinking: Always do something like someone is watching over your shoulder.
Why Savannah works for him:
I’m not a big city person. We don’t have the traffic-jam problem. And people here are more friendly … The biggest competitor is Charleston, but Savannah is better with Forsyth Park, River Street, the restaurants. And we’re building more hotels. Savannah is growing very fast.