Senior VP of Operations
Vision Hospitality Group
Headquartered in Chattanooga, TN, Vision Hospitality Group devotes time and energy into making its communities better. The initial decision to partner with us at Watcep was due to Vision’s executive team recognizing the benefits of working with an agency positioned within the Chattanooga community that was focused on bringing a more diverse and inclusive work-force to the city.
My name is Eray Tavukcu with Watcep.
Today we have Reggie Piercy Senior Vice-President of Operations of Vision Hospitality group.
We will cover a few topics today, you will know a little bit about Reggie Piercy.
We will discuss the importance of diversity and inclusion and also why Chattanooga and what makes Chattanooga unique and important.
Reggie Piercy we really appreciate taking time in your busy schedule to talk to us today.
Can you start telling a little bit about yourself?
Well, I’ve been in hospitality for 35 years and it really is was a fortunate accident.
I was in college and was going to be a CPA, so an accounting major and in my junior year I always planned to get a little work experience.
And so, I went to the college placement job center and said, it’s time for Reggie Piercy to get some work experience.
And by luck of the draw they placed me in a hotel, that’s the best part.
And I basically fell in love with hospitality industry and so I changed my major, went for summer school I could get out of school in 4 years, and 35 years later, [inaudible01:09], I found my passion.
And then how did you end up in Chattanooga?
Well Chattanooga is another fortunate accident.
I was working in Nashville and I came to Chattanooga to go on a train ride up and it was an afternoon train ride.
And so I didn’t want to have to travel all the way back to Nashville after the train ride was over.
So, I was able to find a hotel room in Cleveland Tennessee and so I stay there and I had an extraordinary stay.
I was really impressed with the hotel, the service, all the touch points.
And so, when I was leaving I said you know, who runs and owns this hotel?
And they said Vision Hospitality Group.
So, I took a business card and told them what a great stay I had and made my way back to Nashville.
About 4 months later we had an associate that fell in love with a gentleman from Chattanooga and put in her 2 weeks’ notice and this quick call turkey saying,
hey, I’ve found the love of my life, I met this man in Chattanooga and I am moving there.
And so, I wished her good luck and you know all the best.
And so, a couple months later I’m driving to Atlanta Georgia when my so was going to college,
and I have to go through Chattanooga from Nashville to Atlanta.
And so I was like you know I wonder how Gretchen is doing, maybe I should give here a call and see how everything is working out for here.
So, I did and she sounded very happy and she had a ring and a day to get married and I said, I’m really happy for you, things are working out for you.
And before we were about to hang out I said, oh by the way did you ever find a job?
And she said yeah, I found a job with a company called Vision Hospitality Group.
And the light bulb didn’t go off right away but we started talking I’m like, do you have a hotel in Cleveland Tennessee?
And she said yeah, that’s ours.
And so, I went on to tell her about this great experience I had on my stay there.
And so, she said, well by the way my President Mitch Patel is looking for a Director of Operations, would you be interested in talking to him.
So, anyway I met Mitch at a local restaurant here, we had 3 and a half hour dinner date and 7 years later, the rest is history.
That’s how I ended up in Chattanooga.
This is quite a story.
I remember, whenever we met first al Emerging Leaders a few moths back, you said Chattanooga is one of the best cities you’ve ever lived.
What do you think makes Chattanooga special or unique?
I’ve lived in 9 states.
In 35 years in the hospitality you move around a little bit especially if you want to try new experiences and job promotions.
So, I’ve lived from east coast to west coast, I’ve really touched every coast if the country including the Southwest, mid-Atlantic and California.
Of all places I’ve lived I feel like Chattanooga is a lot like San Francisco in the fact that it’s very progressive.
It’s a very diverse city and you can find anything you want here; the outdoors is a big attraction obviously.
It also, has the arts, music, it’s got the river and the city does a great job of pulling that river in with the festivals that they do like River Band and others, to really make it a special experience.
And for me also being progressive with the internet speed, you know “Gig city” is the nick name.
You know the internet is like oxygen now, you have to have that to survive.
It’s like water and oxygen.
Well, we’ve got the fastest internet so.
Exactly. So, I think the city because it is very progressive and it is diverse, it’s just a great place to live.
I like it too because you don’t have traffic like you have in other major cities.
And it’s also convenient to go to a lot of different areas that you can be in the ocean in 6 and a half hours and within a 2-mile radius you can be in Atlanta and Nashville, Knoxville.
Etc. So, it’s very convenient to go to other places if that’s what you want.
We are pushing Watcep, we are pushing diversity and inclusion a lot and what are your thoughts with diversity and inclusion in our corporate world especially for hospitality business?
I really like what Steven Cody said about diversity, he said, “if I have 10 people on my team and they all think alike, I don’t need 9 of them.”
Diversity has proven that if you have a diverse work team in all different ways it’s more than just having diversity.
It y is your background, your education, your experiences, your gender, all those things.
It’s proven fact that if you have a diverse team that team is going to be more effective and more productive over time.
They will get out of the gate a little slower because they have to figure out how to work together,
they have to figure out what the strengths of each person are.
And so that there’s some understanding that has to take place there. but once they do that and the establish that framework and foundation great things can happen with a burst.
Absolutely! so with that, we come back to you. What would you say whenever I ask, what is your biggest success story?
Well, personally it’s my son. I have a 28-year-old son and he’s the joy of my life.
And my mission with my son was is that as he was going through life that you know if he ever got in trouble or in a difficult situation, I would be his first phone call, and not his fourth or fifth.
And so I’ve kept a very tight relationship with him all through his life and he lives 90 minutes from me.
And that was another reason why I did take this job in Chattanooga to be closer to him but I would say my son my biggest success by far.
The only consolation always. Well, what about your biggest success in your professional career?
I’ve been very blessed of my professional career, I had the ability to meet some really powerful people like Stephen Covey actually certified in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Program, Ken Blanchard 1-minute manager and meet and be mentored and coached by him, Tom Peters, and the list goes on and just like outstanding and very intellectual people that have helped changed my paradigms on how I see things.
And so I think that one of the people that most influenced me was Don Clifton with the Gallup Organization and he wrote a book called Soar Through Strength, and he talked about you know assessing people’s talents, their natural skills and then putting them in a position where they can soar.
It was a great success and he used the metaphor and he’ll teach that, and says that you know, put squirrels and trees and put the fish in the sea.
And what he means by that is that you know, if you have a job that requires you to climb trees and take risk of jumping from tree to tree and hitting nuts all day, then go get a squirrel that really comes to work with a smile on their face right and they’re going to love it, and they’re going to be really good at it.
They’re few often organizations about will make a mistake, they’ll make a misstep and they’ll hire a cat
And bring the cat to work and put the cat the tree and try to you know hope it likes to eat nuts and at the end of the day cats don’t like to be in high places, they don’t like to be in trees and they definitely don’t like to eat nuts. But organizations they think well, we’ll just send that cat for training and that will fix the problem.
Even if the trainings world-class, they come back they’re still a cat, they still don’t like to be in trees and in high places. So I think it if at the end of the day you can select the right people and then train them and put them in an environment where they can be successful with all the right tools and resources, you can excel in your organization.
So I think my biggest success was taking those learnings that are very on early on in the 80s when I was first exposed to Don Clifton and applying that in every workplace I was in.
It’s really helped propel me through organizations and you know, be successful, be award-winning and then move up through the ranks.
And to be honest I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t had that training early on and then that set of guidelines on how to be successful in selecting the right people because at the end of the day it starts right there.
That’s when we get that wrong and you’re going down the wrong road.
Now, learning from our mistakes it makes us definitely better.
As it was said that we provide college class and college students to get an opportunity to come to the United States and live for up to 18 months; okay?
What do you suggest for those candidates who come to the United States up to 18 months to get the most out of the program?
If you would suggest them a couple things, the most important things, what would you suggest?
if they’re interested in making a career in hospitality, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what flag you have over the hotel.
You’re selling a room and that room is going to be spotless, it’s going to be perfect you know, if you want to build a loyal customer base.
And so I always said you know you can have all this fancy stuff in your hotel, great arrival experience, you have really friendly people at the front, you can have a great dining experience but at the end of the day you’re staying in a dirty room, and you’re not going to come back.
You might give them a second chance but if it’s continually dirty, you’re not going to build a loyal customer base.
And so if you really want to be successful in hospitality, you need to learn how to manage the rooms division.
And so I would say to start there, nobody caught up in all the sexy positions of maybe working concierge at the front desk or in sales and marketing.
Those are all important, and you need every department to be successful at the end of the day.
If you don’t know rooms division and you don’t know how to manage the rooms division and select and hire and train the right people, and then sit in an environment to motivate them, and take care of them and nurture them, then you’re not going to really be successful to tell you.
So if you’re going to come over, make sure that you definitely get into the rooms division, you learn that, you one of the complexities of it, what you want our best practices, and then branch out into the other areas.
So I would say start browse and then go from there.
All right, it sounds good. And I just wanted to thank you personally.
Since the first day that we met, for your support, for your help with our project, with our company well set. We really appreciate all you did and all your support so far. Thank you so much.
Thank you. I think what’s up is you’re on the right track and you’re doing great things and I wish you great success.
All right, I appreciate it. Thank you so much.