Lori Keller helped open her first hotel in 1989. It happened to be in San Francisco, and chance would have it, it took place on the day a magnitude 6.9 earthquake rocked the Bay Area.
It hasn’t been determined if this is the origin of the “what’s the worst that could happen,” phrase that she often utters.
With almost six months under her belt as CEO of Martin Resorts, the hotel collection that includes iconic properties such as the Avila Lighthouse Suites, Paso Robles Inn and the Shore Cliff Hotel, just to name a few, Keller has already made some big strides, and continues to push forward their employee focused motto.
Keller took a moment away from the “FUN business” to share her plans for the future, most memorable guest, and if she’s ever tried to write off a vacation as “research.” What’s the worst thing that can happen?
Where would you rather be right now?
Looking out at the ocean from the balcony of one of our hotel rooms. Seriously, I love to be busy and this business is 24/7, so there’s always something going on. When I do take a break, I like spending time outside. That’s why living here is so special!
Which fictional character do you most relate to?
That’s a tough question as no one specifically comes to mind. I guess I’d love to have super powers. I like to ask our employees the question, “if you had a magic wand, what would you change?”
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
That it’s important to keep things in perspective. We aren’t doing brain surgery. Not everything is life and death. In fact, most challenges are opportunities for learning and improvement.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“What’s the worst thing that can happen?” It’s the key question I use whenever we think about a new idea. If there’s nothing earth shattering going to happen, then I’m always open to taking the risk of doing something differently.
Do you have any funny guest stories that you are legally allowed to share?
The stories that come to mind for me are more heartwarming than funny. For instance, we had a small boy staying at Pismo Lighthouse Suites with his family. He had gathered quite a collection of sand dollars during their walk on the beach, but when his family got ready to leave, they were left behind. His dad called the hotel to see if anyone found them, but they were nowhere to be found. So our guest services manager, Matt, went down to the beach the next day on his day off and collected sand dollars, placed them in a special box, and sent them to the boy. Imagine the look on the little boy’s face when he opened that box? Now that’s creating a memory!
Can you write-off your vacations as “research for work?”
I haven’t, but maybe I should!
Now that you’ve been in the big chair at Martin Resorts for a couple of months, do you have any big plans?
We are working on an expansion of the Paso Robles Inn – a 23 room boutique hotel – and we are looking for opportunities to provide value to other hotel owners through third-party management agreements, but my primary focus is to serve the 265 employees of Martin Resorts.
You have a degree in journalism, what drew you to hospitality?
I started out in the ad agency business and was on the opening team for the Marriott Marquis Hotel in San Francisco. It was a very exciting project and gave me a glimpse into the hotel business. The hotel opened the same day as the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. I realized that when you look behind the beautiful surroundings, it’s the people who make a hotel come to life. There can be some very magical moments in the travel business when you surprise and delight a guest. I’ve really enjoyed being in the FUN business.