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.
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.