When I was a child and traveled in Europe with my family, the staffs in the hotels were not friendly. I’m sure it was my fault, not theirs. I’m sure they were just being professional. But I never forgot it when I got into the hotel business. From day one I said, “We’re going to have friendly service. We’re going to smile.”
If you’re in the hospitality business, you have to love to be a host. Some people like to serve, and some people want to be served. I’m a person who likes to serve. At my age I want to be useful, though I’ve always felt that way. I’ve never wanted to sit like a bump on a log.
When you run a hotel, you’re dealing with people on an individual basis. Recognition is very important. You have to know your guests, know what they like or want and offer it to them, and call them by their name. So in hiring, from the manager all the way down to the busboy, you have to look for people who want to be hosts, who have heart. They have to be willing to learn, to be trained smart. They have to be team players.
And if they’re not team players, you have to let them go. Fortunately I’m not the one who has to fire people, so I don’t really have a strategy. But I do remember one time many years ago when I was the head of our Sunday school and I had to fire a volunteer teacher. I tried something I’d seen my father [oilman H. L. Hunt] use. I said, “I think you will be much happier teaching in another department. I think you’ll be happier elsewhere.” I don’t think losing your job is a bad thing, by the way. I’ve talked to many people who have said the best lesson they ever learned was when they got fired. They learned they had to be more flexible, to listen to the client.
I’m happy to say I have great faith in the men and women who run our different companies. What we’ve done is found people we trust and then put our faith in them. Trust and faith are all you’ve got—that and your name. The integrity of my name, my family’s name, is enormously important to me. I’d rather lose money than not keep our integrity.
Caroline Rose Hunt was born in El Dorado, Arkansas, and grew up in Tyler and Dallas. A graduate of the Hockaday School in Dallas and the University of Texas at Austin, she is the founder and honorary chairman of Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, a luxury hotel collection with properties around the world, from Dallas (the Mansion on Turtle Creek) to Jakarta, Indonesia (the Dharmawangsa). She is also the co-owner of both Lady Primrose’s Shopping English Countryside, an upscale retailer of antiques and other gift items, and Lady Primrose’s Royal Bathing and Skin Luxuries, which are sold in specialty stores around the world.