Tim Terceira is well-known among his peers for being the calm in the storm. “You can throw whatever you want at me and I’ll figure out a way to get there.”
It’s that approach that helped propel Terceira up the ranks in the hotel industry, from humble beginnings as a 14-year-old beach boy at a small luxury resort in his native Bermuda, to his most recent post as general manager of the St. Regis Hotel in Toronto.
He says he will be forever grateful for the opportunity given to him by Paul Leseur, his wife Penne and Mr. and Mrs. John Young, owners of the small luxury resort Lantana Colony Club, Bermuda. “Leseur contacted my father and asked if I would be interested in a summer job as “beach boy” at the resort. I loved the job and fell in love with the industry.”
Terceira went on to work at the resort for eight years through his summer, winter and Easter holidays during his high school and university years. “Leseur was also a key supporter for my acceptance into Cornell,” he says. “I honestly don’t know what would have become of me without their support and guidance.”
Now retired, the affable hotelier says he was always drawn to the hospitality business. He’s worked in almost every position imaginable, from front desk and night audit to housekeeping, and even spent time in the kitchen. “I knew, within a year or two, that this is what I wanted to do.”
After completing a four-year degree in hotel administration at Cornell University, Terceira embarked on what would become a lengthy and progressive hospitality career. Although his roots were in Bermuda, he had his sights set on global experience.
“My career has been marked by making some pivotal decisions along the way,” he recalls. “I knew, even though Bermuda was a massive tourism economy, I wanted to work and be successful outside of Bermuda for at least the first five years after graduation. Bermuda is a great place to live, but I also knew it could be pretty insular and I would learn more in North America in my early professional years.”
So, upon graduating from Cornell, he joined Four Seasons Hotels in 1979 as a management trainee at the Four Seasons Inn on the Park Toronto. After a year, he was transferred to the Four Seasons Belleville as director of Operations. “It was while in Belleville that I was assigned on a three-month “task force” to the famed Pierre Hotel in New York and in 1983 joined the flagship Four Seasons Yorkville, Toronto,” he says.
In 1986 he returned to Bermuda as director of Operations at Elbow Beach Resort. “I was there for two years, but after one year, I actually figured out that while I enjoyed some aspects of an independent hotel, I really needed to be with a company that I could grow with.”
With that goal in mind, in 1988 he joined Marriott International, which had 500 hotels at the time and was growing at a rapid pace. He worked in Operations and as general manager at various Marriott properties in Canada, the U.S. Northeast and also at the former Marriott Castle Harbour in Bermuda before re-locating to work with the chain’s corporate offices in Canada as VP of Operations.
During this time, then president of Marriott Hotels of Canada, Ron Harrison nominated Terceira for the 2006/2007 Marriott’s Senior Executive Leadership Program — an annual four-week program for 25 senior executives. “This was another pivotal moment and opportunity — the learnings and connections made were priceless.”
But after years of travelling almost weekly, Terceira jumped at the opportunity to work with the Ritz-Carlton brand and put down roots. In 2009, he assumed the role of general manager of the new Ritz-Carlton, Toronto, where he supervised the opening of the new 52-storey hotel.
He said the role fit well with his desire to excel. “When I joined the Ritz-Carlton, I know I wanted to be the best — not just try to be the best, but actually be the best.” But, he adds, he also learned valuable lessons about how his competitive nature can sometimes be a disadvantage.
“I have a really strong work ethic and sometimes to my detriment,” he admits. “I can power through something but [I learned that] sometimes you need to step back and think strategically. Learning those skill sets — to stand back, pause and observe — was very helpful.”
He says working in Bermuda times, the U.S. and Canada has given him a depth of experience that allows him to absorb and understand different perspectives “and to think about things differently.”
A very positive person by nature, Terceira knows there’s always a solution to anything, although it’s sometimes difficult to get there. “Often there’s compromises to get there, but there’s always a solution. I rarely let emotion take over the situation, so I’m able to see it more clearly.”
His success didn’t come without challenges, both professionally and personally. The father of two says he sometimes struggled with finding balance — something his wife of 41 years, Karen, was instrumental in helping him achieve.
“You need to have balance,” he says, “I put [my family] through a lot — three countries three times, 11 homes and eight school systems — but everyone’s turned out well. It was tough at times and I was a better father for the girls in their teenage years than I was earlier on. Work was a huge focus and my wife would help me get focused on family. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Where Terceira is today is exactly where he wants to be. “[Retirement] wasn’t a tough decision, but it was a thoughtful one,” he muses. “I’m at an age where I feel much younger than my number. But life is not infinite, it’s finite, and now I have an opportunity to spend more time with my family. Our youngest daughter, Kelly, just got married and she’s going to have her first child at the end of the year so I’m able to focus on that. Our oldest daughter, Kimberly, just transferred to St. Regis as director of Luxury Travel and I’m very proud of her. But that wouldn’t have happened [if I hadn’t retired].”
He’s also taking time now to focus on his personal passions, one of which is fitness, which he says has helped him feel “younger than my number.” His other passions include personal finance, “and things like that, that I just never had time for. So, that’s what I’m going to do for the balance of the year.”
But for someone who has hospitality in his blood, staying away from the industry completely just isn’t going to fly. After some down time, Terceira intends to offer his services on a consulting basis to help the Marriott team open about 40-plus planned luxury hotels around the world in the next four to five years.
“I still have a lot to offer,” he says. “I still have the energy and love the business. I very much want to contribute back to the company that was very good to me as well. And I think it’s a win-win.”
BY AMY BOSTOCK | PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIEL ALEXANDER