By her own admission, Heather McCrory’s trajectory to the top was atypical.

The regional vice-president, Central Canada, and GM of Toronto’s iconic Fairmont Royal York spent 15 years in sales and marketing, then almost eight years at head office as vice-president, Sales and Distribution before making a change. After completing her MBA at Queen’s University, she returned to operations in her current role. “I didn’t know what I was getting into,” she quips, “but I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.”

Boasting 1,365 rooms, the Royal York is one of the country’s largest and storied hotels, attracting dignitaries, politicians and celebrities since its opening in 1929. Running it is a mammoth undertaking that requires McCrory’s painstaking attention to detail and precision. “It’s a unique and magnificent hotel — we have an outstanding professional group of colleagues, a history that is unparalleled in the city, plus the size and complexity [of the property] makes it a very exciting hotel every single day.”

The dynamic and respected hotelier leads a team of 1,200, including 800 full- and 400 part-time employees. She’s also responsible for the Fairmont Palliser in Calgary, the Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton, the Fairmont Winnipeg and The Sheraton Eau Claire in Calgary.

Since landing at the hotel four years ago McCrory has built a strong, engaging service culture. “It starts with colleague engagement and evolves into empowering our colleagues to do whatever they need to do to satisfy the guest. It requires a culture of trust, and we’re really beginning to see traction in this area.” She’s especially proud of her staff’s commitment to community involvement. “Our colleagues are the most generous group of people; they truly engage in active volunteerism.”

While the hotel lays claim to an unrivalled location, success boils down to engaging service. “Our colleagues engage with the guest on a personal level; they know the guests’ name and, in some cases, they even know their childrens’ names. That’s what differentiates us from the competition,” says McCrory.

Leading such a large enterprise requires “the right people in the various roles to maximize every aspect of the business — for guests, colleagues, owners and the brand.” Not surprisingly, she has to be focused. “I’m straightforward and goal-driven. But, my Type-A personality is balanced by my unwavering belief in people and their significant capacity to learn, grow and continually deliver. Hire the best people to do the job and then get out of their way and let them do it.”

While it’s a taxing job, she finds time to be active on various boards, including TIAC, Tourism Toronto, the GTHA and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation — Ontario Region.

As for stress, it’s a state of mind for McCrory. “To manage it you have to compartmentalize — prioritize each issue, project, scenario — handle it, park it and move on to the next issue. Focus on what you can control and let the rest of it go.”

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