I have had the good fortune of being a third generation service and hospitality professional. My great-grandfather, Charles-Fernand Fredey, was a professional chef who immigrated from France in the late 1800’s, and my grandfather, Richard B. Fredey - apart from being a decorated Marine Corps officer who served in World War I at the tender age of sixteen, (he falsified his birth certificate when he enlisted), and in 1942 was given a commission at the age of 42 during World War II - was the general manager and chief operating officer for some major hotels back in the day.
While not as famous today as they were in the 1950s and 1960s, he ran The Roney Plaza in Miami Beach, Fla., The Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, N.H., and The Bath and Tennis Club in Westhampton Beach, N.Y. (to name a few). They were some pretty swanky places in their heyday. I remember going into his study and seeing the framed black and white tableside photos that were taken at the black-tie parties and social dinners that were frequently held at the hotels he ran. In each photo he or my grandmother, dressed to the “10”s, could be seen, smiling for the camera, cocktails or cigarette in hand, schmoozing with celebrity guests like Bob Hope, Joan Crawford and others whose moments of fame have long since passed.
My grandfather seldom reminisced about his days in the hotel business, but he exuded the qualities that made him successful. He was refined and eloquent, well-dressed and charismatic. The consummate hospitality professional and gentleman. And while he did not tell me stories about managing those hotels or socializing with the rich and famous, he always offered philosophical tidbits that I seldom understood when I was growing up, but those insights now have had a profound impact on what I do and how I think today as a gaming and hospitality executive. One quote I remember every time I am on the gaming floor on a Saturday evening during a promotion, or at twelve in the morning on New Year’s Eve is how he said, “When our guests were having the most fun, I was working the hardest!” (And isn’t that so true?) The other musing that I have taken to heart was something he called the “Four S’s.” While the “Four S’s” became more Marine Corps and family oriented near the end of his long and wonderful life, I believe it was originally a philosophy born from the industry where I now make a living. Please let me share it with you.
If you’re a professional in this industry, you have the fiduciary duty to serve, to the best of your ability, your immediate superiors and ultimately the company that pays your salary. While this might sound somewhat minion-esque, I believe it is a very important notion that has been lost by modern-day society’s emphasis on immediate, self-centered gratification as opposed to the long-term rewards that come from loyalty and dedication.
Your employers and your boss: these are the people who have put their reputations on the line by giving you a job or recommending you for that promotion. They have given you their trust by placing you in a position of authority or responsibility and, hopefully, have shared their experiences and knowledge with you so that you can perform your job better.
So don’t abuse, undermine or minimize that fact. And nine times out of 10, if you make your boss look good, he or she will make you look better. In the long run, you might become so indispensable to your company and your boss that you will be in a position to negotiate the future terms of your employment. By loyally serving them, you are really serving yourself.
Share the fruits of your labor and success with those around you. While there is a huge, almost instinctive, temptation to hoard all of the benefits of a success and keep them to yourself, the truth is that I bet you would not have been able to pull off that success without the help of the people around you. It sounds almost cliché, but why do you think when an actor wins an Oscar, they have a laundry list of people they want to thank? It’s because they know that they could not have mustered that winning performance without the help of the producers, directors, other actors and their close friends and family. Plus, sharing a success makes it so much sweeter. I liken it to going on vacation to a wonderful, exotic far-off land alone. You might be staying at a beautiful five star hotel or observing a fantastic wonder of nature and the only thing you can think of is: “I wish so- and-so was here to see this with me!” Without sharing, a win just isn’t the same.
If you want to be successful, and if you want to share success with others, you have to make a sacrifice. You have to give up something you covet. Success can only be measured by the effort and the process it took to get that person to that place. Sometimes we have to sacrifice time for ourselves or with our families so that we can get a job done or to make sure an event goes OK. At other times it might mean we can not partake in social events with office staff after work has ended because it would just look bad. It might even be the fact that we sacrifice receiving 100 percent of the benefits for a successful project or job because we gave credit to others who might have played only a minor role. Even helping others in their times of need requires sacrifice. If you help them, you might be taking away from yourself. What ever the sacrifice may be, I believe, and so did my grandfather, that if no sacrifices are made, chances are you really didn’t try your best and it doesn’t matter much..
Let’s face it, if you’re out of the game, you can’t make a difference, and you have to stay in it to win it. Survival can be professional, physical, psychological and emotional. Survival starts by being healthy in body as well as spirit. I had recently learned this the hard way. Bad eating habits, lack of exercise, excessive work and a poor sleeping schedule had taken its toll, and I found myself going to the doctor’s once a month to monitor my high blood pressure and chronic back pain. More importantly, I feel it had a significant impact on my job performance as well as my family life. There were days I couldn’t get out of bed because I was so exhausted, and that in turn reduced my tolerance to the normal stress of work and everyday life. So, there were days that I didn’t want to go to work because, well, I just didn’t. I didn’t quit; I just wasn’t surviving. I owed it to myself and my family to clean up my act and to get healthy again, because honestly, if you’re dead, you’re no good to anyone, especially yourself!
Survive also means that, professionally, you have to make the right decisions, both morally and ethically, so that you don’t put your career, you reputation and the careers and reputations of those who work with you in jeopardy. It makes no sense to lose your job because of a serious lack of judgment that puts your character into question. So, don’t do it because, at the end of the day, if you can’t go to work the next day, you won’t have the opportunity to make a difference.
Finally, survive means you can not let anyone push you down, step on you, or use you as a scapegoat for whatever situation you might find yourself in when it was not your fault or you had nothing to do with it. Sadly, in this world, there are unscrupulous people with little to no moral fiber who will gleefully try to drag you down because, in their mind, it will pick them up. Or they are just too cowardly to be accountable for their decisions and actions. They feed on weakness and try to use people to give themselves a false sense of empowerment, even if it costs the other person who is being victimized their job. If you let them do that to you, you can not return to fight another day; you will just be left empty and trying to pick up the pieces of whatever is left of your dignity. You did not survive.
So, there you have it. Four simple words that my grandfather told me, and now I pass on to you. The way I see it, if these four words helped him be as successful as he was, he must have been on to something. But really the “Four S’s” are more than four words. It could be a philosophy (if you so choose), to help guide you through the twists and turns of this wonderful, terrifying thing we call life.