SAN RAFAEL, CA—More often than not, guests welcome the opportunity to have an intimate experience at small, curated hotels in key leisure and urban destinations. Supervising these properties, an executive must have the ongoing determination to fully grasp the concept of a customized stay worth repeating. Mosaic Hotel Group, part of Palisades Hospitality Group, a hotel and restaurant management, development and consulting firm, found what it was looking for in a leader who could take over all operational aspects of Mosaic’s portfolio.
Appointed in September as president and COO of Mosaic, Richard Hill, who has been in the hospitality industry for more than 15 years, will be overseeing operations, guest and associate experiences, profitability and revenue generation for the group.
“Many things have prepared me, yet there are days I feel completely unprepared,” he jokingly told Hotel Business during an interview. “I think some of the preparation has come from general manager roles that I’ve held previously, director of operation roles and then just life experiences.”
Hill served as president at Solage Hotels & Resorts, a San Francisco-based brand of Auberge Resorts, before joining the Mosaic team. He was the founding general manager of Solage Calistoga in Napa Valley, CA, the company’s flagship resort. He oversaw the renovation of the property’s 20,000-sq.-ft. Spa Solage and Michelin-starred restaurant Solbar, as well as the purchase of an off-site restaurant.
Prior to Solage Calistoga, Hill held various management positions at other Auberge Resorts properties, including director of operations at Calistoga Ranch and The Lodge at CordeValle, and as a project manager at corporate headquarters in Mill Valley, CA. His executive experience also includes positions at a range of other resorts.
Several factors drew Hill to Mosaic, including his long-standing friendship with Tim Harmon, CEO of Palisades Hospitality Group, along with the company’s values and its philosophical approach to its properties. “If I’m going to work in hospitality, I want to work with a company whose vision is about enhancing the human spirit, not only for our guests, but for our associates,” he said.
Some of his objectives in the upcoming year: driving revenue, increasing profitability and enhancing the guest experience to a “more personalized and customized experience, so memorable that they want to return to us over and over again,” Hill said.
Creating a made-to-order stay can be achieved naturally by focusing on the training and development of Mosaic’s teams. “Through that there is an experience for the associates and managers that transforms their workplace, as well—with a different culture than they may be used to at other environments they were working in,” he said.
Open for feedback, his management style attempts to break down walls by openly welcoming criticisms. One example of this is how he conducts annual reviews. He requires his general managers and team to critique him once a year—and names are disclosed.
“I actually don’t believe in an anonymous review,” he said. “I believe in open, honest communication. If we have something to say, we are comfortable with just saying it. That’s the type of environment we should all strive to have in our workplace.”
Having done this previously, he’s been made aware of his strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Some of his assets include being an inspirational, visionary leader; paying close attention to detail; and showing genuine concern about the guest experience.
Areas where he needs to improve, according to feedback: pausing before taking action on certain initiatives and maintaining a roundtable concept instead of going to a few key decision makers.
Another initiative, policy procedure, is designed to enhance us from a small company that’s growing very fast,” he said. “There are a lot of objectives to do on a company level, as well.”
With all four of Mosaic’s properties undergoing renovation, Hill has his hands full for the rest of 2016 and into 2017. Typically, Harmon collaborates with the interior designer on updates to properties. Hill steps in to review renovations from an operations standpoint and analyze how guests will react to any changes made.
“From a guest perspective, I want it to have a residential feel to it, something where they feel as though someone took great attention and care to every detail,” Hill said, explaining his thoughts on the guest experience. “Many of us are good at talking, not all of us are great at listening. I try to have a focused listening ear to my team and guests.”
With hospitality being an industry where 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week is the norm for those in leadership positions, the key is to “remain balanced to stay on top of your game,” he said.
Founder and chairman of the Love Gracefully foundation, Hill confers with a board on aiding causes typically revolving around disadvantaged individuals and families. Born out of his own frustration with how charities allocate donations, the organization directs all of its proceeds to the cause itself. Hill personally takes care of all admin costs.
The board just voted to expand the foundation’s assistance geographically, agreeing to allocate donations to causes worldwide. Every quarter the board votes on a new cause; the decision must be unanimous.
“The beauty of this foundation is that it’s emerged from helping children to assisting women and children to aiding anyone in need,” he said. Acknowledging the “suffering and great disparity in the world,” Hill noted that he “could no longer just help or assist those in Napa Valley. There’s too much need everywhere.” HB