Updated: Jul 10, 2021
My second spin off interview of my "Hospitality Heroes" piece, is with Zack Gilarski who is Director of Purchasing at Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center.
One of my favorite people in the industry, Zack consistently displays a level of service, warmth, professionalism, kindness, as well as true leadership.
Hope you enjoy, and possibly get a tidbit (or more) of wisdom, to help you move forward on your journey in a "people" industry.
Me: So what is the one lesson you learned this past year working in your role within the hospitality arena? If you had to pick one?
Zack: Planning. Planning is the most important thing I learned, and staying ahead. The people in the industry who did not plan well, are suffering now. There are a lot of things going on these past few months especially. Some thought everything in our industry would just die out, and we would not be busy. The fact of the matter is, there is a rush of business, and people are traveling. Many are hurting right now, since they did not plan ahead. I am continually looking for vendors, reviewing lead times on products, etc...It is imperative to look at the future, and review where supply chains are at, and forecasting appropriately to plan out. Looking at products, and where are they coming from. It is imperative to get things that are needed, so it does not hurt the guests or the experience of our guests.
I agree with Zack on the planning aspect. It has been quite shocking to me these past few months, especially, how numerous Resorts and Boutique Hotels are scrambling so frantically, and even seem quite perplexed. Many of them are not only understaffed, but they did not plan ahead. Hence, they are in a rush for products, in many product categories.
In general, production times are longer, and raw materials are taking longer to arrive from overseas, so for those who did not see this coming, and prepare... it is really hard to deal with on many levels. There are also pricing increases for many product categories, and this is the reality of things. Working with someone like Zack who understands vendors, products, supply chains, timelines and lead times; along with being able to forecast and plan is quite rare in the hospitality industry these days, unfortunately.
For those reading this, I hope they have learned a bit about looking forward, projecting, and forecasting for product needs. Zack is a true leader, as leaders are always thinking ahead, planning, and being realistic; while remaining hopeful.
Me: Now that people are indeed traveling, and this past year is behind us, with many lessons learned, and many challenges hopefully met, faced, and solved; what is one of the lessons that you would like to share about now moving forward?
Zack: The importance of being flexible. I try and plan out four months ahead, so that there is no stress. I understand that many of the ports are jammed, and many raw materials are not available. I understand the 'ripple effect' of things. I stay ahead, so I do not end up being in a tough spot. Those who do not plan are stressed, and those who can not be flexible are also stressed.
In times like these, especially, flexibility is of the utmost importance.
Being flexible is one of the many "secrets" in life.
"The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm." - Confucius
The balance is to be flexible, while also planning. Zack seems to have mastered this art. In my opinion, this is an art, and hopefully not a "lost art." We can learn a lot from leaders like Zack.
Me: Let's talk a bit about the "burn out" that many are feeling after a very tough year, and these last few months, which have indeed added more stress and work overload for many. Thoughts? Advice?
Zack: With many spread so thin, along with the work volume and stress, many are indeed burning out. For these locations, they need to bring in more support and also follow through with support. When many are only bringing back 25 of 50 employees, it is not realistic to continue to cut labor, and cut money. Support to get the job done should be the priority. One person doing the work of four people, or more, is not sustainable. Unfortunately. when individuals are stretched this thin, they can not provide the same level of service they want to, and desire to for the guests.
I put a lot of extra energy into my team. I also remind those that I work with as to why they got into the industry and why they loved the industry before all this. I ask them why they were passionate about the industry to help them bring back their fire and love for this industry. Uptraining, and cross training are also important. I put my trust in my team, and put forth the effort to train staff. I try to address issues before they get to a level that they should not be at. Trusting the team is paramount, and also coming up with solutions.
Finding answers and bringing stuff up to managers is important. Streamlining solutions, proposing ideas, and collaborating with teams is vital. Also listening, and hearing ideas. With the right type of management, there is a sharing of ideas. Many managers do not do some/many of the 'daily tasks' others are struggling with, and may not know or be aware of any issues. Once they are aware, it is easier to fix 'problems.'
Being proactive, solving problems, looking for solutions, and working well together.
I think Zack is spot on. Many times, we need to remind ourselves why we do what we do, and why we have made some of the choices we have made. Self awareness is always at the center. Zack is someone who is not only extremely self aware, but is also great at helping others be more aware of themselves, their choices, and their environments. On many levels, I think we all need to reflect upon the areas in our lives that are sustainable, and not sustainable.
Me: Numerous "people-people" who have been in the hospitality industry many years, are leaving. Whether it is burn out, lack of team support, losing their passion for their work, etc.... whatever the reason, do you think our industry, in general, is not valuing its own people enough?
Zack: Well, everyone on the team needs to be proactive. If we have one 'rotten apple' – you know it can ruin the rest. Sometimes it is good to get the negative ones out. Ultimately, we do not want good people leaving, so it should not get to the point where someone is one last annoyance/disagreement/bad moment, away from quitting. This is one of the many reasons I try and create a friendly atmosphere, where others can enjoy and have some fun, at their work.
Team work makes the dream work. Zack understands this on many levels. True leadership in action
Me: Well Zack, as you know, you are one of my favorite people in the industry and a true leader no doubt. One last question, do you have a favorite quote/quotes that you tend to live by? Reflect upon?
Zack: Yes, I do have a favorite one-it is from Simon Sinek. I like to strive to be a leader. There are lots of managers, and very few leaders, as you know.
Simon talks about the difference between managers and leader: ' True leadership starts with distinguishing between being in charge versus taking care of those in our charge'..
Me: I want to thank Zack for this interview. It is always so refreshing to speak with someone who is a true leader, and walks their talk. I am so grateful that Zack took the time out of his day to chat with me. He has been a very strong example to me of how grace, knowledge, experience, kindness, humbleness, as well as attitude, optimism, and sense of humor can indeed be consistently lived fully throughout our day, even in challenging times. It is people such as Zack, that also help me to stay grounded in my belief that "all is good" despite many of the circumstances that come rearing up throughout my day.
If you want to learn more about Four Seasons Philadelphia at Comcast Center - check out