Sutton Place Hotel, Toronto
Nick Vesely knows a thing or two about hotels. For almost 40 years, the Montreal native has been at the helm of various properties in the GTA, quietly leading his troops by promoting hard work, dedication and commitment to great service. But being a hotelier wasn’t always in his plans; Vesely originally aspired to be a chef. He even worked for three summers as a cook at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta and a small hotel in France, before opting to make his mark outside of the kitchen.
Four decades later the 56-year-old GM of the upscale, 312-room Sutton Place Hotel in Toronto remains captivated by the lodging business, making time in his busy schedule to get involved in industry issues through his work with the Greater Toronto Hotel Association and Tourism Toronto. “There are many challenges in today’s environment, but as long as the top line is there, I’ll find a way through the other issues,” he explains.
Overseeing a complement of 300 employees, the unassuming father of three girls leads by example. “I have a wealth of experience on both sides of the scale from which to draw. And I’m accessible, which enables me to be well informed and make good decisions and corrections if needed.”
Among the varied lessons he’s learned along the way, Vesely believes you’re only as strong as your weakest link. “The efforts of many individuals can quickly go by the wayside due to a service or facility failure. We seldom get a second chance in this business, so staff training and understanding our service philosophy is paramount.”
Long known as home to the stars, the luxe Sutton Place Hotel has carved out an enviable niche since opening its doors during Canada’s centennial year. To maintain its appeal with discerning clientele, the Bay St. landmark property recently completed an extensive renovation to its rooms and suites. Plans are also afoot to give Accents Restaurant a makeover in 2010. The hotel’s owners are also committed to running an environmentally friendly and technologically advanced property. The Sutton Place has received Four Keys from the Hotel Association of Canada’s Green Key Program. And last year it became the first hotel in the city to provide an HD TV signal to all its rooms and suites.
“Today’s market is more competitive than ever with very little in the way of specific lines the consumer can easily differentiate between,” says the Ryerson graduate. “To set your property apart, you not only have to create programs and marketing concepts but you have to deliver them from beginning to end.”
But no matter how creative the marketing, Vesely believes success is predicated on service excellence. “I ensure my staff has the tools required to do their job, and I stay out of their way, providing coaching and guidance when asked.”
Ultimately, he says the most important rules about management are the ones he learned from his father. “He taught me that I should work harder than anyone reporting to me, and he ingrained in me a sense of loyalty and a high degree of moral values.”
Photographed by John Hryniuk