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Brenda Collin, EVP, on How Preferred Hotels & Resorts is Setting Managers Up to Be Future Leaders

Brenda Collin is Executive Vice President of Europe for Preferred Hotels & Resorts, 

overseeing the company’s growth and evolution in the region, as well as ensuring the retention and success of nearly 200 member properties across 25 countries. In the last seven years, she has tripled the size of the company’s footprint in Europe by spearheading representation of acclaimed hotel companies such as Nordic Hotels & Resorts and signing more than 50 new member hotels such as The Beaumont (London, England); Castlemartyr (Cork, Ireland); Sommerro (Oslo, Norway), and, most recently, The Lowry Hotel (Manchester, England).


Amid all this growth and success, Brenda’s guiding light is her care for the people in our industry, and her purpose is to support them.  She is a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, serves on their board as a trustee and a mentor to many.  We chat with Brenda about her career and a new program at Preferred to help train and retain top talent for leadership. 

Brenda Collin Preferred Hotels

Hi Brenda, so you grew up in a remote part of Ireland on a farm.  What drew you to hospitality? 


Growing up, caring for others is what I loved to do. When people came to visit, I was the one making the tea, I was entertaining. It wasn't necessarily the passion to see the world and travel, but it was more about caring for people. 


In Ireland, you have an open door policy, neighbors pop in, so you just organize and tidy your home. My mother ran the farm. She was so busy, I would be the one organizing and tidying things. 


When looking back upon your career, please share a particular point of advice.


Back when I started in the early 1990s with Hilton in the UK, you moved around the properties between different roles. Looking back, the one thing that was missing was mentorship; a person who’d say, “Actually, that's not a good role to go for.”


Now I'm on the board of the Institute of Hospitality, and the organisation has developed a mentoring program called Mentor Me  It's about matching those early in their career with a mentor will guide them throughout their career.  This is especially important for women. They can question themselves, and doubt themselves. So just having somebody that says, that's a great position, you can do it.  Everyone needs a sounding board, at every level!


And it seems you have brought this mentality to Preferred, what is the company doing to  nurture talent?


This past summer we launched a new partnership with Cornell, which is a program focusing on leadership to allow our future talent the opportunity to learn skills essential to ascend to a leadership role.  The program is designed by our people alongside Cornell, exclusively for Preferred Hotels and Resorts leadership team members. The program is something we're looking to roll out to our member hotels potentially as we move ahead. 


We also have a whole range of programs of short mini-courses with Cornell at a discounted rate. The mini-courses offer everything from accounting, legal, HR, and risk management.


They are all taught by Cornell professors. All of our member hotels can benefit from the courses since they are online. These mini-courses help with their development and assist hotels in retaining their staff by providing development program offerings for those who are interested in growing.


The idea that women, like to lift as they climb, sounds like what this Cornell Leadership program is all about. Would you consider it a selling point for Preferred Hotels & Resorts? 


You know, Lindsay (our CEO) is investing in the pipeline to make sure that we have the next generation of leaders coming through the business. We don't want to lose talent, so we've got to keep investing. I think we should be hiring more entry-level people as well. We always hire very skilled, experienced, seasoned people as our member hotels and clients need expert support. 


Do you have internships?


We do.  We just had a newly promoted hotel manager from one of our member hotels in South Africa wanting to come to London and spend a month with several of our award winning General Managers. We consider how we can support with giving them international exposure without requiring them to move their lives here. I would have loved to have those opportunities when I was younger.


As someone who has spent 30 years working your way up in sales and marketing, leave us with your top sales skills for aspiring managers?  


Being curious, asking the right questions, asking consultative questions, less talking and more listening.  You should come out of a meeting with at least 15 questions that you've asked having been answered. Always deliver what you say you are going to do!


That’s great advice!  Thank you, Brenda.


Quickfire with Brenda


What is your morning routine? Try to walk our 3 beautiful dogs first thing every morning. I then run around doing a few chores before starting work


What do you do for self-care? See my girlfriends!


What is your top travel hack? Buy the smallest suitcase you can find, then you can only pack a few items!


Any books / TV / podcasts you are into right now? I love podcasts- Diary of a CEO is my favorite followed by The Genius Life.

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