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Meet Mr June: Brian Proctor, Founder & Principal, Leeds Hospitality Group & Podcast Host, Tuesdays Thanks

As we approach Father's Day this Sunday, we are excited to shine the spotlight on our Mr. June, Ally of the Month, and proud father of two remarkable daughters, Brian Proctor. Brian's legendary career in hospitality has seen him work with prestigious brands like Westin, Four Seasons, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts. His journey to hospitality, which began in a humble grocery store, led him to roles that took him across Canada, the United States, and even to the exotic locales of Bora Bora and Puerto Rico. Today, Brian channels his passion and expertise into his consulting venture, Leeds Hospitality Group, while also hosting the heartfelt and inspiring Tuesdays Thanks podcast. His dedication to fostering gratitude and mentorship in the industry, coupled with his experiences as a 'girl dad,' make him a truly deserving honoree this Father's Day. Meet our Mr . June, Brian Proctor!

Brian Proctor Tuesdays Thanks

Hi Brian,  take us back to the beginning of your career for a sec, what was your first job and how did you get into hospitality?

Growing up in a suburb of Montreal, I started working in a grocery store called Dominion when I was 16. I found that I loved working with people and helping them in any way I could. This led me to LaSalle College, where I earned my associate’s degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management. Upon graduation, I was offered a night auditor position at the Westin Calgary, and that was the start of my career in hospitality. After Westin, I joined ITT Sheraton and worked for them in Montreal, Halifax, and Stamford, CT (where I met the lovely Mrs. Proctor) in a variety of rooms division roles.

Then I was recruited to come back to Canada and join Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, and no Canadian kid can say no to that. The role at the Inn on the Park then led me to the fabulous Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, where I fell in love with California. I then joined Interstate Hotels and had General Manager assignments in La Jolla and San Luis Obispo before joining Starwood Hotels & Resorts, where I spent the next 18 years until it was bought by Marriott. Ten of those years were spent with the team responsible for New Builds & Transitions, arguably the greatest 10 years of my career. I opened hotels from the St. Regis in Bora Bora to the W Vieques in Puerto Rico and everything in between.

After a brief stint with Evolution Hospitality, I joined Bridgestreet Global Hospitality, which was in the corporate housing and serviced apartment segment of the hospitality industry. Then in 2020, I branched out and opened my own hospitality consulting company, Leeds Hospitality Group, where I work with clients in the hotel, serviced apartments, and corporate environments.

You transitioned from rooms to become a general manager, working your way up with Starwood, doing a lot of new builds and hotel openings. Are you an adrenaline junkie? The women we’ve interviewed who love hotel openings seem to thrive on the rush and excitement of bringing a team together, usually under pressure!

Working on and then subsequently leading the New Builds & Transition team was such an amazing opportunity for me. I can honestly say that I never felt like I was working for those 10 years on that team. It is the one role within the hotel business where you interact with every single stakeholder of a hotel project – from ownership groups to designers, construction teams, operations teams, and everything in between – all on a daily basis. You get to experience different markets, different brands, different luxury tiers, and fascinating ownership groups. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything! We were living out of hotels and airplane seats (up to 225,000 miles a year), and coffee was my magic potion – so to answer your question, yes, I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie – just keep me caffeinated!

Along the way, have there been women who influenced you in your career?

Yes, there have been several that I have been fortunate to work with and for. Most recently, Colleen Keating was our leader at Starwood when I was with the Franchise Operations team, and she was a wonderful leader of a diverse team located all over the country. She was a great coach and mentor and pushed us all to look at managing the franchise relationships differently than we had seen in the past – she was quite the innovator.

There were others like Florence Khoo, who was many times the only woman in our construction meetings. I learned so much from her on how to manage people in difficult situations. Women like Sue Brush, head of the Westin Brand, Denise Coll, President of North America for Starwood, and Carla Murray – Regional VP of the West – were all intelligent, hard-working individuals who mentored and developed so many of the next generation of hoteliers.

Wow, you are a grateful guy, so much so that two years ago you began the Tuesday Thanks podcast. What inspired you to start the podcast?

It started during the pandemic when I got the idea that we should be thanking people while they were around, as we were starting to lose some wonderful people. I committed to thanking one person every Tuesday on my personal LinkedIn page for 52 weeks, someone who had helped me in my life or career. At the end of that year, people were asking me for more, and I didn’t know what to do next until Steve Turk, The Hospitality Mentor and Mr. Miami, had me on his podcast as a guest. I had such a great time that I asked him how to start a podcast. He told me how easy it was once you had a “theme.” I knew how great I felt every Tuesday after I thanked someone, so I figured others would as well, and that’s how I started the podcast.

You’ve interviewed some amazing female leaders (including me and Nancy, thank you!) for Tuesdays Thanks. What are the big lessons or key themes they have shared that you can share now?

A couple of themes seem to run through most of the episodes. One is that the guests have been so thankful to their mentors for seeing something in them that they themselves did not see and then encouraging them to take the leap of faith and jump into that next role or position, even though they may not believe they are ready for it.

Also, the messaging for women is so key – for the next generation of female leaders to develop, they need to see themselves in positions of power and leadership – if they can see you, then they can be you. This comes across so many times. I had one woman tell me that it was years before she saw a female general manager in a hotel, and it was then that she knew she could become one – very powerful.

The gratitude that these women experience for their mentors pushes them to ensure that the young women on their teams receive the same levels of mentorship from themselves. I get the feeling that the next generation of female leaders is in very good hands.

Brian Proctor hotel
Brian with his daughter Emily in Santa Monica

Brian, you are also a father of two girls, Kailey and Emily, now women in their 30s. What has being a “girl dad” taught you about working with women?

Well, I learned very early on that I was only one out of four votes in the household decisions, so it meant that I had to hone my listening skills as we “collaborated” on vacation decisions, restaurant decisions, etc. It also helped me understand the need to answer the “why” question and that decisions were made from a diverse set of criteria. It’s amazing how two children can come from the same parents and be so different. I learned to listen to the room, and it also reinforced the belief that I was never the smartest person in the room.

Brian Proctor Leeds Hospitality with his daughter Kailey
Brian with his daughter Kailey

What advice have you shared with your daughters about navigating their careers?

To pursue a career that they are passionate about. I have always believed that if you don’t wake up every morning “wanting” to go in and be with your colleagues, work on a particular project, or develop a new program, then it is time to look for something else to do. You have to love what you do – money, titles, and the rest will follow if you are passionate about your career choice.

What tips would you offer for men who want to be better allies at work?

That’s a tough one, as I wasn’t perfect, nor am I now perfect at this. But I think a couple of things are important:

  1. Embrace diversity – both in gender and in ideas. Everyone thinks differently, everyone projects differently, and everyone interacts differently. Get to know your team and find out how each one likes to work, and then manage them as individuals so they all can shine at their own pace.

  2. Respect the individual – we all have varying degrees of challenges in our personal lives. Understand that and treat each person with respect and understanding of their situation. Demonstrate authentic gratitude and respect to all, and things will be fine.

Thank you, Brian!

Quickfire with Brian

What is your morning routine? Wake up at 5am, have two cups of coffee then head out for a 5-6 mile walk. Come home and tackle the day.

What do you do to relax? Love to read and do crossword puzzles.

What is the best advice you ever got? You don’t get what you don’t ask for. (My Dad)

What is the worst advice you ever took? “You have to try Al’s Run in Taos – you will love it” What I didn’t love was the knee surgery following an epic wipeout! LOL 

Do you have a daily gratitude practice? Not really but spend time everyday on the podcast and YouTube shows so always have gratitude close at hand. I’m not a good “journal” person…

Any books / TV shows / podcasts you are into right now? So many books – anything mystery or thriller is great! Currently reading William Kent Krueger’s Corcoran O’Connor series. Actually rewatching all 8 seasons of the old LA Law show and I never miss an episode of Smartless!


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