"I love the Hospitality Industry!" is how Michelle Bradley starts her own LinkedIn profile, which pretty much sums up her enthusiastic approach to her career. A driven and passionate leader, Michelle worked her way up through the ranks in sales, relying on her creativity and innovation. She has just taken on an exciting new challenge as Director of Sales and Marketing at The Candler Hotel Atlanta, Curio Collection by Hilton, a 265-room, four star property which was originally built by Coca-Cola magnate Asa Griggs Candler in 1906, and converted into a hotel in 2019. We chat with Michelle to hear herstory and what excites her most about her new role.
What was your first job in hospitality and what drew you to the industry?
My first position in hospitality was managing a restaurant in New Jersey, which I stumbled upon because of a connection with the owner of a chain of Mexican cuisine themed restaurants. After some years I found my way to the Upper West Side of Manhattan as General Manager of a 100-seat upscale bistro style restaurant.
You worked your way up in sales, working for Wyndham, Doubletree and moving around quite a bit. Did you move for jobs or the moves happened for other reasons then you found jobs?
I give the original Wyndham International all the credit for my hotel hospitality career and subsequent successes. When I joined Wyndham with zero hotel experience as a Catering Sales Manager in 1998, they nurtured and developed my sales acumen. The training and mentorship they offered was invaluable as I took on relocation opportunities in New Jersey, Delaware and New York. Atlanta has become my forever home because of a corporate relocation with Wyndham in 2005.
What skills do you think are most important for a successful salesperson?
The most important skill as a salesperson is to love what you do! Those who genuinely embrace the hospitality spirit do well in our industry. Successful sales teams also do not get discouraged by hearing ‘no.’ Rather, they take it as a challenge to get one step closer to the next opportunity.
Have you had mentors and sponsors to coach and challenge you along the way? If so who and how did they help you?
I’ve had so many mentors and coaches professionally and personally that it would be a disservice to name only a few. I have one leader whom I’ve joined in four different properties––Niles Harris, currently Area General Manager at InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown ––I credit my big picture views and attention to detail to him.
You just moved to Atlanta to take on the role of DOSM at The Candler, part of the Curio Collection. What prompted that move?
In 2015, I joined Highgate Hotels based remotely in Atlanta, representing the Crowne Plaza Times Square. Prior to joining the Crowne Plaza team, I spent 10 years as DOSM in the Downtown Atlanta Market. I was thrilled to remain with Highgate Hotels and join the Candler Hotel Atlanta, Curio Collection by Hilton team.
Are you excited to be running the whole sales team?
We are well on our way to building The Dream Team! I’m most excited about putting back on my mentoring hat. I love to see those on my team rise through the ranks.
The mindset that has helped me the most is not letting the slights, disappointments and subtle hints of racism or prejudice affect my work ethic and productivity.
Black executives represent only an estimated 1.5 % of hospitality industry executives at the director level or above in the United States, what has your experience been as a Black women working in hotels?
While I would love to be surprised at that number, I can’t be because I witness it on a regular basis at industry and corporate events. There have been plenty of times that I’ve been the only black executive in the room often feeling outwardly challenged on basic premises. The mindset that has helped me the most is not letting the slights, disappointments and subtle hints of racism or prejudice affect my work ethic and productivity. I take ownership of the fact that I’m afforded a position that gives me opportunities to speak up and address less-than-favorable behavior in the workplace. Unconscious or conscious bias presents a world of issues on all fronts. We have to continue to effect the change we all want and deserve one step at time with a singular focus on change for the good.
What are you most excited about with your new role at The Candler?
This team and this building were meant for me! Every day we are afforded an opportunity to make magic in a beautiful space.
You credit your success in sales to innovation, what trait or ability do you feel is essential in sales?
A singular trait I encourage any seller to enhance is the practice of ensuring you get to know everything possible about the client and their business. Being able to effectively kickstart a conversation and/or business relationship is invaluable in creating successful relationships that translate to successful transactions. My biggest ‘flex’ of gaining a lucrative contract with a Fortune 500 company was smoking a cigar and taking sips of a great Kentucky whiskey while part of a foursome of men on the course at a golf tournament at 10:00am in the morning. After many years of being left behind to cover the office while male colleagues were on the golf course, I invested in a set of clubs and became quite the “golf outing” golfer. The prospective client was impressed and responded with a genuine interest in the hotel I was representing at the time.
You have been very involved in various charity work, tell me about that. Why you do it and what it means to you?
I have witnessed my family completing acts of services within and outside of the family from a child. Assisting an organization whose mission is to uplift is equally if not more beneficial to my own spirit, as it prompts me to take a step back and realize that the traits and abilities I’ve honed can make differences big and small. Surrounding myself with like-minded individuals who believe in creating solutions versus being armchair quarterbacks is a special kind of therapy all on its own.
For years you specialized in government / nonprofit business partnerships. Was that coincidental?
As a Director of Sales & Marketing for many years, I’ve overseen the strategies for those particular segments. Once the opportunity came about to represent the Crowne Plaza Times Square, I accepted those segments because I had established relationships and a high level of understanding to become successful even though I was transitioning from Atlanta to the New York market.
What trends do you see taking shape in the Association, Nonprofit and Government business for hotels?
As the industry strives to return to pre-pandemic levels, we are seeing an increase in those willing to travel, with demand continuously increasing. This has affected travel patterns with consumers looking for the “best” option. Post-pandemic leisure demand has pushed many to mid-week in many markets. We are also seeing an influx of last-minute large group bookings and attendance pickup. The hotel industry as a whole has experienced many highs and lows in the last two years, but we are a resilient bunch who remain willing to say “Welcome In."
The hotel industry as a whole has experienced many highs and lows in the last two years, but we are a resilient bunch who remain willing to say “Welcome In."