FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business

Trendsetters - June 2006

Home at Hyatt - Pat Engfer

Pat Engfer
Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport
General Manager

Early in college:
Wanted to be a physical therapist until "I met Mr. Chemistry."
Advice: "Hire for attitude and train for skills."
Children: Matt, a UF rising junior, and Michelle, a rising high school junior.
Staff should remember: "If we have no guests, we have no jobs. The customer is everything. There are 120,000 hotel rooms in Orlando. Anybody can find a bed. They come back because of our employees."
In high school: Waitress and worked in a bookstore. "I always did service industry. I like people. People in the hospitality business have to have a certain personality."

Whether staying at a Hyatt in Hawaii or a bed-and-breakfast in Europe, Pat Engfer tries to be an understanding guest. "I never throw stones, living in a glass house."

Engfer's glass house is the Hyatt Regency at Orlando International Airport, where she's been the general manager since it opened in 1992. Women GMs at major hotels are rare, but Engfer's been a general manager for the last 20 of her 29 years with Hyatt.

Raised in New Jersey and Illinois, Engfer started her career as a summer-hire recreation manager at the Hyatt on Hilton Head Island, S.C. From there, she went on the management development track and learned housekeeping, the front desk and the other departments. "It's a very equalizing industry," she says. "You can't run a hotel if you don't know how to run housekeeping."

She followed the itinerant career of a hotel manager through a dozen Hyatts before coming to the airport-owned Orlando Hyatt. In opening a hotel, "it really becomes your own," says Engfer. "Our business is constantly evolving. We have to be thinking about how we're going to wow the customer and how we're going to be the employer of choice."

Staying so long in Orlando has allowed Engfer, 51, and her husband, Don, a senior vice president at Tishman Hotel, which owns the Walt Disney World Dolphin, Swan and Hilton hotels, to give their two children a stable location. "I'm balancing a personal life and work life," she says.

And on vacation, she's sensitive. "On any day an employee can be fabulous or not, a hotel can be outstanding or not." Rather than dwell on flaws, Engfer instead appreciates great service when she sees it -- and makes sure to write a note to the GM about it.


? Bruce Orosz, 56, president, production company ACT Productions, Miami Beach, has produced Miami Beach Polo Cup, Kanye West's Video Music Awards party, the Orange Bowl halftime show and just finished the Florida Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences awards.

? Jack B. Healan Jr., 60, president, Amelia Island Co., which owns the 1,350-acre Amelia Island Plantation resort, which has been a winner of the Governor's Sterling Award for Quality and environmental honors.

? Elizabeth Wentworth, vice president for 15 years at the Broward Alliance's film commission, reports a 67% jump in filming in the county in 2005, led by telenovelas (Latin serial dramas), independents and reality shows.
Call of the Wild -- Robert Seidler

Robert Seidler
Seidler Productions

Seidler Productions: "It gives me a lifestyle I enjoy and do things I really love."

Places that have put people "back in the picture": Fishhawk Ranch near Tampa; downtown Winter Garden; Dunedin.

Quote: "I'm very optimistic about the future of Florida."

Torn: With a mother who was a Blackfeet Indian and a father who was a chemist and businessman, Seidler feels pulled between business and nature.

Growing up in Tarpon Springs, Robert Seidler "was in love with everything outdoors." He raised turtles and explored local waters. And while he aced standardized tests, he brought home either A's or F's from school. "I was kind of a paradox," he says. After being laid off from a union electrician job, Seidler went to Florida State University, majored in communications and biology and found his path.

Seidler, 53, runs Seidler Productions, a maker of films and documentaries, some airing on PBS, some instructional, on bike safety and education and nature-based tourism. The mix befits a founder who was the first president of the Florida Bicycle Association and is involved in a local gourmet pizza shop and outfitter. Cyclist, hiker, kayak fisherman, he'll quote Schopenhauer a moment after talking about a bicycling-hiking-fishing-paddling trip.

He's at work on a documentary on the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Florida Trail Association, the group building a 1,400-mile path through Florida. He's also at work on a film, "Realizing and Recovering the Sustainable Green Dollar," on the nature-based and heritage-based economy.

Seidler recently moved from Wakulla to Sopchoppy to a home he built on the site of a 1920s Nehi company fish campgrounds. The house has a solar water heater, geothermal recovery system and is wired for solar energy so that he can someday go off the grid.

"The solutions we need for our society are already working in nature," he says. "I just want to share that with others."

Lee Weeks
Coral Hospitality, CEO, Naples
Hospitality Pitch

At first: Mississippi-born, raised in Gulf Shores, Ala., on the Florida line, Lee Weeks was a dual business and recreation administration major. He had his sights set on professional baseball until a realization it was unlikely to happen and an injury to his pitching arm changed his plans.

Then: He worked his way up in management from the pro shop to the country club and then to executive jobs at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Grand Wailea Resort Hotel and Spa in Maui, the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas and LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort in Naples.

Now: Weeks, 48, is CEO of Coral Hospitality, a consulting, management, technical services, asset management and ownership company in the clubs, hotels and master association/luxury condo management fields. Weeks' specialty is operations.

Learned from: Sitting around the dinner table with his father, a labor lawyer. "I got a real knack for the business side from him."

Success: Some Coral workers have gone in three years from desk clerks to managing properties. "We have a lot of internal success stories."

Family: "I have a great wife (Joan), great kid (Drew) and a great job."

Dealing with a service error: Own up to it, apologize, exceed the upset customer's expectations in another way. "You're going to make mistakes. It's how you recover from the mistake."
Personal time: Golf, tennis, weight lifting, coaching kids basketball, baseball and football.

Concerted Effort
Melissa Giles, 23, an England-born, Miami-raised daughter of a British concert producer, wanted to be a fashion designer but gravitated to the music business after doing promotions for a record label in high school. In 2002, she founded Soulfrito, a now annual urban Latin music festival with a $150,000 budget that draws as many as 8,000 to Bayfront Park in Miami. She's talking about starting similar events in New York and Madrid, Spain. Her Misto Marketing and Management does grass-roots events for Burger King, Pontiac and AOL in Miami, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. "I'm happy with where I'm at now and watching it grow."