She feels very blessed for being chosen to take on her new role and is very grateful to Starwood, but she doesn’t expect things to happen overnight.
By Percy Roxas
Janet McNab, area manager for South Thailand of Starwood Asia, and general manager (GM) of Westin Siray Bay Phuket Resort, describes herself as straight; “very straight.” She said she has always been like this.
“I don’t like to have to read between the lines,” she says. “If you tell me something, I’ll absolutely believe you unless you give me reason to not to. If I have an altercation with someone I don’t hold any grudge at all; I’m just not like that. I think that yes, often enough, sometimes someone may disappoint us but ultimately we must always be fair. I would never treat someone differently from another because I don’t want somebody to do it to me. To me, fairness, honesty and integrity are more than just words.”
As a manager, she admits she’s a driver. “I’m definitely a driver,” she says. “But I have a very happy disposition. I use humor, I include everybody in the decision-making process, and I find that it works. I’m consultative but I don’t take ‘No’ for an answer. I always think there’s a solution to everything. If something’s broken let’s fix it.”
Janet has been in the hotel industry for almost 24 years; she started when she was 25. Back then she was a law clerk. But then she realized the job was a little bit boring. “So what I did was I applied to all the things that I dreamt of working for,” she says. “I applied to airlines, to television stations, and to hotels. I wrote to all the big companies in Australia with my CV and I was lucky enough to get accepted in a quite junior role for a hotel in Brisbane.”
The hotel was Sheraton Brisbane, which is now no longer with Starwood. “I took the job even though it was in a lower position and thought, well, the only way to go is up. I never turned back since. It was in 1998, the so-called “Brisbane expurge,” so it was like a baptism of fire but it’s just wonderful. It’s a great opportunity. Those days, I was thinking: God was looking after me. He got me into the right space and then I did the rest.”
She worked from the ranks, went into sales, and then moved into operations. She also did a diploma at the Gold Western University and then her MBA before leaving Brisbane, in 2002, to Nanjing (China). From an executive assistant manager position there she moved to a regional sales marketing role for Southeast Asia in Bali, and then moved to Cairo, also in a regional capacity. She then returned to Bali as Le Meridien Nirvana Resort and Spa GM. In 2009, became pre-opening GM for Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok. She’s been in Thailand for four years now.
Now in her dual role as area manager and GM, “it’s so far, so good,” Janet says. She explains, “I’ve been in the area role for just a short amount of time but I don’t think it’s difficult. I’ve held a corporate job before. I’ve held a regional job for three-and-a-half years. Nothing’s ever easy; one just needs to use common sense at all times.”
I think I’ve been very blessed that I have been chosen to take on this role,” she says. “I’m very grateful to Starwood for giving it to me and I’m very keen to make a difference to the properties and to the area. Of course I don’t expect things to happen overnight.”
“I don’t run Le Meridien Koh Samui; I don’t run W Koh Samui; there are terrific people running these hotels,” she says. “My job is to work with management to make sure that brand compliance is in place, that we develop the profile of the destination, and helping with the development. We’ve got new developments in the South so it’s more on the strategic level, and if there is a hotel not meeting its goals or not getting to where it is, how I can assist.
What are her specific goals? “I’m just developing those,” she says. “I’m fairly new in the role but obviously the work leans on those components. Yes there are goals, but I cannot talk about it just as yet. It’s still a work in progress. But again, what I’d like to achieve is to develop the profiles of the South. I want to be able to because we’ve got some very beautiful hotels in the area offering unique experiences.”
Starwood has nine brands in the region. “We have quite an eclectic collection of really beautiful hotels that we can try to develop profile for. And each one of these places is a destination in itself. So, each property can develop unique selling points. Collectively, the properties can help grow the profile of the South for the long-term.’”
Janet reiterates that very capable GMs runs the hotels. ”What I do is support them when they need it,” she says. “Support, meaning in numbers. Support in implementing Starwood policies, standards, and bringing it all together. So I can be the voice for them with the corporate office rather than each hotel. We have very capable people running our hotels.”
As Westin Siray Bay Phuket GM, Janet lives in the resort and that makes her enjoy the job even more. “The interesting thing about that property is you have a view from every room. When I wake up and do my morning rounds I just get a lovely view of the whole bay there,” she says. “It’s nice to be here in a very peaceful surrounding.”
She thinks Starwood has a real opportunity to capture the market in Phuket because of its diversely interesting properties. “Phuket as a destination used to have severe highs and severe lows,” she continues. “When it was low season, it was realy low season. What I see now is that the low season doesn’t dip as low, which tells me the low-cost carriers and the intra- Asian tourism is growing; one of the biggest growth markets for Asia.”
There was so much that Janet eloquently discussed with us during the interview but unfortunately, we can’t fit them all in one issue. We talked about, among others, each and every hotel she oversees, the Phuket hotel scene in general, Starwood’s employee-friendly culture and why hotel associates looking to move forward should check out the brand and its properties, and even her other goals and dreams.
But let us close this article with what we think could give our readers a glimpse of the real Janet, like what she finds most satisfying in her career: “It is having a vision and making it happen; having that success,” she replies. “When I talk about success, I’m not talking about me. I’m talking about how (her team and associates) are going get there from here, how we’re going to make it happen because I will not stop until I make it happen. I’m quite driven, and for me, getting there is the best journey I can take. I love it.”
Good last words for the first female area manager for Starwood Asia, don’t you think?