Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Dave Elliott, Senior Manager, Corporate Sales & Operations at Drake Hotel Properties

August 23, 2019

Dave Elliott is the Senior Manager, Corporate Sales & Operations at Drake Hotel Properties, a Toronto-based hospitality brand focused on a growing collection of culturally inspired hotels, restaurants and retail stores all set in unique neighbourhoods.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?

I’ve known I wanted to work in hotels/hospitality as long as I can remember.

I always thought it would be amazing to work with people who were traveling/on vacation because I would be getting to see people during their one or two weeks a year where they got to kick back and let the stresses of work life just melt away.

I got into the industry like many do, on the front lines as an operator (bartender). I earned my stripes working at a variety of venue types, and ultimately moved from Vancouver to Toronto to pursue new opportunities/growth within the industry.

I applied at the Drake Hotel for 6 months straight, hitting up different inboxes and grabbing the attention of anyone who would give my resume the time of day (the transition from sports bar to high end boutique hotel is not an easy one).

Once I was able to secure an interview I ended up meeting with four department heads at the same time because they all wanted to know who the crazy guy spamming their inboxes was.

After working the floor for six months I had build up enough of a reputation for my work ethic that I landed a meeting with the Head of Special Events + Marketing.

My plan was to ask for shifts that coincided with booked events but I quickly learned that she thought I wanted to work IN her department in sales/coordination.

It’s probably the only time I’ve kept my mouth shut long enough for the situation to play itself out. Shortly after that I was a member of the (then 3 person) Special Event team. That was 10 years ago.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

My current role is the Senior Manager, Corporate Sales & Operations. My main function is to oversee the sales and execution of our Drake Events program across our five properties.

I oversee the sales of the Corporate portfolio, and the 8 other (amazing) sales and events coordinators that I’m lucky enough to call teammates.

While no two days are ever the same in structure, my main functions are to build client relationships, secure business, solicit new business/contacts, and support the team in anyway that they need support.

I am here to help them grow into the best Drake representatives they can be, and help further their careers within these four walls and beyond.

3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

A day in the life of my role at the Drake includes ensuring that everyone I’m communicating with receives the utmost care and attention with regards to their booking – no matter how large or small.

I consider every client that books with the Drake to be of the same level of importance. A wise woman once said to me that your current party of 2 could be your next party of 200. She was right.

You never know who you’re talking to and what a little TLC could grow the relationship into. As for my work flow, I tend to try and get the bulk of my (proactive) work done in the morning so that I am freed up to be reactive as the day goes on.

I like to be able to lend a hand if a member of the team needs help, or an ear to bend, and anyone that knows me knows that I cannot fully sit and focus if I feel as though I have clients to get back to.

I am very much a morning person so I try to ‘swallow the frog’ first thing as most successful business people say. Getting the one task that is least appealing done first thing in the morning just means that the rest of the day (should be) down hill.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

I tend to try and use my communication skills to help me navigate busy days. Lateness is my biggest pet peeve so I try to ensure that I’m on time (if not early) for every meeting.

I try to never book meetings back to back, so that I have at a minimum a 15-minute window between calls/site visits. If someone is running late I preface our meeting by saying that I have another client at XYZ time which allows them to understand my time limitations and plan accordingly.

I also find that by asking open ended questions people will give all of the information you need to meet/exceed their expectations (if you listen closely). Other than that, swallow the frog, I can’t say it enough.

If you get the one task done you want to do the least first thing in the day, you’ll have a lot more to look forward to.

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5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

Well, that’s a different story. Outside of work I volunteer with a senior once a week, and as a Big Brother once a week.

I also spin 5 times a week and play for 2 volleyball teams. My Granny always tells me that I take on too much (as do other people, but Granny’s opinion is the most important, let’s be honest).

I sometimes agree, but when it comes down to it there is nothing that I would cut so I find ways to make it all work.

One thing I can’t stress enough is that since I removed social media from my life (not including Linked In) I found that I had tons more time to get down to the things that really brought me joy.

I found that cutting out the extraneous noise allowed me to take stock of what really matters, and empowered me to say ‘no’ to the things that I didn’t want to do. Your ‘me’ time is precious and should be revered as such.

If you want to skip going to a party and stay home and binge watch Orange is the New Black that is your prerogative. Just because it’s not right for someone else doesn’t mean it’s not right for you.

6) What does work life balance mean to you?

To me it means ensuring that your off time is fulfilling, and allows you to recharge.

I can’t sit still long enough to lay at the beach all day, but taking 10-minutes midday to meditate in the park during work days helps me to recharge my batteries.

Sitting at your desk to log hours in a sales/events role is not productive. As I tell the team I oversee, ‘no one is watching the clock but you, if you’re out of things to do then go home, you’ll undoubtedly make it up another day.’

7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Find a few things throughout the week to anchor yourself. I do spin classes every Monday and Tuesday after work which help to give shape to otherwise low energy days, and help to move the week along (especially in the winter months).

Keeping active is so important, and can be make or break when the weather takes a turn for the worse (ie. Toronto’s legendary 6-8 month winter season).

Diet is another conversation, but a huge part of the stress that we experience on the daily is self-inflicted through diet.

I’m not saying to forego eating chocolate (my colleague Laura would kill me if I did – she’s British), but moderation is key. The last habit (and possibly most important) is getting back to saying no.

If you can’t do something, or don’t have the time to do something, say no. It’s all about your communication/delivery.

People shouldn’t be upset with you for being honest about your limitations. Correction, good people won’t be upset about you being honest about your limitations. It’s not personal.

8) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

I am a big fan of self-help/mindfulness books.

A woman named Kate Petriw, who I have been lucky enough to collaborate for many years with, co-wrote a book called Let That Sh*t Go: Find Peace of Mind and Happiness in Your Everyday which talks about the day-to-day stresses we encounter and how to take stock of what matters, and let the rest pass you by.

Similar to The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck which I’ve also read. Are you seeing the trend?

9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Plan ahead. I don’t like to get caught unprepared so every morning I wake up and look at my calendar to see what the day has in store for me.

I use a SIRI reminders all-to-often to make sure that every little thing, every meeting, every lunch date is logged so I am able to plan accordingly (with a 15-30 minute buffer between them of course).

10) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Work-life balance means something different to everyone, and can change over the course of your life.

When you enter the work force there’s likely a certain amount of ‘grinding’ to do before you’re able to live a bit more comfortably. Take stock of what matters to you, and keep your eye on your finances.

Working hard is a great quality, but working smart is a better one. You’d be surprised how much less stress you’ll feel if you’ve got a little security nest egg in your back pocket.

Save for your damn retirement starting at an early age – no one else is going to do it for you!

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