It’s hard to be a General Manager

We’re blessed to have a successful Vacation Ownership segment of the market. Thank you Raymond Maduro and his team of yesteryears.

Most VO resorts are already three to four decades old, well-oiled machines, considerably successful, with a steady flow of income from membership dues and rent income from concessionaires. That said, they have to be smart about their five-year projections, because the big money was made on sales many years ago, and renovations and improvements must be sustained creatively.

While the EP resorts spend fortunes on sales and marketing, VO properties don’t even have a budget line for that.

All of Aruba’s VO resorts are run by member-cooperatives, associations, and the General Manager, a professional hotelier almost always answers to board-members who know nothing about hospitality, but may be venerated experts in their own fields, which made them sufficiently affluent to be able to afford VO weeks in Aruba.

One of my friends, a general manager of a successful large VO property explained to me yesterday, that it is of utmost importance, on day one, to outline in writing, what the GM’s responsibility is and what is of interest to board members, who don’t live on the island, are retired, bored know-it-alls, happy to put their many years of expertise in plumbing or heating to good use, here.

Aruba has a long history of meddlesome boards, who attempt to micro manage by remote control.

Years ago we saw the breakup of Casa Del Mar and Aruba Beach Club, makes no sense from a historical point of view. Why have double of everything, just because board members can’t get along. Bob Curtis the current GM of Casa del Mar could run both.

Because, the single most important quality in a VO GM, is his ability to get along with his board members.

In recent months, after the retirement of Farida Mansur, a woman with extraordinary staying-power, the Aruba Beach Club hired and then fired two young local general managers. I feel for these two professionals, but I know for a fact that they were challenged by meddlesome board members on one hand, and confronted by rebellious staffers, who found it difficult to adjust to the sweep of a new broom, after Farida’s long reign, on the other.

In 2008, a coup d’état at Costa Linda, pitched membership against local management. Under Royal Resorts things have been nice and quiet. I imagine the current management company outlined in writing, on day one, what the GM’s responsibility is, and what is of interest to board members.

Which brings me to Caribbean Palm Village Resort where Astrid Muller was the Interim General Manager for nine years!!! Sure, we’re friends, but that’s beside the point.

I have seen her operate over the years. Guests drink her Kool-Aid, and staff members drink her Kool-Aid, happy and grateful to be on vacation and/or to be working under her leadership.

Her chronically ungrateful board members combined with a drama-queen, doomsday prophet accountant, employed her service as an ‘Interim’ for nine years. Imagine. That is such deep lack of respect and appreciation.

Why? Because she is a local. Or perhaps because she is female. Or perhaps because she is a female over 30?

But Karma struck fast. With Astrid’s retirement, the drama-queen, doomsday-prophet accountant was booted out along with the spineless chairman of the board.

But that doesn’t make up for nine years of disrespect. My view, not hers.

Last minute, the GM of the Courtyard by Marriott will be replaced. My take: You have to hire carefully, then be patient, and supportive to the max. You can’t expect an inexperienced young professional to turn seasoned overnight.

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February 06, 2020
Rona Coster