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Crossing Over

Brand Veteran Keating Joins Operating Side Of Business As Davidson EVP

Friday, February 10, 2017
Dennis Nessler
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Having had the benefit of an up close and personal look at Davidson Hotels & Resorts through her many years on the brand side of the business, when hospitality veteran Colleen Keating got an opportunity to join the executive ranks of the management firm she didn’t hesitate.

Keating recently joined Davidson as EVP, operations and has been tasked with driving the culture, performance and profitability of the company’s portfolio. She is leading the firm’s corporate and regional support teams, as well as taking an active role in owner engagement.

Keating—who has some 25 years of sales and operational leadership experience, including the past 16 years with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide—talked about how her most recent experience leading franchise operations and working closely with many third-party operators impacted her decision. “I had a lot of exposure to Davidson and I just had a tremendous amount of respect for the way Davidson operated, the quality of Davidson’s talent, and the results that we saw coming out of hotels that were operated by Davidson. Honestly, I felt like they were among the best of the best,” he said.

The privately-held management company was founded in 1974 and now has more than 40 properties in its portfolio, including Pivot Hotels & Resorts, the company’s newly created lifestyle and luxury operating division. Keating stressed she was bullish on the company’s overall growth prospects.

“After speaking with the team here I really believe they’ve got a very strong growth strategy and are positioned for really healthy growth. I also admired the diversification of their business in the lifestyle space with the development of Pivot. I just felt like in the upper-upscale and luxury lifestyle space, Davidson was very well-positioned for growth,” he said.

Keating spent the last two-and-a-half years as Starwood’s SVP, franchise operations for North America, where she and her team supported over 260 franchised hotels, spanning five full-service brands and representing over $5 billion in sales. Prior to that, Keating spent some 13 years with Starwood on the owned and managed side of the business. Her first decade in the industry included director-level roles at companies such as Omni International Hotels & Resorts and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.

According to Keating, her familiarity with Davidson President and CEO John Belden, as well as getting to know COO Thom Geshay, were significant factors in her career choice. “My respect and admiration for [John] as a leader very much influenced my decision to come aboard. Also, I spent of lot of time with Thom when we were having discussions. I feel like I’m working with two of the very best leaders in the industry,” she noted.

During the past year, Starwood Hotels & Resorts was officially acquired by Marriott International in a deal that has drastically impacted the industry. While Keating acknowledged it was a factor in her decision she emphasized that changes within Starwood prior to the deal prompted her to re-evaluate her future. “I won’t say it [the merger] was a catalyst for joining Davidson, but maybe the catalyst for me to think differently about what I wanted to do next. As I reflected back on what I had been doing in my career I really did love being on the managed side of the business where I was really working side by side with the hotel teams on the pull-through of strategies and initiatives and really owning the full scope of the P&L. The Davidson opportunity provided me with that in a nearly 6,000 associate organization, so it was a compelling opportunity,” she said.

As driving culture is one of her key responsibilities in her new post, Keating offered some insight into her approach. “I think Davidson has a great culture today and I experienced that when I was franchisor with the caliber of talent and the low turnover that Davidson experiences as well as the tenure of their leadership team. To sum up my philosophy, I talk a lot about a culture of accountability and I think a culture of accountability is really about goals that are clearly defined. It’s about setting the bar high and then building a blue ribbon team because they like to be held accountable; they like to be measured… I think that my culture of accountability very much aligns with the Davidson culture because we want to be the place where top talent wants to be and has all of the right tools, resources and support to really outperform,” she commented.

Keating maintained she has enjoyed her first month on the job during which time she has conducted site visits to a number of the company’s properties in an effort to get to know team members and really observe how the hotels operate. “It’s as great as I was expecting it to be. We have really talented team members and very passionate leaders. We have a great, respectful organization for our associates, but also have a passion and commitment to deliver on our owners’ returns as well,” he said.
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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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