“I have worked my way up in hospitality since I was 15… from being a dishwasher, line cook, server, bartender, and several managerial roles”
Our Employee Spotlight this month features James Waterfield: Director of Hospitality. James leads our 20+ hotel and convention center locations through operations and sales. Leading his team, serving our clients and rowing his way to the top, is his specialty.
Check out the full interview with James below!
How long have you been at Mills James?
I started here in September 2022 as the Director of Hospitality. I am the operations and sales leader for our 20+ hotel and convention center locations in the US.
Where were you before Mills James?
I have 15+ years of experience in the industry. I started as an Assistant Director and worked my way up to a Regional Sales Director where I developed training and onboarding programs for new employees introduction to customer service and the highest technical and quality standards.
What made you want to go into Hospitality?
My degree is in Hospitality and Tourism and International Business. I have worked my way up in hospitality since I was 15, from being a dishwasher, line cook, server, bartender, and several managerial roles. Before getting into the hotel industry, I opened eight Ted’s Montana Grill’s in Illinois, Georgia, Kansas, and Florida.
Tell me a bit about how you run the Hospitality team?
I try to keep a blend of transformational, coaching, and servant leadership in how I lead the team. Through transformational, we are always looking at ways to be more efficient in the way our team members do their jobs through client interactions and equipment utilization. With coaching, I strive to coach our employees through changes while listening to what is working well, what is not, and finding solutions. And lastly, all of the leaders in Hospitality are servant leaders providing for our managers, techs, hotel partners, and ultimately, for our clients. This service mentality is what is at the heart of Mills JamesHospitality.
What is a project that you’ve worked on that sticks out to you compared to the others?
I was just recently part of a large event at the Dayton Convention Center where we partnered with Target Dayton on Christmas Day to serve over 2,500 guests. Target Dayton is a non-profit ministry to the poor and homeless in the inner-city of Dayton, Ohio. They had over 350 volunteers running this large event this past weekend and it was an honor for Mills James to be a part of something so impactful to the community. It was the perfect way to spend part of my Christmas. Watch the recap on their website: https://www.targetdayton.com/christmasday.
What’s the biggest challenge you see in this industry?
One of the biggest challenges I see across the board is staffing at the properties, as a continual issue from the pandemic. It was very common to see hotel managers and staff leave during the pandemic and go into a different field, with only a small amount of them returning after. We have also seen this shift with meeting planners as well. The event industry changed so much in 2020 that we are still seeing some challenges linger. However, our hotel and convention center partners are continuing to bring in new employees and train to get them up to speed on the highest level of service. Our onsite teams work with the new employees to ensure our clients needs are always being met.
What do you like to do outside of work?
One of my all-time favorite things to do in my free time is rowing. I have won several US Master’s National Gold medals across the years and even one International medal at the Royal Canadian Henly Regatta. Though I do not find myself on the water as much as I once was, you will now find me camping, hiking, coaching soccer, horse showing, to name a few, with my husband and our two kids.