Fairmont Olympic’s Five-Star Manager

Dennis Clark was recently named General Manager of the Year by the Association of Hotels You’re Too Poor to Stay At, or something like that.

A few weeks ago, Dennis Clark's to-do list could have passed for a heady social calendar: It included dinner with the world's fifth-richest man, breakfast with the world's top CEOs, and very little sleep. But for the general manager of Seattle's five-diamond Fairmont Olympic Hotel, that's all part of keeping one of the city's most beloved landmarks up and running. "I don't know of a handful of hotels that could handle the things we handle on a daily basis," Clark says. Certainly, Clark takes the responsibility seriously. Walking around the hotel, he has every detail at his fingertips, from the number of colors in the lobby's carpets to the name and life history of the new guy in accounting. Most general managers don't pay this much attention to detail, he says. But according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Clark isn't most managers. Two weeks ago, the organization awarded Clark their "General Manager of the Year, Large Property" title for his "superior professionalism in the hotel industry." Clark is used to accolades, but this one feels especially good. "It's national recognition," he says. "I'm very proud." He doesn't know who nominated him for the award, but watching him work, it's clear that quite a few people think he deserves it. There isn't an employee in the place who doesn't have a smile and a respectful greeting for him, right down to the woman rushing past with a loaded banquet tray. "I think they can sense that I care about them," says Clark of his employees. "I know how hard that job is." He also knows how hard it is to get ahead in hotels. Years ago, Clark had to quit college when his father got sick, and he worked his way up through a number of restaurant jobs before breaking into the hospitality industry. Now he's the best in the business and going strong. From the look of the newly renovated lobby, he's come a long way toward reversing the relatively neglected state he found the hotel in five years ago, and he's not done yet. "It doesn't make any difference what I do during my day," he says. "It's how much of the day I can give 100 percent to my work that matters."

 
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