GM brings coach’s mentality to Dream Downtown
04 SEPTEMBER 2015 6:11 AM
All roads led to the hotel industry for Dan Daley, whose earliest career ambitions were to coach either hockey or football.
NEW YORK CITY—All roads in hospitality lead to hotels.
Dan Daley came to that realization years ago, having spent a few years running some of the trendiest nightclubs in New York City.
First came the Gerber Group’s Stone Rose Lounge in the Time Warner Center as director of nightlife. Then there was a stint with TAO Strategic Group’s LAVO Restaurant and Nightclub.
“After a little bit of time in the business, it sort of clicked that the end of this road is hotels. It’s the best this industry has to offer. Not only is it restaurants, bars and clubs, but it’s also the entirety of what this business has to offer on the biggest platform,” he said while sitting on the pool deck of NYC’s Dream Downtown, the 314-room urban oasis he oversees as GM.
And to think he was sleeping on his sister’s couch only a few years prior.
The winding road
“It was not planned. It was not intentional,” Daley said of landing in the hospitality space.
After studying international affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., his plan originally was to go to law school.
The travel bug bit him first, so Daley spent a year or so after college traveling the world. He saw the sites, studied Italian in Rome and traveled to a lot of interesting places.
And then he ran out of money.
“Eventually I ran out of money as one is wont to do when you’re not working for a year. So I moved to New York, was sleeping on my sister’s couch and was desperate to find a job,” he said.
A friend who worked in marketing at the Gerber Group put him in touch with the operations team at the Stone Rose.
“‘I think you’d be great at this business. It fits your personality. It’s very exciting and dynamic. You get to meet a lot of interesting people,’” Daley recalls a Gerber team member saying.
He didn’t disappoint, climbing up the ladder through various positions until he was director of nightlife. Eventually, TAO came calling. Eric Danziger wasn’t far behind.
His grand ‘Début’
“Eventually I was contacted by (Hampshire Hotels Management’s Début Hotel Group),” Daley recalled. “They had a specific position open. I interviewed for it. Thankfully and very gratefully I ended up getting it. I accepted the offer on the spot.”
It was an easy decision, thanks in part to a conversation Daley had with Hampshire’s then-president and CEO, Eric Danziger. (Danziger has since accepted the role of CEO at Trump Hotel Collection, a post he assumed 1 September.)
“I had a meeting with Eric where he laid out his vision for the company, his philosophy. I was simply amazed,” Daley said. “It was just something I had to be a part of. To be part of a company that’s growing and building and to hopefully have the chance to influence a company’s future, to be a part of that simply was an amazing opportunity.”
He officially signed on with Hampshire in August 2014 as director of operations. He was appointed GM of the Dream less than a year later, when the property’s then-GM moved to oversee the opening of the Dream Hollywood.
“This property in general certainly keeps me busy. For the most part I focus on simply executing the vision of Eric and the other owners,” Daley said.
The hotel is familiar territory in some respects. The Dream has seven food-and-beverage outlets, including the PH-D rooftop lounge that offers panoramic views from its lofty position above Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.
“We have perhaps the most vibrant nightlife and dining scene out of any hotel,” he said.
|The Dream Downtown’s pool is built over the hotel lobby, creating a shimmering cascade of sunlight as guests check in during the day. (Photo: Début Hotel Group)|
The coach’s playbook
If Daley weren’t working in the hotel industry, he’d likely be coaching hockey or football—an aspiration he’s held since childhood.
The role of GM certainly scratches that itch.
“I love being a coach on a daily basis,” he said. “I love helping other people develop. I love seeing when one of our ‘plays’ is executed properly, when a guest is greeted personally on arrival or the bellman is engaging with them in an interesting and meaningful way, and then the front-desk agent greets the guest by their name.”
Like any good coach, Daley cultivates his team carefully. Each new hire goes through a rigorous hiring process in which five or more team members weigh in.
“We’d rather have the position go unfilled until we find the right person than fill that position with the wrong person,” he said.
The right person has the right attitude, Daley added. She smiles, is warm, energetic. And she needs to get along with her fellow players.
“You need people who bring that personality and high energy to the table,” he explained. “Anybody we bring in to the team, I care about if they’re going to get along with everybody else. … The one wrong person can have a seriously negative effect on that. That’s why we have such a rigorous hiring process. We hire hard and manage easy.”
You can have the most beautiful hotel in the world, Daley said, but without the right team the guest experience will falter.
“We have the most unique team that I have ever been a part of,” he said. “I enjoy coming to work every single day.”