Interstate Hotels & Resorts President and CEO Mike Deitemeyer got his start in hotels through an internship with none other than Interstate itself. In this installment of Hotel News Now’s First Jobs series, Deitemeyer talks about his path from intern to CEO and what he learned along the way.
ARLINGTON, Virginia—Mike Deitemeyer, president and CEO of Interstate Hotels & Resorts, one of the largest third-party hotel management companies in the world, got into the hotel industry by accident.
At Fitchburg State College (now a university), Deitemeyer was studying to become a certified public accountant. When it came time to do his internship, he had a choice in how he would spend his summer: writing SOPs in the basement of a bank, working in the corporate office of a grocery store chain or working accounts payable at the Worcester Marriott in Worcester, Massachusetts.*
“I'd actually never been in a hotel that nice,” he said. “And I said, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
The internship certainly wasn’t “very sexy,” as Deitemeyer described it, because he was still in a little room in the back of a hotel, but that was where he developed a love for the business and the energy around hospitality and all the people he got to meet. The hotel was a dynamic place when it opened, with 300 employees, a restaurant, retail spaces and, like many hotels in the mid-1980s, a nightclub.
“And I think doing that internship, the thought of, at least my mental image of what a CPA was going to be doing, versus all this great opportunity to meet people and interact with people, hospitality just became my passion,” he said.
New career path
After graduating with a degree in accounting, Deitemeyer went to work for the company that gave him his internship: Interstate. The week he graduated, he moved to North Carolina, followed by Memphis a year later, then Minneapolis after that and then back to Memphis before moving on to Texas and Massachusetts again.
“At the time I started with Interstate, at the 20-ish hotels, I got caught up in all that growth and had an opportunity to move all over the country,” he said. “It was a really great foundation in the industry, because by experiencing all of these different hotels and different ways to get things done, it kind of really opened up my eyes to the potential in the industry.”
Hoteliers who have a long career in the industry tend to touch a lot of different places and jobs, Deitemeyer said. He started as an accounts payable clerk before becoming a general cashier and then an assistant food-and-beverage controller to full F&B controller. He also cooked in the kitchen, worked at the front desk and then worked as a controller and after that as an area finance director.
Deitemeyer later left Interstate to start a small hotel management company, Shoreline Operating Company, where he was CFO. TRT Holdings, which owned Shoreline, later bought Omni Hotels & Resorts.
“I was one of the guys working on the project and then complained the ops guys weren’t doing a good job because they weren’t hitting my numbers, and they made me COO and then I was president of Omni,” he said.
Deitemeyer served as president of Omni for 13 years before returning to Interstate as its president and CEO in March 2017.
Learning to be a leader
Along the way, Deitemeyer has had a number of bosses, and he learned a lesson from each of them, he said. While working in a building with 200 to 300 people, there’s the opportunity to observe different characteristics and strengths in others.
“If you keep your eyes open, it allows you to really build yourself as a manager and a leader,” he said.
One of his early mentors is now with one of his company’s biggest competitors, he said. It’s a small industry, so he said he encourages people to value every relationship they make because “it’s amazing how you bump back into people constantly.”
The biggest transformation for Deitemeyer was moving out of finance. Finance people in the hotel industry tend to be operationally minded, he said. When he moved from being an accountant to being an operating officer, Deitemeyer was in a position to help guide a brand and consumer interaction with the brand.
“From that transition is where I would say that the power of the culture really came to me, to understand with real clarity in order to get, at the time, 15,000 employees to move and understand the vision of an organization,” he said. “That was a turning point for me and I got to really get my head around being a leader and what that meant.”
Since he started his career, Deitemeyer said the hotel industry has evolved for the better. There’s a better understanding of the importance of sense of place and how brands and hotels have moved forward, he said. There’s more understanding now that the local nuances are something to be embraced and emulated in a hotel.
“There’s certainly more openness along those lines and more openness to diversity in the workforce and the appreciation of what people bring to the hotel and to the experience that localizes it and makes it something special,” he said.
Coming into the industry after working through college, Deitemeyer said he wasn’t prepared right away for hotels being a 24-hour-a-day business. There were times early on that he wasn’t sure if it was for him, such as having to miss Easter or Christmas because there was an event going on at the hotel and he needed to help out there. But he stayed with it.
“It’s an industry I'm passionate about, and if you stick with it, and if you have an end game and a vision, there’s lots of opportunity in this industry, and I'd encourage you to give it time, to challenge yourself to spend the time to really understand it and see what your potential is,” he said.
Once Deitemeyer fully understood the hotel business, he found it requires a constant focus and energy, he said. Many people talk about having a life balance, but Deitemeyer sees so many people vested in what the company is doing, he feels the need to be there to support them.
“As I think of my schedule from the day I became a manager to today, I still try to be at my desk by 7:00 a.m. to really prepare to set my team up for success,” he said.
Editor’s note: Interstate Hotels & Resorts paid for meals, flights and accommodations at The Graham Washington D.C. Georgetown, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, to allow for a series of interviews at the company’s headquarters. Complete editorial control was at the discretion of the Hotel News Now editorial team; Interstate had no influence on the coverage provided.
*Correction, 2 August 2019: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Worcester, Massachusetts.