Local director’s dream fulfilled at Four Seasons

By:Pauline Ngunjuri

Mac Kee France, the Director for Recreations at the Four Seasons resort, childhood dream to become an international diplomat has indirectly been fulfilled by the resort.
He was a diligent and a dedicated teacher at the Charlestown Secondary School(CSS) who boosted his income by doing a part time job in the dining room at the resort. He impressed the management and was consequently invited to take up a full time job on January 17th, 1991.

“They told me they would make me a supervisor, which meant more responsibilities. Over the years, they have sent me all over the world where they have other Four Seasons resorts and hotels.”
His greatest excitement at the time was when the resort’s management told him they would double his teacher’s salary. “They told me they would double my salary. For a 20 year old to get a double salary in an instant was a big motivator for me,” France said in an interview recently.

“I wanted to be a diplomat. That is why I learnt French. I wanted to travel all over the world to stop wars and create world peace. This did not work out. I did not get a scholarship. My family could not afford to send me to school.
“When I got an opportunity to work at Four Seasons, I realized this was going to be a good opportunity. When I got my first promotion, I realized I was on the way to get something bigger”.

Prior to becoming the Director for Recreations, he has held managerial positions. He has headed the following departments – water sports program, Four Seasons kids program, Golf, Maintenance, Tennis Program, Golf Services, Medical services and something new, which came on stream three years ago, which is called, Local Cultural Experiences. He has stints at 16 Four Seasons resorts.
He has met hundreds and thousands of guests from all over the world. “It has been a great experience just to understand their backgrounds and how this can be integrated into my culture,” he stated.
He further said: “I have made very many friends and the friendships continue. I have visited so many parts of the world. I do not stay at Four Seasons hotels even though I get complimentary rooms. Friends insist that I stay with them. I have become like their family. I have over 20 families from Boston. Each year I go. The challenge I have is determining whom do I stay with. “

Most of the guests he has met are from USA. There are some guests from Europe.
France has maintained a positive attitude to his duties and experiences even when faced with challenges: “There have been times when I have felt like giving up. In this business you have to tell yourself that you have a goal. There is something I want to achieve at the end of this journey. I have been motivated by many wonderful experiences. Learning something from my peers, learning something from my guests, I have been motivated by people who had my interest at heart. I have learnt to play my part and make my contribution; I have learnt to listen to people and to adapt certain best practices. I have done a lot of research. I have made an effort to eliminate what does not work.”

France has created a personal document that he calls “Survival Tips”. He is organized and structured but he is also spontaneous when he needs to be. “Before I go to bed, I make a note of what I will accomplish the next day. Who I will talk to, which guests I will visit, when I get up in the morning, I do a check list. I stay in touch with my supervisors to find out where they need my help. I plan my time well so I can be in areas where I am most needed at the appropriate times. What I did not accomplish today, I put it on the front page for the next day. I tackle that unless another pressing priority surfaces.”

This is France’s advice to young employees: “There are going to be huge sacrifices along the way. I would advise them to learn as much as they can learn at the Four Seasons hotel. I would advise them to be accountable to themselves. Be open and honest. Allow yourself to make mistakes, learn from them and grow from mistakes. Make friends because everybody needs help. Save your earnings. You never know when you will face a rainy day. “
France strongly believes that simple etiquette or manners, play a huge part . Telling people ‘Good Morning’. Smiling..Showing concern for others. Expose them by reading widely, watching TV to gather experiences and ideas, visit upscale places to help understand what the world is like.”

“When you think of 10 per cent tax on food and beverage and the 12 per cent service charge multiplied by the number of guests who come to the resort throughout the year, you can imagine the tremendous contribution the resort makes to the island of Nevis.”

Currently there are 800 local employees working at the resort. In the past 25 years, the employees have had training opportunities. Some have acquired skills that have enabled them to start their own businesses.
France also talked of the spinoff economic activities that benefit the island of Nevis – the catamaran, restaurants, art and craft, baby sitters, taxi drivers, jet skiing. The resort has reached out to communities. “We have established and maintained lawns in schools. Local children benefit from the summer program. Kids are instructed on golf and tennis, intern programs, culinary and front desk.”
“Everything cannot come to you automatically. Sometimes you have to reach out. You have to create a little niche. Look for somebody who can direct you.”

“We have sent people overseas. Managers, Directors of House Keeping, chefs, there is an executive chef from Nevis, at Serengeti, Africa, Curtis Smithen.
We have put Nevis on the map. There was a time we were the No 1 Resort in the world. There are a number of guests who have left and talked about Nevis. We sell Nevis. We have one of the best golf courses and the No 1 Tennis facility in the Caribbean.

Best moment, “When the hotel closed after hurricane Omar, I was given the task of taking on rooms division. I was stressed. I was able to meet Chairman and Founder of the company, Isadore Sharp. I was sent abroad to work at different Four Seasons observing how similar hotels are run and shopping for ideas. I have survived the ups and downs. I made it to celebrate silver jubilee. “

“ I thank the Four Seasons for giving me the opportunity to grow and develop and make my contribution. I am very proud of what I have achieved. My goal is to help others reach as far as I have reached and beyond. I am very grateful that through Four Seasons, I have personally and professionally grown in leaps and bounds. The knowledge and experience have helped me and I am very proud of that,” France said.

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