New GM hits the ground running
As soon as he arrived at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila last month, Adam Laker literally hit the ground running. The luxury hotel’s new general manager joined a fun run to launch Vietura, a joint-venture wellness facility of Sofitel and Dr. MJ Torres. Laker won the race in his age category.
On the day of his interview with Inquirer Lifestyle, Laker attended to the enrollment of his two school-aged children at the British School Manila in Taguig City. He and his wife have three children, the youngest born two years ago.
Before his new post at Sofitel Manila, Laker was the GM at the Sofitel Resort and Spa in Fiji. His other postings include stints at the J.W. Marriott Resort & Spa in Thailand and a number of properties in Australia.
Asked to describe what’s it like working with Fiji locals and Asian employees, he said that Polynesians are very laid-back, preferring to “do things tomorrow if you can’t do it today.” Filipinos, Vietnamese and Thai people are always pushing forward. They want things done ‘yesterday.’”
What’s good in Manila
When it comes to issues or challenges hoteliers have to face, Laker said they are usually very similar. “Hotels are always striving to bring in business, customers. We also want to ensure that guests enjoy their stay and, hopefully, tell others about it,” he said.
The other issues are those created by the environment.
Because of the infrastructure in Fiji, it was difficult to get regular supplies of lamb, beef and dairy; everything had to be flown in. In Manila, all of these and more are widely available.
One need only check out the breakfast, lunch or dinner buffet spread at Spiral, the newly renovated all-day dining F&B outlet of the hotel. A room is devoted entirely to an assortment of cheeses and cold cuts, while the other live stations offer everything from freshly-prepared Indian and Korean dishes to tasty Italian and Chinese cuisine.
The renovation of Spiral was necessary after the chaos wrought by “Ondoy” (Typhoon Ketsana). Although he was not here at the time, Laker was aware of the devastating typhoon that hit most of Central Luzon and the National Capital Region in 2009.
“Fiji is on a cyclone flight path. In my three years there, I went through four cyclones that were of any consequence. Three of them were only Category 1 or just bad weather, while one was a Category 5,” he said.
At Sofitel Manila, barriers have been built into Spiral and walls that come down and protect the hotel from water penetration have been installed.
Laker’s managerial style is a combination of “open door policy” and “chain of command.” His executives have direct access to him but the line staff should have access to their direct superiors.
“Running a hotel of this size requires a chain of command, but then to make it successful, each level should have an open door policy. Line staff should feel comfortable enough to talk to their managers, supervisors should feel comfortable enough to talk to their division heads, and those division heads should be comfortable speaking to the executives and the executives to myself.
“Of course, I interact daily with the line staff but they wouldn’t talk to me about their lack of teaspoons because then I’d get nothing done,” he said.
Laker said that the Sofitel Philippine Plaza is the largest property he’s handled based on the number of guest rooms, but he’s optimistic that he’ll get things done.
“I’m fortunate to have a really good team. When you have a hotel this large, you rely a lot more on your senior managers. I wouldn’t be able to run it without them.”
His role, he said, “is more about orchestrating and making sure everything happens as they should, trusting my executives to do what they’re supposed to be doing.”