I went to Seattle for the first time in 1984 to conduct a site visit for a client. At the Seattle Sheraton, I worked with Brian Peterson, then the hotel’s director of sales, and met Kim Peterson, Brian’s younger brother, who was in convention services. I was fascinated to learn that not only did they both work in the same hotel but that Kim’s father-in-law, Phil Richter, had been in the hospitality industry for years. Sadly, Mr. Richter passed away late in 2017.

In preparing for this newsletter and interviews, I reached out to Brian--who left hospitality some time ago and recently completed a second career in the magazine publishing business--and learned the following:

Phil Richter was the GM at the Seattle Sheraton pre-and post-opening. He came down from the Sheraton Anchorage where he was hugely successful in opening that hotel. Prior to that he was in the Midwest, Sheraton Chicago and I think Cincinnati before. What's really odd is he and I both started with Sheraton in Minneapolis--he in catering, me in sales, roughly a year apart. After Seattle, he went to the Sheraton Salt Lake, then decided to head back to Alaska to own/run a high-end restaurant outside Anchorage. He also opened a similar restaurant near Semiahmoo when I was there after leaving the Seattle Sheraton. I have little sense of time, but he must have been GM for at least 20 years.” 

I also asked Brian if he had any idea if he’d influenced Kim’s decision to go into the industry and he wrote: “Well, the hospitality industry is a good place to carve a people-centric career. It's one where you can have a positive impact on other lives as you champion co-workers and build lasting friendships that span decades. I still keep in contact with the guy who originally hired me in Minneapolis, not to mention friends from every other hotel location. Did Phil's and my career choice have real influence on other family members? Perhaps in the beginning, but once in, both realized it was a good fit. I'm proud of their success.” (To which I concur!)

Kim Peterson, Director of Event Management, Sheraton Seattle Hotel

I have been in the industry for 37 years, 35 of them at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel. With the transition into Marriott International, the positions in their event management [department] look a little different than they functioned in Starwood.

Greg Peterson. Assistant Location Manager Westin Seattle Valet (ACE Parking)

Greg Peterson

I started in hospitality in 2003 as a valet at the Sheraton Seattle. A year later, I joined the banquet team as a houseman at the Sheraton Seattle. In 2005 I transitioned to the front desk as a front desk agent and a couple years later went on to be the night manager at the Sheraton Seattle. I oversaw all departments and helped out wherever I was needed--from helping security evict guests to helping housekeeping clean rooms. You name it, I did it.

Joan: Kim: We first met in 1984 when I had my first trip to Seattle and did a site inspection at the Sheraton. I think I learned on that trip that not only was one of your older brothers in sales at the same hotel but that your father-in-law was a GM. What I don’t know or don’t remember: How did you choose hospitality? And why convention services vs. sales or operations like your father-in-law?

Kim: I haven’t considered a move into sales along the way, as the servicing of all of our group and catering business has kept me engaged, I have a wonderful team of event managers that are laser focused on servicing their groups at a high level. One aspect of my work that I really enjoy is building and maintaining business relationships; we have pieces of business on the group side that will visit Seattle as often as they are able, when it comes up on their rotation and we have built a very loyal catering clientele, too, with new supply entering our market, these relationships will help us retain our business.

Joan: Greg: I remember when I was in Seattle for a convention and you had started working the front desk at the Sheraton and how excited I was that you were there.  In what ways did your grandfather, uncle and dad influence your decision to go into hospitality?  

Greg: I think being around the industry for as long as I have, I had an idea on where I wanted to start my career. Growing up, I loved going into work with my dad on the weekends and just hanging out in the offices or downstairs in the lobby. And as I grew older, my dad started taking me out with the sales/catering team on “Thirsty 3rd Thursdays.” I always had fun with everyone I met at the hotel. It was an easy decision to want to stay with them and build on the relationships I developed over the years with the team at the Sheraton.

Joan: Kim: If you ever tried to persuade Gregory [NOTE: Having known “Gregory” since he was a very young boy, I have still not transitioned to calling him “Greg!”]--or had thoughts of doing so but restrained yourself!--to go into a different field, what was your thinking?

Kim: I let Greg make his own choices along the way, it’s a much different climate in the business as it relates to hiring family members. For instance, he would make a great event manager, but he would need to get going in a local hotel other than the Sheraton Seattle

Joan: Greg: When did you know this was what you wanted to do and why? How have you decided where you wanted to be and why? What’s the most satisfying aspect of what you do?

Greg: I knew I wanted to be in hospitality after all the years being involved at the Sheraton with my dad. I liked the family-like atmosphere. I got to know so many people. I knew I wanted to work for that team.

Joan: To each and both of you, two more questions:

  1. In what ways do you act as sounding boards for each other and how can others with family in the same industry do so for their family members?
  2. Your best advice to others who have family or close friends who want to join us in hospitality and how to do so and why.

Kim: The hotel industry provides an opportunity to know individuals in like roles in the city and this can help in getting a family member into a property, other than the one you are working in.

Greg: Be patient. Be open to learning outside your comfort zone. When I started at the front desk, I was a really shy kid. But I knew I had to break out of my shell at some point and I felt that was the way to do it. Be available to help when needed. When you’re up cleaning rooms with the housekeeping team in a suit at 1 a.m., it goes a long way.

Related Reading From the September 2018 Edition of Friday With Joan

Click here to view additional content in the 09.07.18 Friday With Joan newsletter.