DEI Advisors Podcast

Lovell Casiero, SVP Commerical Strategies, PM Hotel Group interviewed by Dorothy Dowling

December 05, 2023 David Kong
DEI Advisors Podcast
Lovell Casiero, SVP Commerical Strategies, PM Hotel Group interviewed by Dorothy Dowling
Show Notes Transcript

Lovell’s inspiring journey from an administrative role to Chief Commercial Officer at PM Hotel Group is remarkable. Her work ethic, guided by her parent’s advice, and the support of mentors have been pivotal. She advocates for not burning bridges and actively managing one’s career to achieve coveted roles.

Dorothy Dowling:

Greetings. I am Dorothy Dowling, a principal of DEI Advisors. We are a nonprofit organization dedicated to personal empowerment. I am delighted to welcome Lovell Caserio, SVP of Commercial Strategies at PM Hotel Group to our show. Lovell it is an honor to have you with us today.

Lovell Caserio:

I'm delighted to be here, Dorothy. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Dorothy Dowling:

I thought maybe we could start talking a little bit about your career journey, Lavelle, because you've had such an amazing career over a very long period of time. So I'm hoping you can share with us that journey and any success tips you have for our audience.

Lovell Caserio:

Sure. So it has been a long time. It's hard to think about how many years I've been in the hospitality industry, but I started back in my mid twenties. And I'd like to say that. Hospitality found me. I was not seeking it out. It found me and literally someone recommended that I go to a new hotel that had been built. And it was in North Carolina. I was in North Carolina at the time and they were looking for an admin. Back then we were called Secretary Storthy, but I remember those days and it was for the catering director and just, as fate would have it started and within the first two weeks, the director of catering left and they were looking at me and I was looking at them and saying, I have no idea what I'm doing, but if you tell me what you need, I'll do the best I can. And I found something that first of all, I loved, I just loved the interaction with the people and the sales side of it and the hotel space and being in a hotel every day. And I found something that loved me back that I was good at and that I could. I could grow very quickly. And that was the beginning of the journey throughout the journey on property. I worked every position within the sales office, whether it was by design or by default. And sometimes when I was the director of catering, I had made it to the director of catering. I would have open positions and convention services and things like that. So I knew that I was in an industry where growth was achievable if you just had a really good work ethic and was. Authentic. I think sometimes you one piece of advice I would give is just admit what you don't know, because if you admit what you don't know, then you're going to be able to be, people will help you that will be happy to help you and teach you and mentor you. And sometimes the question not ask is the. Stupidest question, right? So we have to ask questions, but I left the hospitality industry for one decade of my life and to step up and help my family. My family was in a crisis and my dad needed me to help him run his television evangelist. He's a television evangelist and he needed me to run his ministry. And so I did step into that for for about nine years. And it was also a lesson in leadership. Like you just would, could not imagine. All of a sudden at 30 years old, I'm meeting with attorneys and doing it. I said, it was my first acquisition. Corporate demolition type of experience, but you learn a lot. And I think I walked away from that knowing that you can, if you just put your mind to it, you can figure it out. You can, and you just have to have the tenacity and the determination. And it's interesting when you have a family crisis that, you got to deliver for, and you have a personal investment in it. And then I think after that, I just started taking it to my hospitality, went back into hospitality after dad was able to come back. And we, I just see that as making it personal and knowing that every decision you make affects someone else and that it's not all about you. And then it takes a team. And all of a sudden my career just took it off. Mentorship is important. All of the things, right? You got to have a great mentor. You got to network. You got to admit what you don't know and learn what you learn, what you don't know. And then you reach a point where you have to impart what you know and empower your team. So it's just, it's been an amazing journey and I am so grateful for it.

Dorothy Dowling:

Lavelle, I know I've come to know you through H-S-M-E-I, and one of the things that I have great respect is that it's this humbleness that you bring to. Just your leadership and your commitment to others, and I do think that is something that is truly valued by teams today is having a leader who is part of the team that supports them and recognizes them and really is a strong advocate. I appreciate your philosophy of always being open to admitting when you don't know, because I think it's leaders. We are often in situations where we don't know, and I think that does build us an esprit de corps with our teammates, because everyone's in it together in terms of figuring it out.

Lovell Caserio:

That's right. That's right. I often say I have been very fortunate to work with some of the same people through multiple companies, and I hope that says a little bit about me as a leader that they want to join my team, even having worked with me before. But 1 of the things I say, and I say it to them and in front of them is I'm not the smartest person at the table when my team is there. Here's what I'm really good at. I'm really good at motivating people. I'm really good at inspiring people to their greatness, but I'm not the person who understands hotel systems or knows how to navigate in, in a PMS system, I've never touched one. It's that sort of thing. I have brand experts. I have revenue management experts. I have people that are experts in fed rooms and you tap into that. And any great leader that's not doing that has opportunity to grow as a leader because it's not about me, it's about them.

Dorothy Dowling:

Yeah, it truly is that some of that parts of being able to harness everyone's subject matter expertise and really build them into that powerful team that you referenced. I'm wondering if I could ask you a little bit about personal Mantra because a lot of folks that have been part of DEI advisors have something that has powered. Their career success. Do you have a personal mantra that you could share with us?

Lovell Caserio:

I think I will tell you that I was raised by a mother who said, pull your bootstraps up and keep on going. And I know my Southern accent came out because I'm quoting mom, but and my dad said, walk in the room like you own it. And so a lot of times as women, we struggle with confidence. And I think the fact that I had such an amazing work ethic from mom, I really did. Her, my work ethic with today is what it is because of my mother and the confidence that I have because my dad said, walk in that room like you own it. And. So I often tell this story and then say, this is what makes me right? I'm pulling my bootstraps up and walking in the room. I own it. I used to have a hard time talking about this, but I learned that a lot of people in this industry is also. Not a college graduate and I did not go to college and I recommend it but it just wasn't a choice. I made when, when it was time to go to college, but I've grown so well and reach so many goals in this industry. And so if I guess if I had to boil it down to 1 mantra, I would just say, be your authentic you just be you. Be authentic. People see through it. If you're trying to be something you're not, if you're trying to be a, I've looked and a lot of people like to exaggerate, whatever. And I just say, be authentic. Be your authentic you bring that every day and people will see the authenticity, the humbleness, the whatever, and they will want to help you. And that's just, I think that's been the secret to my sauce really

Dorothy Dowling:

well. And, when we think about today Lavelle, that is truly what a lot of teammates are looking for is really working with leaders that they can believe in and they are very. of judging when people are not being authentic. So I am sure that has been and I'm very important to your leadership, your team's followership and all of the great success you've brought to the different companies that you have led. Outside of your mom and dad, are there career champions that have helped shape your

Lovell Caserio:

career? Absolutely. Absolutely. Some of them actually, believe it or not some of them work for me today, but used to be in a position of leadership that was above me and would just champion. I just go back to the days. This is going back to the to the early 90s. I'm sorry late 90s, early 2000 when I had the很慘的時侯pleasure of working for a company called Maristar and Maristar doesn't exist anymore because it became part of what is now known to us as IHR. But I worked for an individual there named Teresa Kazerman and Teresa has gone on. She graduated to a higher calling unfortunately, after a battle with breast cancer, but. She saw something in me that I didn't even see in me. And she would call me and she would critique my marketing plan and she would critique my star report. And she would let, she was as direct as I am. So she didn't beat around the bush about what she was calling for. She would dive right in to how I could be better and how I could. rework this marketing plan. And at the end of every call, she would say. I know I seem like I'm being hard on you, but I just want you to be the best. Now, I think that she was probably saying that to every one of her DLSs, but she was so authentic. And so you just wanted to produce well for Teresa. Like I wanted to make her so proud of me. And literally the first above property role that I had and took in 2005, she was interviewed for it. She was offered the job and when she decided not to take it, she recommended me. I was at her toughest property in her portfolio in the existing company. And she was so selfless. Like she just said, this is your start. This, you need to take this. This is not where you're going to be forever. I was there for 10 years. But she said, you're going to do well. This is what you need to do. And she advised me so well, in addition to that, going back to those days. The president of that company was a gentleman named Dave McCaslin and McCaslin, and many people know Dave. And to this day, I still call Dave. I still call Dave if I'm making a career choice or thinking about something in my career, when I started my own company, I called Dave. And what I loved about Dave is even as a director of sales on property, and he's the president of the company. He would call me every Friday and he would ask me one question. Are you still having fun? And I would say, yeah, Dave, I'm still having fun. It's been a week, but I'm still having fun. And that he just wanted to make sure I was okay. And to. To be that accessible as the president of a company to a first time director of sales is amazing. I think it's amazing. And I want to be that person. I want to always be accessible to the people that I lead, no matter how many steps down they are from where I am, you can't forget where you came from.

Dorothy Dowling:

Those are beautiful stories. I do think the story about Teresa giving you feedback because I've always thought feedback is a gift and often it is hard to listen to feedback, but the fact that she lifted you up at the end of every time she offered that kind of feedback to really contextualize it on that she was very committed to you and your professional growth. That's truly amazing. And I do think your story about Dave in terms of that personal outreach and touching people, we always talk about meeting people where they're at today, particularly with talent that themselves just represents a caring leadership that again, I think in today's world, that is truly what people are looking for in their leadership. So now I understand you a lot better LaValle. So thank you.

Lovell Caserio:

One more thing on that is that a lot of times when people leave you, Thank you. You burn bridges and I left Dave and Dave called me when he got word that I had resigned from his company in order to take the first above property role. And you know what Dave did, Dave called me and said, so not many people could go from one to 27 hotels, but I think you can, and he encouraged me and he has never not taken my call to this day. It always, things come back around and companies merge and, how many times have you walked into a situation and you've worked with those people before and so I would just say that's another thing, don't ever cut anybody off just because they found a new plan or they found a new opportunity because it might come back around. And I know that I can pick up the phone and call him today. You can take my call.

Dorothy Dowling:

I think that's very meaningful advice because I too believe that you should never burn any bridges and you should always celebrate people's career growth because like you, I've been in this industry 40 years and we do meet many people at various times in our career and that peer and The relationship that we build together, powers our success in many ways. As a young person, sometimes you can't even begin to imagine. So those are beautiful stories. You had some amazing mentors in your life. I did. I've been so blessed. And I'm sure they, it's a perfect segue to the next question because I wanted to talk to you a little bit about networking and how you developed your professional. I know you make an enormous investment with HSMAI. That's what I have loved about observing you in those meetings is just the thought leadership, the passion, the commitment and the time that you dedicate. And I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about how you have really had very strong intentionality about building your professional relations.

Lovell Caserio:

I think you need, I was just talking to my dad about this last night. You really need a personal board of directors and you have to be intentional about that and you have to treat it like a board of directors. You, so I would say that one of the most important members on my board of directors is my husband and because in this industry, as we travel, we are, we have very demanding schedules and so you have to have that person in your life. That's going to support. A person that's doing that, and it's not it's not cut out for everybody. But when I decided I wanted to go into a above property role, and I was given that opportunity. I knew I had a backup plan at home. I could still have plants that were living when I got home and my dog would still be alive when I got home. So that's number 1. I think you just have to realize that as you're growing your career, you are also taking people along with you that. Are really just there to support you and maybe benefiting also from your career growth from a financial perspective. But there's also the time and how much time I have spent away from family doing building this career that I love that said, I think that the. Other thing is, and I would say this to somebody who is in a point where you're trying to get to the next level, find 5 people that are doing what you do what you want to do. Let me say, and call them up and talk to them. If you want to. be the CMO of a large brand, then people should be picking up the phone and calling Dorothy, right? And finding out like how you got there, what your best practices were, what's your best advice is. So I would say also on your board of directors, you need a few people that are doing what you want to do. If you want to go into business for yourself, find somebody who's a business owner. I think you also have to recognize and I go back to this. What you're good at and what you're not good at and I'm not good at the financial side and the legal side and contracts and all of that. That you have to have a good attorney. You have to have a good. On your, if you're building a business or you're on that, or, if you get a contract for a new position, you don't try to figure that all out by yourself, know what you don't know and have people on your board that are good at where your weaknesses are. I also think that you have to have these people that are just going to be brutally honest with you. And I'll give you an example of how I had to do that in the reverse recently. I have a young lady that's been working with me through multiple companies. And a position has come available quicker than we thought it was going to come available on a property that she just joined. And it's a pretty big director of sales role, and she wanted to raise her hand. I'm not surprised. She's that kind of person. She wanted to raise her hand, but she wanted to talk to me 1st. And I encouraged her to, I would never say you can't apply because the worst thing that can happen is you walk away learning what you need to work on in order to be ready the next time. So I put that out there. But then I explained to her that. There had been there. There were 2 people before her in that role that had basically the same level of experience that she brings to the table today in her career and they had fought. They had not succeeded and that I didn't want to see her set up for. And, but I left the choice up to her. I just gave her a very, brutally honest advice. And I think on that board of directors, you have to have somebody who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you would like to hear. I have my sister for that. And fortunately she is very business minded and is a great business person. So she understands the business side, but she also knows. How to say, you need to think about it this way, or no, that's that's not the right way to be thinking about. So you have to be, you have to have those people. And then I think in conclusion, I would just say, don't it's not a popularity contest. It's your career. It's your life. It's life changing decisions. So it's not a popularity contest. Don't feel like you have to have people that on your board of directors because they. Will be offended if they're not. I have three other sisters and none of them are on my board of directors because joy me. There's a reason why joy needs to be there, but not and not because they're not great people. It's just that's it's not the appropriate time. So that's what has worked for me in that, just. Again, just seeking advice of people that were doing what I wanted to do. And I wanted an above property role so that I could taste it. And I almost paid the first company that hired me to work for them, but I've since learned how to advocate for myself a little bit better, but. I took the job with with no, with little to no negotiating, which I don't recommend, but it got me, it got my foot in the door.

Dorothy Dowling:

I think those are really wonderful tips. And I think even with the bet that you took in terms of investing in your career, Laval in the early stages, because it was a growth opportunity, I think that also is good advice for people that sometimes. There is a trade off that one has to consider in terms of choosing, but I do think about having this internal advisory group, whatever one would want to call it, and really thinking very specifically about the areas where they can support you in terms of The kind of learnings that you need, the kind of feedback that you need to hear, and also filling in the gaps and in areas of expertise that are not in your core strengths. Those are really good advice to everyone because I do think it gives us a much more well rounded perspective on, Some of those tough decisions we have to make. And I'm just wondering, because that might lead us into this next area is really about dealing with adversity, which is part of the leadership journey for most of us. So I'm wondering if you can talk to us a little bit about something that you found to be challenging and you took some learning

Lovell Caserio:

from. I'm going to go back to the remind you that I was raised by a mother who said, pull your bootstraps up and keep on going and a father who said, walk in that room like you own it. It almost was an awakening for me when I reached a certain level that I might not be getting my, the fairest shake here because, I'm a woman or whatever. There's many reasons why you could encounter adversity. Sometimes you could just encounter adverse adversity because someone else is insecure. Maybe they're carrying some baggage from. A life, something that happened to them in life or something that happened to them in another corporate environment and you become the victim of that one of the things that I have had to work on a lot of my career is just to listen. Someone said one time. We were just recently in the meeting. That's where someone said it and said that you have two ears for a reason in one mouth. You should use them in that with that in mind, but for many years I was, I would talk more than I would listen. And I have learned that sometimes just sitting back listening. Taking a pause, not reacting, what I would call a knee jerk reaction, and then coming back and addressing the situation. Have I been talked down to because, maybe I was the only female in the room or been not taken as serious? Certainly I have, certainly, and I probably didn't deal with it as well 10, 15 years ago, as I do now, and a lot of times, Dorothy, the 1st reaction for me is just to pause, just pause. Let me really think through what just happened here and it might need. A short pause, and sometimes the pause may take a day or 2 before I go back and say, okay, we really need to talk about what happened in that room. And I always tend to probably talk about my personal life too much. But, early on, and when my first first round at marriage, I didn't have such a good marriage, and I didn't have such a good, I wasn't married to such a good person, and I literally experienced domestic violence. And so I think when you, if you, when you can walk away from something like that and survive something like that and accept the fact that. That is not acceptable, you take that into the rest of your life and that probably has helped me from a corporate environment because the minute I felt like I was not being treated fairly. I stood up for myself and a lot of people are very afraid of doing that. But I think what I have found is that people actually respect you for doing that. Now, again, I'm going to, I'm going to go back to the pause is very important. Because the knee jerk reaction sometimes will get you in trouble or not come across the way that you really want it. You have too much emotion when you don't take time to pause. I just recommend. What works for me is I pause, I really think it through for a little bit as long as I have available and then I address it, but I address it, in a very confident and professional way.

Dorothy Dowling:

That is brilliant advice to everyone. And I fundamentally believe taking time to think about. Whatever kind of crucial conversation you have to bring your best self to that conversation is really important. So I really respect that you have learned through all of these life experiences, Laval, and it has really made you into this courageous woman that you are today. So if I may, that. It takes me to my next point because I did have the wonderful opportunity to watch you on stage last week at the HSMA event where you gave a brilliant brilliant onstage address to the audience. Part of it is in support of your book that I know is coming out, but I'm just wondering if there is anything that you can share with the audience here because You really were remarkable on stage, although you had captivated the audience with all of the key messages that you wanted to deliver. I'm wondering if there are tips that you might share from your experience in terms of how you became such a strong public speaker and are able to deliver

Lovell Caserio:

so effectively. Okay, so that's an easy one. Okay. Really an easy one. First of all, you have to know that and thank you for your kind, kind comments and words. That was probably the hardest speaking engagement I've had in my life. Not just my career, but my life. 6 minutes and 40 seconds, 20 slides advancing 20 seconds. Each every 20 seconds was a little daunting, but it was fun. And I was so glad I did it. And I was so glad HSMAI invited me to do it. But so the first time I ever stood on, remember standing on stage, I was six years old and having grown up in a ministerial family four generations of ministry. I had a lot of opportunity to stand on stage even before I was the person speaking on stage, I'd stand next to my dad when he was preaching. But, and I would say that was a really good foundation for me as a speaker, because as a ministerial family, and as my granddaddy was a pastor and my. father was, is a television evangelist. You're in the public eye. And so you have to learn very quickly how to carry yourself. In, cause everybody's watching the family of the pastor's family or the preacher's kids. It is true. We are watched very carefully, but so that was a good foundation for me. But what I would say to People that don't have that background is that I also am a singer. And when I started singing in public, there were two things my daddy taught me. And one was. You need to sing that song 100 times before you do it in public and literally, I promise you that speech that you heard. I could recite that right now. If you ask me to recite it, I won't, but I'm practiced it. I recorded it. I listened to myself saying it. I spent 2 weeks practicing that lightning round that we did. And every song I've ever sang in public, I have at least sang them a hundred times. That's number one. Practice does make perfect. You just have to practice. And the other thing is that, so my dad used to say, and when you get to that last note, you stand flat footed and you make it. He would say, because they don't care how well you sang the song, they're going to remember you by the last note. That was the other thing that kind of sticks with me is you always have to leave a great last impression. You have to have that, that last impression. So the other thing I will tell you, Dorothy, I think I told you this before, but you were sitting right where I can see you. And one of the things when I was running the television ministry and I was on television and you're sitting there and you're talking to a camera. My dad again, my dad would say he's on my board of directors too. And he would say talk to that camera. Like you're talking to your grandmother or talk to that camera. You're talking to your best friend. And so that day I was, I'll have to admit that last week at I was. As nervous as I have ever been on stage, no one seemed to notice that. Thank God. But 1 of the things that I remember standing on stage, I could see you and I could see Laurie kill and I could see friends that no one loved me and I love them. And I was just, you were smiling and I'm thinking. I must be doing okay, but the connection with the audience and really understanding am I putting them to sleep or are they really engaged? And I think that as a public speaker, you have to, and that's an on stage thing. You can't practice that before, but once you get up there, you have to figure out, am I putting them to sleep? Are they really engaged? Are they looking at their phone? And if, and you have to have a plan B when you get up there, that if plan A is not working. You're going to have to switch. You're going to have to pivot. But I thank you again for the comments, but I just grew up in that life. And it just comes naturally. And I would just say. My husband made a comment about a famous singer that admitted to being nervous on a public stage the other day. And he said, how could she get being nervous as many long as she's been in the business as many times as she's walked on stage. I said, when you stop getting nervous before you walk on stage, that's the problem. You always got to have a little bit of anxiety, a little bit of, that, that adrenaline and the fear a little bit when you walk out there and I, and it never leaves you.

Dorothy Dowling:

I think, first of all, you were brilliant on stage. I think I told you that it was. Like observing a TED talk, you were incredible in terms of your delivery, but I do think those three messages that I'm hearing from you. It's really the investment in time and practice about which was obvious that you were on top of your game. I think that second piece, in terms of. the close and hitting that last note with such power and conviction, which you did. You left the audience wanting more. And then this last piece of finding someone in the audience or multiple people in the audience that give you some degree of affirmation. I feel the same way because that human connection keeps us going when we're on stage. But you were extraordinary. I think those tips are really important tips because I do think of all, many people don't invest the time in the practice because It's hard work, but you really delivered in a way that I know the audience really enjoyed being part of that event with you.

Lovell Caserio:

Thank you. There were a lot of other people that were doing a really good job as well. And I knew you were going to show up and deliver and I wanted to, and then they put me first, so I thought, Oh, I know

Dorothy Dowling:

you set the bar very high for everyone to follow you. Now there were many good speakers, but. You made a huge impression and I thoroughly enjoy hearing from you. We're coming up near the end of our interview, Lavelle, and one of the things we always ask all of our DEI advisors, if there is some other words of wisdom that you would like to leave with our audience, whether it's something you would like to share, that you would share with your younger self, or something more broadly that could benefit our listeners, but I would love for you to bring that to us.

Lovell Caserio:

I, that's my favorite question because I am 61 and when I turned 60 last year, I realized I still have half of my adult life that I can pivot and do great things and I hope I do, but you also want to start thinking about the legacy that you leave behind. And what I would say is there would be two things. And I said it earlier to. Be your authentic you don't try to be what you think someone wants you to be, or you need to emulate people because you you just need to be yourself. And my grandmother would say. No one's better than you and you're not better than anyone else, just be yourself. And so that would be my very first piece of advice to anyone out there that's struggling to find your purpose and your place and you're, you still have goals that you want to reach as we all should always have goals. The other thing I would say is don't let your work define you. Define your work and for a little while in my journey, as I was stepping into that above property role, I began to let my work define me and we're looking back. I realized that's not I did not need to be defined by the work. I needed to define the work. I hope that makes sense. But it's just that's what I've come away with after. Yeah. 35, 36 years in a leadership role and in a role like this is it's really about you leaving your mark on it and not it leaving its mark on you and, we talk a lot now about this. Generation today and I'm sure there's a happy balance between what you and I did as we were climbing, our journey to career growth and climbing that ladder. I'm sure there's some 1 of a balance between that and some of what we're experiencing with the workforce today. But I feel like there, I feel like there's a new mantra out there, if you will, of let's work to live and not live to work. And I think you can still find the work to live. Without working, and I don't want to say it's hard because you have to work hard and you have to bring a strong work ethic, but I think you can do it differently. And I think we need to learn from each other. We need to teach them the work ethic and how important it is to show up every day and not disappoint the people that are depending on you. But we also need to understand that work life balance is super important as well.

Dorothy Dowling:

I totally agree with you, and I do think it's very brilliant the way you connected the dots about bringing your full self and your authentic self to the workplace, Lavelle, and then also defining your work as opposed to having it define you. I do think that is, they're completely interdependent concepts in terms of leadership. And I thank you for sharing that. And I too agree that we have much to learn from this generation because I do think they're going to lead the world in a better place. And I think their values are all things that we need to listen to and pay attention to because they are important values. Thank you. Yeah, my pleasure. If I may, I'd also I'd like to thank Lavelle for being so vulnerable and honest with us today. I know that your story is going to be incredibly relatable to many of our listeners. So thank you again. Yeah. And if I could also thank our audience, I know if you've enjoyed this interview with Lavelle, I hope you'll come and visit us on our website, DEIAdvisors. org, where you'll see webcasts and podcasts from other industry leaders that I know will continue to empower you and fuel your career. So thank you again, Lavelle, for being with us and thank you to our audience

Lovell Caserio:

for joining us. My pleasure. Thank you for having me. Thank you.