Imagine if your organization’s reputation hinged on the daily feedback of nearly 900 customers. Meet the successful general manager that rises to this challenge every morning – and who is taking a well-loved retreat and conference center in Colorado Springs to new heights.
Two years ago, Dace Starkweather faced a daunting task: As the new general manager of Glen Eyrie, the unique conference destination of The Navigators, Dace got serious in a hurry. He tasked himself with raising the level of customer satisfaction from “Excellent” to “Exceptional.” In talking to him recently, it’s a toss-up as to what impressed me more: how hard Dace and his staff have worked to achieve their goal, or the wisdom and ingenuity they used to get there.
For Dace, it began by expressing gratitude. “I respected the efforts and contributions of my predecessor. Whatever I contributed would be based on what they had already built.” (Note to self: Dace led with Christ-like humility honed by 15-plus years experience in the hospitality industry at Walt Disney World Resorts.)
He then admitted that an exceptional level of customer service came by way of improving their workplace culture. “This team of people had been waiting for the opportunity to blossom.” His plan included four pillars for success:
- Promoting a winsome culture. “Creating a pleasing, engaging culture for our guests is a constant, daily effort. Whenever we spotted anything that was a violation of a winsome, culture, we did a ‘stop and fix.’”
- A new “Leaders Everywhere” initiative. “To empower leaders in their own daily decision-making, we must model the kind of humility that builds trust among individuals and teams.”
- “Action teams” to generate practical innovations. “Serving consistently great meals meant we had to meet our customers’ preferences for gluten-free foods. We designated certain wait staff with a striped apron to give our valued guests an easily-recognizable go-to person who could answer their specific dietary and nutritional questions.”
- Improved communications brought Glen Eyrie’s acclaimed history alive for all staff. “Our new in-house morning newsletter, The Daily Communiqué, combines interesting facts about our heritage that our people can pass along to our guests, plus a capsule summary of that day’s groups and guests on the property.”
It’s clear that Glen Eyrie’s people are the reason more and more guests are returning home with exceptional stories to tell.
“Culture is the number-one determining factor of why people come to work at Glen Eyrie,” emphasizes Dace. “Who I get to work with, is as important (if not more so) than what I do.”
Positive outcomes are everywhere:
- Spiritually and professionally. Dace has leveraged the wisdom that people grow spiritually as they serve others in a professional manner. At Glen Eyrie, people grow in their competencies and mature in their Christian character.
- Financially. “By nature, the hospitality industry is financially challenging,” says Dace. “We just celebrated our best fiscal year recently, at an organization-wide, all-day picnic. It was a powerful and wonderfully emotional time of recounting all we had accomplished.”
“At the end of the day, our work is more than making beds and setting tables; it’s about impacting the lives of people—our customers and our staff. It’s about living our brand promise: Drawing people closer to what matters.”
Glen Eyrie at a Glance
- Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, bought purchased the Tudor-style castle, built by General William Jackson Palmer, the founder of Colorado Springs, in 1953.
- Today, Glen Eyrie, including the castle and seven adjoining facilities, welcomes dining events for up to 186 meal guests and lodging up to 350.
- The 800-acre conference and retreat center hosts 350 conferences and 46,000 visitors annually.
- The grounds at Glen Eyrie are open to the public on weekdays from 9 am – 4 pm. Public tours are encouraged.