We are happy to continue our weekly series called Insight; New York Hospitality Professionals. In this episode Karen Shackman, President and CEO of Shackman Associates interviews Megan Ferguson, Director of Sales at the Lotte New York Palace
“Insight; New York Hospitality Professionals”, a weekly interview series with professionals from the MICE industry in New York.
These are uncertain times for our industry – yet we believe that now is the moment to bring our industry closer together by strengthening our ties and relationships on a more human level. It is for this reason that Shackman Associates is undertaking a series of interviews with other New York hospitality professionals to learn how they are managing during this time.
Karen Shackman: Thank you, Megan. I remember well the wonderful breakfast you hosted in the beautiful Champagne Suite last year for our international Fam trip. It is such a great backdrop for a high-end client reception.
Thanks for taking the time for this interview. I so appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts with fellow industry professionals.
Karen: Megan, please start with introduce yourself, your role in the company, and how long you have been with the property.
Megan Ferguson: My name is Megan Ferguson. I am the Director of Sales at Lotte New York Palace. I have been with the Lotte Palace Hotel for over nine years.
Karen: Nine years is a long time for our industry. That is truly commendable and says a lot about the property. What is your current situation? Are you in lockdown? And if so, where?
Megan: We were going into the hotel until the end of March. After we went to work from home, I quarantined myself for 16 days and then headed to my parents outside of Philadelphia. I do miss the 7PM clapping for our front-line workers.
Karen: That is such an emotional gesture of respect and support for those frontline workers and really reflects the nature of New Yorkers during tough times. What has changed since your self-quarantine and what does your daily schedule look like now?
Megan: I get up and go for an hour long walk each morning. I make oatmeal Monday thru Friday and then do something else for breakfast on the weekends to break it up and make weekends feel special. We actually meal plan on Sundays and I go to the grocery store once a week. Midweek, I generally try to work until 6PM and then like to watch PBS NewsHour to catch up on the current situation. Other than that, I try not to watch too much news.
Karen: Under these circumstances, limiting the amount of news we watch or listen to is certainly a good idea these days. Is your current work routine the same as when you were in the office? How have you set yourself up?
Megan: Work is very different than when I was in the office. We are lucky that we still have a good number of people in sales working but it is definitely “all hands-on deck” with any project and we all wear many hats to cover everything we need to with clients. We definitely miss all the team members that we had to furlough. I have a separate room for work and ordered a printer/scanner/copier to take care of the administrative tasks we need. One big change for me personally is that I never liked music in the office as I was always meeting with colleagues but now, if not on a call, I love having music on in the background.
Karen: You are very fortunate to have a separate space for your “home office”, even with or without music. It seems that so many people in the city are using a specific space in their home for multi-purpose living now. It is good to know that you have a good number of colleagues still working. How do you connect with your team?
Megan: We have a morning video call on Teams every day. For those who are on temporary leave, we have an optional Happy Hour call every Thursday to connect with anyone that wants to.
Karen: It is great that those who have been furloughed have an opportunity to keep connected with the team. What do you find the most difficult about the change in your work situation?
Megan: I miss people. I love my team and spent a ton of time with them. I love the energy of being in an office. I miss seeing clients in person. I miss having an IT person next to me and they are miracle workers when dialing into my computer.
Karen: I know what you mean. I too miss seeing my team in person, and even though we have zoom meetings and daily calls, it is definitely not the same as being face-to-face with them, and with clients as well.
Are you still dealing with cancelations, rebooking?
Megan: Yes. But first and most important, we need everyone to be safe and healthy.
Karen: That is for sure. Health and safety are key right now for all concerned. Has your task list changed, and how have you reset your daily priorities?
Megan: My task list during the day is all about how many customers and partners we can connect with. Unfortunately, that means the evening is for administrative tasks - that is why it is 10:45pm now.
Karen: That makes for some long days. If time permits during the day, do you participate in any webinars or other work happy hours?
Karen: Anything insightful you want to share?
Megan: Keep them to 30 minutes and keep people wanting more.
Karen: Totally agree with that. What are your three personal essentials at home to get through this?
Megan: A great book, talking to friends often, finding humor in something each day.
Karen: Anything else specific you are doing to maintain a sense of wellbeing and a positive mental health perspective?
Megan: Going for a walk each day has kept me focused. Even though the spring has been cold, it still is moving along and watching the trees go from bare to buds to leaves makes me realize that things keep moving forward and one day we will look back on this time too. I also take a moment to recognize how fortunate I am.
Karen: Is there anything that you are reading or watching currently that makes you happy?
Megan: I just finished The Silent Patient. My next book is The Splendid and the Vile. For TV, I am loving Mrs. America – a good friend of mine from college is a producer and I am so happy to see her hard work pay off.
Karen: I have heard that Mrs. America is a must-see – and will add that to my list for sure. Looking forward, when this is over, what is the first place you are going to go once the travel restrictions have eased.
Megan: In NYC, I want to go back to Neue Galerie to see Klimt’s Adele Blouch-Bauer I (Woman in Gold). It’s one my favorites. There are so many restaurants that I hope reopen – Casa for Brazilian, Il Buco Alimentari and Palma for Italian, Japonica for sushi, Milos for Greek. Domestically, I would hop on train and planes to see my nieces and nephews in Croton on Hudson & Seattle. Internationally, Greece.
Karen: I love your list of restaurants. They really reflect the diverse cuisine of the city and I too hope they survive this crisis. And, Greece sounds very tempting right now! I so hope we will all be able to enjoy travel again soon in the “new normal”.
Thank you, Megan for taking the time to share these personal and professional insights with us all. I look forward to reconnecting with you in person soon.