“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.
In today’s episode; New York Hospitality Professionals Karen Shackman, President and CEO of Shackman Associates interviews Mary F Farrell, Senior Director of Sales for Tishman Speyer at Rockefeller Center
Karen: Please introduce yourself, your role in the company, and how long you have been with the company.
Mary: Mary F Farrell ~ Senior Director of Sales for Tishman Speyer at Rockefeller Center. Approaching my 15th year anniversary.
Karen: Thank you Mary. Hard to believe you have been with Tishman Speyer for 15 years already. We have known each other and worked together for so many years – even prior to your joining Tishman Speyer. Who knew back then, how our industry would change – almost overnight? What is your current situation?
Mary: I am currently working remotely at our NJ shore home.
Karen: The Jersey shore is a great place to be to ride this challenge out. Has working from the shore affected your work discipline at all and how are your structuring your time?
Mary: When the remote working first began, our CEO, in one of his monthly addresses to the entire firm world-wide suggested keeping a pretty tight regiment, get up early, work-out, shower, dress and be ready to start your day as usual. I decided to follow Rob's advice and have done so ever since. I'm camera ready for Zoom meeting by 9 am daily.
Karen: That is great advice. It is so important to maintain a routine and to keep motivated to do so. How is your current situation transitioning now that New York has opened in Phase 2. When do you head back to work?
Mary: Phase 2 began last Monday, and our firm has divided us up into two groups. Group One started last week and worked in the office and remote this week. So June 29th, Group Two (my group will return) and so on. The following week I will be remote.
Karen: Have you been able to be consistent in your work routine while working remotely?
Mary: My day is quite similar in that every day in the office, as soon as I arrive, I change my voicemail to reflect the date and my schedule so that my clients can set realistic expectations for a return call.
Karen: How have you set yourself up?
Mary: Luckily, I already had a home office as I was remote one day a week pre-COVID.
Karen: So this situation was not entirely new for you like it is for many others? What is the norm for you these days, how do you operate?
Mary: Zoom calls and emails all day.
Karen: How do you connect with your team members?
Mary: We have weekly meetings. Our firm is using Microsoft Teams and it has been an essential tool for staying in touch with my colleagues.
Karen: To stay connected with the industry on a more social, do you participate in any work happy hours?
Mary: My boss was doing a weekly Happy Hour and it grew into a "thing". We started playing games, had contests, scavenger hunts and sharing pictures of ourselves from earlier years. There was a tremendous amount of laughter and relaxation going on...and it was much needed.
Karen: Sounds like a lot of fun – specially bringing in a personal component while people have been isolating. It is so important to maintain personal relationships – now more than ever – That is one of the reasons we have been doing this series of interviews. What has assisted you in “keeping your sanity” while working at home during this time?
Mary: The most supportive husband ever! Lots of freshly brewed Iced Tea. My own PC as well as my work issued laptop as I can use both screens and almost feel as though I am in my "real NYC office".
Karen: In many ways, this situation has allowed for families to truly come together and support each other - so essential to keeping one’s equilibrium as much as possible. What are you doing for your mental and physical health and wellbeing?
Mary: Exercise and plenty of fresh air!!!
Karen: And when you want to escape into a virtual world, are you watching anything compelling?
Mary: FAUDA on Netflix. It's addicting and moves at an unbelievable pace. LOVED every minute of it. Three seasons are loaded.
Karen: I am learning so much about new programs I have not heard of, and will certainly put Fauda on my list. Anything you are planning for when travel restrictions ease?
Mary: Going kayaking in July to the out-islands of the Bahamas. They are opening their doors on July 1st.
Karen: That sounds phenomenal, and the Bahamas are not that far away. Definitely something worth looking forward to. Are your venues still dealing with cancelations, rebooking?
Karen: Yes, unfortunately, we are still seeing this all over town. Are any of your clients considering virtual or hybrid events?
Mary: Not to my knowledge. Everyone is kind of O V E R remote/virtual anything
Karen: Yes, there is certainly some kind of “virtual fatigue” happening right now. That is the reason we are trying to launch a hybrid event series - so clients can enjoy a “real experience” in a virtual way from the comfort of their homes. Any thoughts on social vs. corporate events coming back?
Mary: Both segments are at the mercy of the virus unfortunately.
Karen: So true. We are all hoping that Phase 2 opens safely, so that we can progress to the next Phases of opening for our city. I imagine you are developing new protocols for social distancing and health and safety measures?
Mary: As the owners of Rockefeller Center, we have been and continue to work on implementing the absolute B E S T safety and cleaning practices while maintaining the beautiful art deco campus we all work in. We also greatly look forward to welcoming our guest and tenant communities back!
Karen: What will your pricing structure look like going forward? How flexible are you being in terms of booked/postponed events, and, hopefully, new bookings?
Mary: We are, as always, trying to be as hospitable and flexible as possible. Straddling multiple dates for our clients as they, like us, are at the mercy of this virus.
Karen: Where do you anticipate an increase in costs?
Mary: I'm sure there will be some unavoidable increases, but overall, nothing specific.
Karen: How are you positioned for reopening, when the city allows for this. What are the priorities you are focusing on in order to get back to business.?
Mary: We have been working on re-opening since the first week we were closed. Keeping our employees, tenants and customers safe in the cleanest environment possible, all the while helping them to make wonderful memories of their time in Rockefeller Center whether it be in Rainbow Room, 620 Loft & Garden, Top of the Rock Observation Deck, Rockefeller Center Tour, Ice Rink, Summer Garden or shopping and dining with our amazing array of retailers . We are waiting to welcome you back!!!
Karen: And we can’t wait to come back with great events! Any parting words or insights you want to share?
Mary: Can't wait to be on a tour with Shackman team members and their VIP clients!!!
Karen: Thank you Mary. It is always great to connect with you. We cannot wait to plan great events with you and your team again. Some of the most memorable events we have produced have been in your venues.