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Kirk Kinsell – My life in hospitality

04 June 2009 by
Kirk Kinsell – My life in hospitality

Kirk Kinsell is president, Europe Middle East & Africa, InterContinental Hotels Group

Hospitality runs in Kinsell's family, back to his great grandfather, Frederick Clift, who built what is now known as the Clift hotel in San Francisco in the 1920s - and today it's trading as "a very posh Ian Schrager hotel", Kinsell says.

His grandfather then took the reins, but his father became a doctor, although Kinsell adds that there's still a similarity between the professions: "Both are born from the core values of serving people," he says.

Of his own move into hotels, he admits he enjoyed surfing more than chemistry, as he grew up in California, and that hotels were the next best alternative to medicine.

He started flipping burgers in a fast-food restaurant in Santa Barbara when he was 15 and this introduced him to the entrepreneurial model of franchising. He says: "I have had a career where franchising has been core to the business. The relationship is like a marriage where, for one to be successful, both parties need to bring 100% to the relationship."

Over the years he has learnt the most important lesson is to deal with integrity and be direct with people, as building trust is the key to relationships and from there the rest follows.

HIGHS … Most recently seeing the transformation of IHG from our demerger in 2002 and how it has blossomed from being regarded as the fifth choice on a list of hotel companies and moving it to the No 1 position. For me, particularly, my privilege was leading the development and organisation of the Americas. I got a deep sense of satisfaction and winning as a team. It gets into your blood.

Over my career as a whole, though, it has to be my role and contribution to various brand launches and hotel concepts, from the early days of Wyndham hotels, to co-leading the launch of Holiday Inn Express to the launch of Four Points by Sheraton and most recently the co-launch of Indigo for IHG.

It's great to see each of the concepts continuing to perform and be unique in their own right. I love all my brands equally but Holiday Inn is by far the most successful and I enjoyed Indigo the most, as it combined all the experiences and lessons I've learnt throughout my career.

LOWS… Not having a "Plan B" when I was part of an entrepreneurially led restaurant group. The CEO suddenly changed plans for my role to be developed as his successor, even though I'd done everything to win the job. To have it taken from under me so abruptly really changed my focus and my career and I always tell people now to have a "Plan B". It was a lesson I learned the hard way.

My low point of living in London is that I had to leave my Porsche back in the USA, so that's why I now try not to drive.

  • Age 54
  • Family Married 28 years with two children
  • Favourite holiday The mountains in western North Carolina
  • Drives I try not to drive when I'm in London, but it's a Lexus hybrid when I do
  • Motto Understand that having a job does not equate to having a life. To unlock the potential of people, you need to look at all of their life: family, friends, community, spiritually, emotionally, physically and work

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1991 Launched Holiday Inn Express in Americas
  • 1996 Launched Four Points Hotel for Sheraton
  • 2003 Returned to IHG and launched Hotel Indigo in Americas
  • 2008 Launched Hotel Indigo and Staybridge Suites in Europe and Middle East
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