In the spotlight this week is Stephanie Sheerin, group sales & events manager at the five-star Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast.
What’s your job?
I have responsibility for the overall group sales and events business in the hotel. This means developing and implementing a group strategy for the hotel, ensuring that we reach sales targets, and ensuring that all groups and events within the hotel are managed successfully. I am responsible for attracting new clients, dealing with group and event enquiries, and ensuring that we take great care of our existing clients.
How did you get there?
I have always worked in hospitality and I joined the team here back in 2009 when the hotel first opened. This month we celebrated ten great years at the heart of Belfast city and I celebrated ten years’ service at the Fitzwilliam. I joined as sales manager at the hotel, but as the business changed, the role evolved organically. Groups and events are my passion and expertise!
What qualifications do you have?
I have a diploma in business & finance and a BA hons in hospitality management.
What other skills do you need in your role?
Great interpersonal and communication skills are an absolute must. As I spend so much time with different people, you really need to be a ‘people person’ and love the interaction with clients and colleagues. You also need to very organised, flexible, and calm under pressure. The ability to multi-task and manage deadlines is essential.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The diversity of my job means that no two days are ever the same, so things never get boring! I can be involved in so many different tasks for clients; such as murder mystery nights, baby moons, gin tastings, cocktail master classes, breakfast meetings, private lunches, dinners, etc – so the role is really varied. In one day you can be dealing with celebrities, travel agents, corporate bookers, bridal parties, etc… it’s always interesting to deal with lots of different people with different needs and expectations. We are continuously working to improve the guest experience and ensure that they have the best stay possible.
And the worst?
Having to turn business away! While I would really love to be able to take all bookings, sometimes we simply do not have enough space to be able to meet all the demands! For example, if we have to say no to a group enquiry because the hotel is already sold out. I don’t like turning people away, so I would always recommend our clients to book as far in advance as possible!
What do you think are the greatest challenges/pressures of the job?
As a sales person, it’s really important to get to know your clients, what they need, and want, what works well and what doesn’t – then tailoring your offer and services around that. That’s why it’s vital to stay in tune with your customers, always listen to what they need, get feedback on every single event or group, and always try to keep improving what you do.
What did you want to be when you were at school?
I have always wanted to go into business from an early age, my parents were both self- employed and worked incredibly hard; my respect and admiration for them gave me the drive. Ironically as a child I remember playing with my younger sister and my cousin where we worked in a hotel – I was the manager, my cousin was a receptionist and my sister a dishwasher – maybe that played a pivotal role in my choice of career! I should add both other girls diversified into other fields, but we still giggle about it today!
What advice would you give someone considering a career in your profession?
Working in the customer service industry is one of the most challenging jobs out there so you need to be thick skinned, resilient and dedicated. It is not a 9-5 industry so sacrifices may need to be made. The upside is because of the social aspect it doesn’t always feel like work and can be so rewarding. If you work hard you can play hard.
What’s the most common question people ask when they find out what you do?
That’s an easy one – “Who is the most famous person that has ever stayed with you?”
How do you like to relax outside work?
I am a proud mum to a nine-year old son, so my life outside of work mainly revolves around his social calendar! Outside of the “mum’s cab” duties I enjoy going to the gym, long walks, coffee and catch up with family and friends.